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Page last updated at 11:40 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 12:40 UK

Award for jailed S Lankan editor

JS Tissainayagam (Pic: Free Media Movement)
Mr Tissainayagam was arrested in March last year

A Sri Lankan Tamil journalist sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday has now been given an award for courageous and ethical journalism.

JS Tissainayagam has been named the first recipient of the Peter Mackler Award by the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders.

He was found guilty of "causing communal disharmony".

Mr Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 and charged with inciting violence in articles in his magazine.

He was also accused of receiving funds from Tamil Tiger rebels. He has denied supporting violence.

The world's largest organisation of journalists, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), has condemned the judgement - which also sentences Mr Tissainayagam to hard labour while in prison - and described it as "disproportionate, brutal and inhumane".

The Tamil journalist has already been in detention for a year-and-a-half and was one of a handful of journalists mentioned in May by US President Barack Obama, who called them "emblematic examples" of reporters jailed for their work.

The Sri Lankan government said Mr Obama had been misinformed.

'Under threat'

The case of JS Tissainayagam has received widespread attention in Sri Lanka, and international rights groups have been campaigning for his release - they say Sri Lanka is using anti-terror laws to silence peaceful critics.

BBC correspondents says Mr Tissainayagam's sentence is the harshest given to a Sri Lankan journalist in recent years.

The US state department said it was "disappointed to learn of the verdict and the severity of the sentence".

Deputy spokesman Robert Wood told the AFP news agency: "We continue to be concerned about the state of media freedom in Sri Lanka. Journalists remain under threat and consequently continue to practise self-censorship."



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