Senior Tamil Journalist J.S Tissainayagam currently in bail after being incarcerated in Sri Lanka for nearly twenty two months as part of a 20 years in prison sentence, won the prestigious International journalist of the year during the award ceremony held at the Grosvenor Hotel, London, on Tuesday, 23 March. "International journalist of the year recognises the courage of an overseas journalist who has battled against oppression and who has helped a British national newspaper report. Nominees are provided by the Foreign Press Association and the World Association of Newspapers," the British Press Awards website said.
Tissaianyagam was charged under Sri Lanka's draconian anti-terror laws for causing disharmony among ethnic communities by publishing two articles in an online website.
"Although released on bail, Tissa remains afraid for his life and lives in isolation from his family and friends because of this fear. He cannot practice his trade and simply has no life," BBC said quoting one of Tissainayagam's colleagues.
Amnesty International named Tissainayagam as a Prisoner of Conscience, held a vigil in UK in early September 2009, and said "[w]e gathered to protest against the sentencing of Jayaprakash Sittampalam Tissainayagam, known as Tissa to his friends and family, to 20 years ‘vigorous imprisonment’ by the Government of Sri Lanka."
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) honoured Tissainayagam with its 2009 International Press Freedom Awards at a ceremony in November 2009.
Tissainayagam also won the coveted Peter Mackler Award for courageous and ethical journalism, named for a 30-year veteran of Agence France-Presse who died last year, at a ceremony at the National Press Club in US in October 2009