Monday, June 28, 2010

Peter Mackler Award Welcomes First Recipient to the United States

The Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism is thrilled to welcome the first recipient of the Award, J. S. Tissainayagam, to the United States. Mr. Tissainayagam, known to his friends as "Tissa", arrived in the United States on June 19th, 2010, only days after his pardon by the Sri Lankan Government became official. Camille Mackler, director of the Peter Mackler Award, stated that "we are delighted that Tissa is finally a free man and has been reunited with his wife. However, we urge the Sri Lankan government to ensure that all journalists are able to report without fear, and hope that one day Tissa will be able to return to Sri Lanka and freely continue his work as a journalist."

Tissainayagam was met in the United States by his wife, Ronnate Tissainayagam, who accepted the Peter Mackler Award on her husband's behalf last fall. Tissainayagam thanked everyone who helped secure his release in different ways and would like to ask all those who worked hard on his case to extend their support to find journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda, who disappeared on January 25, 2010.

Clothilde Le Coz, Director of Reporters Without Borders - USA, stated that "we are happy to know Tissa is safe. We urge now the President Mahinda Rajapakse to ensure that he will be able to live a normal life and especially resume working as a journalist in Sri Lanka."

Tissainayagam was named as the first recipient of the first Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism on August 31, 2009, the same day he was convicted to twenty years hard labor on terrorism charges. He was previously hailed by US President Barack Obama as an "emblematic example" of journalists who are persecuted for their craft. His wife, Ronnate Tissainayagam, accepted the Award on his behalf at a ceremony held October 2, 2009 in Washington, DC. On January 11, 2010, Tissainayagam was granted bail and released from the hard labor camp where he was being held. On May 3, 2010, World Press Freedom Day, the Sri Lankan government announced that it would grant Tissainayagam a full pardon. That pardon became official in late June, 2010, and Tissainayagam departed Sri Lanka shortly thereafter.

The Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism was founded in June, 2008 to honor the memory of Peter Mackler, a thirty-five year veteran journalist who championed ethical journalism and freedom of expression, and who helped transform the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) into the global competitor it is today. The Peter Mackler Award rewards journalists who fight courageously and ethically to report the news in countries where freedom of the press is either not guaranteed or not recognized. The award program is co-sponsored by Global Media Forum (GMF), a media training organization founded by Peter Mackler, and the US branch of the press freedom watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).