Murdered Sri Lankan journalist wins UNESCO prize
May 1st, 2009 -
An assassinated Sri Lankan journalist, Lasantha Wickrematunge, will posthumously receive the 2009 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize on Sunday. UNESCO’s Director-General, Koďchiro Matsuura, will present the award at a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, marking World Press Freedom Day.
Mr Wickrematunge, Editor of the Sunday Leader, was shot by two gunmen on motorbikes while driving to work in Colombo on 8 January this year. Mr Matsuura described Mr Wickrematunge as “a committed journalist who opposed war”.
Born in 1958, he was a trained lawyer who launched the Sunday Leader with his brother in 1994. He used the newspaper to campaign strongly against the war between Sri Lanka’s army and Tamil rebels. The newspaper’s offices were damaged in an arson attack in November 2007 and Mr Wickrematunge expected he would be assassinated, writing an editorial for publication after his death.
It appeared in the Sunday Leader on 11 January, three days after his murder. In it, he expressed his readiness to die for press freedom, saying: “There is a calling that is yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call of conscience.”