World Press Freedom Prize 2009 awarded posthumously to Sri Lankan journalist

Earlier today, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced the World Press Freedom Prize 2009 will be awarded posthumously to Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge. Wickramatunga is a well-known editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader newspaper and a lawyer. He was murdered while on his way to work on January 8, 2009. The Sunday Leader has carried a number of articles exposing political corruption in privatization deals and also highlighted human rights abuses in the context of renewed fighting. The killing came two days after the privately-owned TV studios of another media group critical of the government had been ransacked by a gang of attackers.

For the past 25 years, Sri Lanka has been wracked by a civil war between the security forces (who are mostly from the majority Sinhalese community) and the armed Tamil opposition group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. A ceasefire was negotiated in 2002 but it has broken down. Since the resumption of fighting, journalists and other media workers have been prime targets for attack. At least 14 media workers have been the victims of unlawful killings since the beginning of 2006; one has allegedly disappeared in the custody of the security forces, while others have been tortured and arbitrarily detained. In response to the death of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Amnesty International immediately issued a press release urging the government of Sri Lanka to publicly condemn the killing of Wickrematunge and other attacks on the media and launch an independent investigation.

Take action today! Join Amnesty International in calling on the Sri Lankan government to investigate Lasantha Wickramatunga’s murder and other reported attacks on journalists and to bring to justice those responsible for these crimes.

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