04/07/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA

UNESCO prize for editor of the "Sunday Leader," murdered in Colombo

by Melani Manel Perera
Lasantha Wickrematunge was killed in January, and those responsible for his death remain unidentified. The UN body is honoring his memory as a "journalist who opposed war." The presentation of the prize will take place on May 3, in Doha.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - UNESCO is awarding the 2009 edition of the World Press Freedom Prize to Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper who was murdered last January 8 in Colombo.

Joe Thloloe, head of the jury that awards the prize, says that "Lasantha Wickrematunge continues to inspire journalists around the world." Koïchiro Matsuura, director general of UNESCO, justified the decision by explaining that the prize honors "a journalist who opposed war," and who by his work contributed to "mutual understanding and reconciliation," the theme of the 2009 edition of the prize.

The ceremony for the World Press Freedom Prize will be held on May 3 in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on the occasion of celebrations for the day for freedom of the press proclaimed by UNESCO. The news that the prize has been awarded to Wickrematunge has been greeted with satisfaction by journalists and public opinion in Sri Lanka. After the murder of the editor of the Sunday Leader, there was an outcry against the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, accusing it of colluding with the killers and endangering freedom of the press in the country.

Last January 28, defense spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella announced that the government would release the names of the murderers by February. Nevertheless, those responsible for killing Wickrematunge today remain unidentified and at large.

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