UNESCO honours murdered Sri Lankan journalist

May 4th, 2009 - 12:42 am ICT by IANS  

Doha, May 3 (DPA) A murdered Sri Lankan journalist was Sunday posthumously awarded the 2009 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize during a ceremony held in the Qatari capital.
The ceremony honouring Lasantha Wickrematunge was attended by Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser Al-Missned, wife of the Qatari emir, and UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura at the conclusion of a two-day conference held to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day.

“On (Wickrematunge’s) behalf, and on behalf of fellow journalists who are willing to risk their life and liberty, from the bottom of my heart I thank you,” said the journalist’s widow Sonali in a statement read by her niece, Natalie.

Wickrematunge was chosen because of an editorial he wrote that appeared Jan 8, 2009, three days after he was murdered, in the Sunday Leader, the newspaper he founded in 1994.

“People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot,” wrote Wickrematunge in the editorial.

The jury members described him as a man who “was clearly conscious of the dangers he faced but nevertheless chose to speak out, even beyond his grave”.

He was shot dead by a group of black-clad men on motorcycles as he was driving along a motorway. No arrests have been made in his killing.

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