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Transparency International condemns killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga

Sri Lankan newspaper editor was recipient of TI’s 2000 Integrity Awards

Berlin / Colombo 09 January, 2009 – Transparency International (TI) condemns the assassination of Lasantha Wickramatunga, a leading Sri Lankan journalist and winner of TI’s 2000 Integrity Award. The global anti-corruption organisation is also deeply concerned about broader attempts to stifle critical voices in Sri Lanka.

In 2000, the global anti-corruption community recognised Wickramatunga’s fearless pursuit of the truth and the years he spent exposing corruption in Sri Lankan politics by granting him TI’s very first Integrity Award.

At that time Wickramatunga, editor-in-chief of The Sunday Leader newspaper, had already been subject to defamation charges after exposing political corruption, which saw his newspaper temporarily banned by the Sri Lankan government. Even then, he and his family faced threats and physical attacks.

This murder is one more chilling instance of a growing pattern of violence and intimidation against the media and civil society on the island. It is incumbent on the government of Sri Lanka to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and human rights, especially the right of individuals to free expression.

Investigative journalism is an indispensable tool in the fight against corruption and for greater accountability, but it carries great risks. For his valuable work, Wickramatunga paid with his life. Transparency International recognises his immense contribution to the anti-corruption movement and issues a call to the Sri Lankan authorities to take immediate and resolute actions to find the killers and bring them to justice.

The murder of Wickramatunga follows a bomb attack against Transparency International Sri Lanka’s Executive Director J. C. Weliamuna in September 2008, which has yet to be fully investigated, and the 6 January storming of the MTV/MBC television studios near Colombo by 15 masked gunmen.

Media Contacts:

Berlin
Gypsy Guillén Kaiser
Tel.+49 30 343820662
ggkaiser@transparency.org

Colombo
Sanjaya Senanayake
TI Sri Lanka Media Unit
Tel. + 94 11 2501474
sanjaya@tisrilanka.org