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Director-General condemns murder of Sri Lankan newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga

23-01-2009 (Paris)
Director-General condemns murder of Sri Lankan newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunga
The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, condemned the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, editor of the Sri Lankan newspaper Sunday Leader.
“I condemn the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga,” said the Director-General. “No matter how controversial or polemical the writings of Lasantha Wickrematunga may have been, he should have been allowed to enjoy the basic human right of freedom of expression. Moreover, publications like the Sunday Leader stimulate debate, which can only bolster democracy. I trust that the culprits of this crime will be sought out and brought to trial, so as to ensure that Sri Lanka continues to enjoy the benefits of a free press,” concluded Mr Matsuura.

Lasantha Wickrematunga, a high-profile and often controversial journalist, was subjected to repeated intimidation attempts and libel suits. He was shot as he was driving to work on the morning of 8 January.

According to Reporters without Borders, two assailants smashed the window of his car with a steel bar before shooting him at close range in the head, chest and stomach. He was rushed to a Colombo hospital where he died a few hours later. Lasantha Wickrematunga is the third journalist to be killed in Sri Lanka since January 2008, according to Reporters Without Borders.

UNESCO is the only United Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. Article 1 of its Constitution requires the Organization to “further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms which are affirmed for the peoples of the world, without distinction of race, sex, language or religion, by the Charter of the United Nations.” To realize this purpose the Organization is required to “collaborate in the work of advancing the mutual knowledge and understanding of peoples, through all means of mass communication and to that end recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image…”
Related themes/countries

      · Sri Lanka
      · Press Freedom: News Archives 2009
      · UNESCO Remembers Assassinated Journalists: News Archives 2009
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