IFJ Calls for Inquiry Into Lasantha’s Murder

The International Federation of

Journalists (IFJ) joins the widow of Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge

in calling on Sri Lanka’s

power-holders to take immediate action to conduct a full, fair and independent investigation

into the murder of the senior newsman.



Samarasinghe Wickrematunge, also a journalist, has publicly released a letter she

wrote to Sri Lanka’s President, Mahinda Rajapakse, on April 24 voicing her grave

concerns at the Government’s failure to investigate the January 8 murder of her



Lasantha, editor of the Sunday Leader, was killed by gunmen who

ambushed his car and shot him several times in central Colombo. Days earlier, he had penned a moving

editorial predicting his murder and holding the Sri Lankan Government



In her letter, Sonali calls

on the President to initiate and accept an international inquiry, noting that countries

such the United States, India and those

represented in the European Union would likely be willing to provide experts

and detectives to assist the inquiry.



IFJ stands with Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge in appealing to the highest

levels of the Government in Sri

Lanka to authorise an independent commission of

inquiry into Lasantha’s murder in accordance with international standards of

justice,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White

said. “Four months after Lasantha’s murder, a high-level independent investigation

is needed to redress the failure of Sri Lanka’s authorities to act.”  



letter states her belief that the Government has sought to cover up the facts

of her husband’s murder. Everyone except the police seems to know who killed him,

she wrote. 


She stressed that not one attack

on the media in Sri Lanka

has been seriously investigated. No one has even been charged. These incidents

include a long series of attacks and threats against Lasantha. Sonali noted

that Rajapaksa himself had threatened her husband by phone.


“Under your presidency,

violence against journalists has become commonplace,” she wrote. “Your

government has been forced publicly to accept in parliament that nine

journalists have been murdered in Sri Lanka during the past two years

of your presidency. International agencies put this figure at 16. Dozens of

others have disappeared, suffered physical assault, been arbitrarily detained

without trial or been forced to flee overseas for fear of their lives. Numerous

other media institutions have been violently attacked in commando-style raids

and, in some cases, their employees slaughtered in cold blood.


“… Never in the history of Sri Lanka has a

government so ruthlessly suppressed media freedom and political dissent.”


The publication of the letter

follows the posthumous award of UNESCO’s 2009 World Press Freedom Prize to Lasantha.

At a World Press Freedom Day event on May 3, Lasantha’s niece read out a

statement from Sonali in which she applauded the courage of Sri Lanka’s

journalism community, and the reality of the extreme risks they continue to confront.



Apart from those who have lost their lives, we need to remember also those

journalists who languish in Sri Lankan prisons with no charge or with only the

flimsiest and most childish of contrived charges pressed against them. In other

cases, false charges are levelled so as to harass dissenting journalists. Dozens

of journalists-including myself-have been forced to flee Sri Lanka. I

have no doubt that should I return to Sri Lanka, my remaining days would

be few indeed.”


For the full statement, see: http://www.alertnet.org/db/blogs/3159/2009/04/5-095557-1.htm


For the letter to President Rajapaksa, see: http://www.unbowedandunafraid.com/


For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific

on +612 9333 0919


The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries