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Pacific Freedom Forum condemns assassination of Sri Lankan editor
For immediate release: 21 January 2009 – The Pacific Freedom Forum joins the global condemnation of the assassination of Sri Lankan newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge on January 8 and calls on the Sri Lankan authorities to act swiftly to bring his killers to justice.
Wickrematunge predicted his death in an editorial written only days before he was shot in the head by gunmen on motorbikes. Published posthumously in the Sunday Leader, the newspaper Wickrematunge co-founded 15 years ago, the chilling editorial hinted at the hand he believed would be responsible for his killing but added that it was unlikely that his murderers would face justice.
Wickrematunge's death is a horrific reminder of the censorship and dangers independent journalists and media organisations face in Sri Lanka from both the government and Tamil Tiger rebels.
"As journalists, activists and members of civil society, we stand in solidarity with Wickrematunge's family and the staff of the Sunday Leader. Indeed, our thoughts are with all those journalists in Sri Lanka who, despite the threat of assault, abduction, arrest and death,
remain unafraid and continue to champion alternative viewpoints freely and fairly," says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea of Papua New Guinea.
"As fellow Asia-Pacific citizens, we call on the government of Sri Lanka to successfully complete its investigation into Wickrematunge's death and bring those responsible to justice," he says.
"While it may be specific to Sri Lanka, the editorial speaks to all of us. It's a testament to the universal right to freedom of expression and information, and the challenges journalists face in pursuing that right on behalf of the public. It is highly relevant to any community, and I would encourage anyone, whether working in the media or not, to read it."
Co-chair of the Pacific Freedom Forum, Monica Miller, says the killings, violent attacks and threats against journalists are an attack on the whole of society.
"Journalists have a responsibility to report without fear or favour and ensure the public's right to know what is happening in their countries," she says.
"We in the Pacific media industry are reminded at this time of the extraordinary courage of people like Wickrematunge. His moral courage - what he termed the 'call of conscience'; is something the world needs more of. Let us not be afraid to speak out against injustices even if we are in the minority. Let us not be afraid to speak out for those without a voice."
For many in the Pacific, removed from the day to day reality of the ongoing civil war in Sri Lanka, Wickrematunge's outspokenness may seem hard to contextualize. Yet in a country such as Sri Lanka, which holds the record for the greatest number of journalist disappearances
reported to the UN, even UN and other development agencies and consular offices released messages condemning his murder.
Sri Lanka scored the lowest ranking of any democratic country in the Reporters Without Borders 2008 press freedom index (165th out of 173 countries). During 2008, two journalists were killed in the country and two others were in prison.
The last editorial of Lasantha Wickrematunge is in its first-published form online at the following link to The Sunday leader web site :
PFF interim Chair
Susuve Laumaea Sunday Chronicle Newspaper Papua New Guinea
Mobile: 675-684 5168 Office: 675-321-7040 Email: email@example.com
PFF interim co-Chair
Monica Miller KHJ Radio American Samoa
Mob 684 258-4197 Office 684 633-7793 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pacific Freedom Forum are a regional and global online network of
Pacific media colleagues, with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media.
We believe in the critical and basic link between these freedoms, and the vision of democratic and participatory governance pledged by our leaders in their endorsement of the Pacific Plan and other commitments to good governance.
In support of the above, our key focus is monitoring threats to media freedom and bringing issues of concern to the attention of the wider regional and international community.
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