Press Council to Mark World Press Freedom Day

Thursday, 21st April 2011
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Press Council to mark Press Freedom Day with visit by brother of assassinated editor.

A Sri Lankan newspaper publisher, whose editor-brother was assassinated by forces opposed to the freedom of the press, will visit Ireland next month to mark Press Freedom Day on 3 May. The visit of the publisher, Mr Lal Wickrematunge, is being organised by the Press Council of Ireland and will include a public lecture in Trinity College Dublin.

Mr Wickrematunge (60) started the national title The Sunday Leader in Colombo with his brother Lasantha as managing editor in 1994. Its pioneering brand of investigative journalism, often with politicians under the spotlight, saw it gain rapid popularity. Less than one year into the paper’s existence, Lasantha and his wife were attacked, the former coming under automatic gun fire, and the newspaper was shut down using draconian emergency regulations. Publication resumed following a Supreme Court battle, but nine attacks were to take place on the Wickrematunges in the subsequent 17 years, with the printing presses being burnt down on two occasions.

In 2009 Lasantha Wickrematunge was assassinated in a high security zone in broad daylight.

Under the motto “Unbowed and Unafraid”, The Sunday Leader continues to appear, with a staff of 130. Lasantha Wickrematunge was named as a “Hero of Press Freedom” by the International Press Institute at its annual conference in Vienna last year.

Commenting on the visit, Press Council Chairman Daithí O Ceallaigh said: “Press Freedom Day is marked across the world in commemoration of figures like Mr Wickrematunge, who have suffered at the hands of brutal regimes in the name of the freedom of the press. This freedom is something we all too often take for granted, and Mr Wickrematunge‘s visit should serve as a reminder – a stark reminder – of the very advantaged position we enjoy in this regard in Ireland, compared to many other nations.”

Mr. Wickrematunge’s visit and lecture are supported by Ireland Aid, the government’s overseas development aid programme.

Attendance at the lecture in Trinity College on the afternoon of 3 May is strictly limited and prior registration is essential. Contact the Press Council of Ireland on (01) 6489130 or [email protected].

For further information contact: Conor Horgan at Cullen Communications
Tel 01 6689099, Mobile 086 8217211 Email [email protected]