Lasantha Wickrematunge, 1958–2009

Through his many articles and editorials, Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickrematunge worked tirelessly and fearlessly to expose rampant government corruption and the devastating impact of his country’s 30-year civil war. He was outraged at the civilian cost of the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the separatist Tamil Tigers, the resulting human rights crisis and the culture of impunity that prevailed. Wickrematunge and his presses were attacked so many times that he drafted an editorial predicting his own murder. That editorial was discovered and published three days after he was bludgeoned to death in his car on January 8, 2009. In the piece, he wrote: “There is a calling yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call to conscience.

Wickrematunge worked as a journalist for more than 28 years. In 1994, he founded The Sunday Leader and remained its editor in chief until his death. Before that, he studied law and practiced as a defense attorney for eight years. He also served as private secretary to the leader of the opposition in the Sri Lankan parliament, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the world’s first woman prime minister. But journalism remained his true calling. In 2000, Wickrematunge received the first Transparency International Integrity Award, created to recognize the courage and determination of the many individuals and organizations fighting corruption around the world. He lived by his motto, “unbowed and unafraid.”

Read Sonali Samarasinghe Wickrematunge’s acceptance speech »

Read Wickrematunge’s last editorial, published shortly after his death »

Read the press release »