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Last updated: 07 April, 2009 - Published 13:00 GMT
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UNESCO honours Lasantha
Lasantha Wickramathunga
Mr. Wickramathunga was shot dead in Colombo on 08 January, this year
The United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, has awarded its annual press freedom prize posthumously to the Sri Lankan journalist, Lasantha Wickrematunga, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen three months ago.

UNESCO said he was clearly conscious of the dangers he faced, but nevertheless chose to speak out.

“Lasantha Wickrematunge continues to inspire journalists around the world,” Joe Thloloe, President of the jury and Press Ombudsman of the Press Council of South Africa was quoted in a UNESCO press release.

Inspiring journalists

Mr Wickrematunga was highly critical of the conduct of the war against the Tamil Tigers, and he predicted that he would be killed by the government.

 Lasantha Wickrematunge continues to inspire journalists around the world
President of the UNESCO jury

Journalists in Sri Lanka have suffered a string of recent attacks and media freedom groups say intimidation and violence make it one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to report.

The campaigning group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said: "Sri Lanka has lost one of its more talented, courageous and iconoclastic journalists.

"President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his associates and the government media are directly to blame because they incited hatred against him and allowed an outrageous level of impunity to develop as regards violence against the press."

The government has denied being behind the killing.

It welcomed the award to Mr Wickrematunga and said his death was a great loss.

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