A book on the life and work of slain Sri Lankan Editor and journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge was launched yesterday.
The biography, titled “And Then They Came For Me’ is the story a man who lived, breathed and finally died in the pursuit of the truth in a land where contemporary media history is written in the blood and tears of those who dare to tell it as it is.
A few weeks before his assassination, Wickrematunge penned a chillingly prophetic editorial revealing who he believed would be responsible for his death. Published three days after his murder, the editorial titled ‘And Then They Came For Me’ was hailed worldwide as a journalistic masterpiece.
“I hope my assassination will be seen not as a defeat of freedom but an inspiration for those who survive to step up their efforts. Indeed, I hope that it will help galvanise forces that will usher in a new era of human liberty in our beloved motherland. I also hope it will open the eyes of our president to the fact that however many are slaughtered in the name of patriotism, the human spirit will endure and flourish,” he wrote.
Lasantha’s story is one of courage; a story of a man whose gutsy and fearless stance for what he believed in, never wavered, even in the face of grave harm. Indeed, during his tenure in journalism, 1981 – 2009, he was a thorn in the flesh of five successive presidents and countless other powerful personalities.
Written by Wickrematunge’s ex-wife, journalist Raine Wickrematunge, the book captures in vivid detail the story of this trail-blazing editor beginning with his early life, his entry into journalism, his political work, the triumphs and tragedies of the Sunday Leader journey, his brilliant investigative work and the many trials and tribulations he and his newspaper faced, ending with his murder in January 2009. The book is also full of stories and anecdotes from his personal and professional life that throw light on the man behind the public persona.
Executive Director of the International Press Institute Alison Bethel McKenzie has said in her foreword to the book, “The memory of Lasantha, who was the editor of Sri Lanka’s pioneering Sunday Leader newspaper, has been burned into the minds of his colleagues around the world not only for his commitment to exposing corruption and laying bare the truth behind the actions of Sri Lanka’s government, but the circumstances surrounding his death.
“Who better to write this fitting tribute than Lasantha’s ex-wife Raine Wickrematunge, a journalist in her own right? A wonderful writer, the book is filled with details and nuances of Lasantha’s life. It is a book too long in the making and is a must-read for anyone aspiring to journalism or anyone disillusioned about having chosen this most noble of professions…”
On May 3 each year, UNESCO marks World Press Freedom Day and the release of the book in the month of May, the author says, is a fitting tribute to Wickrematunge who championed the cause of a free press in Sri Lanka. (Journalism.co.uk)