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Journalists killed as UNESCO presents press prize

Two more journalists killed as UNESCO presents press freedom prize

Even as he presented an award to a Lebanese journalist who lost a hand and a leg in an attempted car bomb assassination, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had to deplore the murder of two more media professionals on the eve of the ceremony and in the very country hosting it.

Masked men entered the offices of the Tamil Uthyan Newspaper in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, on 2 May and shot at employees, killing Marketing Manager Bastian George Sagayathas (Suresh), and Rajaratnam Ranjith, also an employee of the paper. Two other employees were injured in the attack.

“I condemn this brutal deed,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura told last night’s award-giving ceremony in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, of this year’s UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to television journalist May Chidiac. “I am gratified by the Sri Lankan government’s promise to take every possible step to bring the culprits to justice.”

The prize is named after Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano, who was assassinated in 1987 after denouncing the activities of powerful drug barons in his country. Announcing this year’s award in March, UNESCO said Ms. Chidiac owes her popularity as much to her professionalism as to her direct and open approach in a country traumatized by years of war

Yesterday was also World Press Freedom Day during which UN officials from Secretary-General Kofi Annan on down deplored the targeting and assassination of journalists around the world.

UNESCO is the only UN agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press freedom, and Mr. Matsuura has issued frequent condemnations of the murder of journalists around the world in recent months.

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