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Slain Sri Lankan editor to get U.N. award

UNITED NATIONS, April 6 (UPI) -- A Sri Lankan journalist and editor assassinated Jan. 8 was named the laureate of UNESCO's 2009 World Press Freedom Prize, the U.N. agency said Monday.

In 1994, Lasantha Wickrematunge started the Sunday Leader with his brother and used it to campaign against the war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said in a news release.

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In 2000, Wickrematunge won a victory when a Sri Lankin court abolished a law allowing government curbs on media. In November 2007, the Sunday Leader was damaged in an arson attack, the U.N. unit said.

"In awarding the 2009 World Press Freedom Prize to a committed journalist who opposed war, UNESCO, along with media professionals from all over the world, recognizes the important role that freedom of expression can play in fostering mutual understanding and reconciliation, the theme of this year's World Press Freedom Day celebration," said UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura.

Wickrematunge is the second reporter in the award's 12-year history to be honored posthumously, UNESCO said. Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist and human rights campaigner who was killed in 2006, was awarded the prize in 2007.

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Matsuura will present the award May 3, which the agency will celebrate in Doha, Qatar.

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