Image courtesy Simon Fraser University
On September 21, 2013, Sri Lankans Without Borders in partnership with Groundviews launched the De Zoysa-Sivanayagam 2014 Fellowship in Digital Journalism. As noted on SLWB’s website,
Lasantha Wickrematunge led the fight for press freedom in Sri Lanka, “unbowed and unafraid,” for a number of years before he was assassinated in 2009. It was a cause that was bequeathed to him by a number of courageous journalists who came before him. In commemorating Wickrematunge, we also pay homage to the memory of two other journalists whom Wickrematunge knew. Although Richard De Zoysa and Subramaniam Sivanayagam belonged to two different generations and had different social and political backgrounds and experiences, their legacies are united in their struggle for the right to free expression in Sri Lanka.
Richard De Zoysa (1958 – 1990) was a well-known Sri Lankan journalist, author and poet, human rights activist and actor. On February 18, 1990, an armed group of men broke into De Zoysa’s family home and forcibly abducted him in front his mother. The following day, his dead body was found washed ashore on a beach in the outskirts of Colombo. Fellow journalist and friend, Dharmeratnam “Taraki” Sivaram (who himself was assassinated in 2005), identified his body. In 2005, three police officers were indicted for De Zoysa’s murder – they were acquitted of all charges. De Zoysa was only 32 years when he died but in life and death, he has come to symbolize the beginning of the free media movement in Sri Lanka.
Subramaniam Sivanayagam (1930 – 2010) was a popular Tamil journalist and author from Sri Lanka. Throughout his long career, Sivanayagam was a courageous witness to the political and social history of Sri Lanka that led to his imprisonment, at different times, by the Governments of Sri Lanka and India before he finally sought asylum in Europe for a number of years. He subsequently returned to Sri Lanka and died of natural causes in Colombo on November 29, 2010.
More details about the new Fellowship can be read here. The partners will jointly select one candidate for a six-month fellowship with Groundviews to be based out of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The launch of the Fellowship in Toronto saw very moving tributes to both De Zoya and Sivanayagam, by Arjuna Ranawana and Siva Sivaprgrasam respectively.