Sonali gets IVOH Award in New York for her website Lankastandard

Janet Paine | Published on October 7, 2011 at 7:47 am

Journalist and Editor Sonali Samarasinghe was honoured by The Images and Voices of Hope (IVOH) at its 2011 summit in New York last month.

She was presented with the prestigious Award of Appreciation for her “courageous, award winning journalism giving voice to issues of justice, justice freedom and social accountability at a ceremony on September 17.

IVOH said the Summit was honouring Samarasinghe for her dedicated service to journalism and the remarkable strength and courage she has shown against overwhelming odds. She received the Award for Print and Digital Journalism.

Samarasinghe now a New York based journalist was a multiple award-winning editor and investigative reporter  in Sri Lanka for over a decade. Shortly after her journalist husband was killed by government-sponsored assassins as he traveled to work, she herself was driven from her country due to threats to her own life.

However, refusing to give up either her mission or her profession Samarasinghe started her own website Lankastandard to continue her work as a journalist.

Samarasinghe shared the stage with four other remarkable people who like her also received Awards of Appreciation.

The Awardees pose for the cameras together with members of IVOH after the Award ceremony held at Peace Village Haines Falls New York on September 17, 2011. Mark Woerde (Far L) Sonali Samarasinghe (3rd from L) Michael Fitzpatrick (4th from R) Kael Alford (3rd from R) and Stephen Olsson (2nd from R)

They included world-renowned Cellist Michael Fitzpatrick a recipient of the Prince Charles Award for outstanding musicianship who also works closely with the Dalai Lama on his Compassion Rising Project and documentary photographer and writer Kael Alford who received international acclaim with her photography about the impact of the US led invasion of Iraq on Iraqi civilians – found in the book Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq.

The other two recipients of this Award for 2011 were Mark Woerde, Co Founder of the Dutch advertising Agency Lemz and now on a crusade for Prosocial marketing and documentary filmmaker Stephen Olsson.

As part of the Summit held from September 15-18, 2011 at Peace Village in Haines Falls New York, Samarasinghe was also a member of a panel discussing the question ‘What we do with what we know’ moderated by Melissa Ludtke editor, Nieman Reports at Harvard University. The Panel consisted of  Philip Martin (WGBH), Sonali Samarasinghe and Daniel Heimpel of Fostering Media Connections.

The Images and Voices of Hope is an international nonprofit organization which brings people in media together to focus on how they can bring constructive change to the world through their work. Some of the most recent awardees have included Executive Producer of Frontline David Fanning, Director of TED Media June Cohen and Sanjeev Chatterjee, Vice Dean of University of Miami School of Communications and Executive Director of Knight Centre for International Media.

Samarasinghe when accepting the award said that everyone of her country’s democratic institutions had now metastasized into something dangerous. ‘Can something that has mutated go back to what it used to be? Can economic progress make up for that unfathomable thing we have lost?’ she asked.

“Sri Lanka’s post war problems are often over contoured and under nuanced when depicted in the international media” Samarasinghe says. “But this is our time. We cannot let the opportunity for healing and reconciliation in a deeply divided and hurt nation slip by. That is why the question what we do with what we know is so important. We have to be catalysts for change but also we have to be journalists in a way that wounded societies can recover,” she said.

In November 2009 Oxfam Novib/PEN International awarded Samarasinghe  its Press Freedom prize for her work covering human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Samarasinghe is the editor in Chief of The Lanka Standard website and the former Editor in Chief of The Morning Leader national newspaper in Sri Lanka and the former Consultant Editor of The Sunday Leader, Sri Lanka.

 

This article also published at www.island.lk

 

 


11 Comments to “Sonali gets IVOH Award in New York for her website Lankastandard”

  • Great article and the video on youtube is good too

  • Congratulations Sonali. We are with you !!! Cheers

  • superb . Good for Sri Lanka

  • Very nice. But ever since I interviewed Journalist Sonali and then got to know her in the US she has only amazed and held us in awe. Gracious dignified and humble. Very well deserved friend.

  • Congratulations

  • Well deserved but must be the nth Award for this journalist. Samarasinghe has been getting awards in sri lanka and aborad ever since she began her career, a real pride to sri lanka this latest. and shows that sri lankans can compete at the top and with the best

  • If I be permitted to add something that should have been in my previous post, here’s something all readers of this site must be reminded about . They are extracts from Lasantha’s final editorial, published posthumously. I fully subscribe to what he wrote..and may I say, having moved very closely with him, that I can almost hear him talking to himself, [as he often did when mulling over stuff for an editorial,] and then jabbing his thoughts down on paper. His might have been a heart busting apart with an incredible amount of pain, so sure was he of his imminent assassination,a fact that suggests a tip-off by an insider, while he carefully assessed the accuracy of every word of farewell he wrote.He might well have been locked up all alone, just him and his conscience, perhaps a picture of his kids on the bed by his side, or vividly recreated before his eyes as he perhaps tearfully penned his last lines.. saying his final adieu.

    I try hard to put myself in his place as he wrote that final edit but can’t because it’s impossible to enter into the depth of that pain..and knowing all too well what he was I would not in the4 least be surprised that he saved you the trauma he might have been by not giving you the slightest indication of his fears.

    For the reecord, here are a couple of extracts which your readers would do well to keep alive in their memories because I think they will determine the parameters of what needs to be done in the context of the task that is before everyone who has a conscience:

    “What is more, a military occupation of the country’s north and east will require the Tamil people of those regions to live eternally as second-class citizens, deprived of all self respect. Do not imagine that you can placate them by showering “development” and “reconstruction” on them in the post-war era. The wounds of war will scar them forever, and you will also have an even more bitter and hateful Diaspora to contend with. A PROBLEM AMENABLE TO A POLITICAL SOLUTION WILL THUS BECOME A FESTERING WOUND THAT WILL YIELD STRIFE FOR ALL ETERNITY.[ CAPS MINE ] If I seem angry and frustrated, it is only because most of my countrymen – and all of the government – CANNOT SEE THIS WRITING THAT IS SO PLAINLY ON THE WALL[ EMPHASIS MINE]

    It is well known that I was on two occasions brutally assaulted, while on another my house was sprayed with machine-gun fire. Despite the government’s sanctimonious assurances, there was never a serious police inquiry into the perpetrators of these attacks, and the attackers were never apprehended. In all these cases, I have reason to believe the attacks were inspired by the government. When finally I am killed, it will be the government that kills me.

    LASANTHA THEN VIRTUALLY SPEAKS FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE TO HIS FRIEND, THE PRESIDENT AND EVERY WORD IS SATURATED WITH UNSPEAKABLE PATHOS, SO MUCH SO THAT ONE CAN SEE THE TEARS ROLL DOWN HIS CHEEKS. SO OBVIOUSLY HE DID HAVE POSITIVE INTEL OF HIS PLANNED MURDER..SAYS HE, AND THESE WORDS WILL REVERBERATE IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF EVERY FATHER AND MOTHER. I QUOTE : ” You have told me yourself that you were not greedy for the presidency. You did not have to hanker after it: it fell into your lap. You have told me that your sons are your greatest joy, and that you love spending time with them, leaving your brothers to operate the machinery of state. Now, it is clear to all who will see that that machinery has operated so well that my sons and daughter do not themselves have a father.”

    AND YOU LOST AN INCOMPARABLE HUSBAND.

    a DEATH SUCH AS THIS IS IN FACT BEING TRIVIALIZED BY THE REGIME’S WORDSMITHS WHEN THEY CHURN OUT THEIR DEFENSIVE BRIEFS TO PROMOTE ITS LONGEVITY AND WHITEWASH ITS FACADE.THAT’S NAUSEATING…REPULSIVELY SO.

    IT’S UTTERLY WRONG THAT ONE MAN SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO SUCH AN AGONIZING END.. AND THAT HIS KILLERS BE AFFORDED PROTECTION.WHAT’S MORE SICKENING IS THE FACT THAT HIS KILLING HAS SILENCED HIS COUNTERPARTS IN JOURNALISM AND ONLY ELICITS SOME INANE AND VACUOUS STATEMENTS FROM FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS AND ORGANIZATIONS FROM WHOM ONE EXPECTS A RESPONSE THAT WILL PRODUCE A QUICK AND MEANINGFUL RESPONSE TO THIS FOUL DEED.

    IN THE CONTEXT OF WHAT I’VE SUBMITTED ABOVE, IS “RECONCILIATION AND HEALING” JUXTAPOSED COMFORTABLY BETWEEN IT AND REALITY ?

    I SEE NOTHING , EVEN ON THE FAR HORIZON, THAT SUGGESTS THE VERY REMOTEST POSSIBILITY OF A COMFORT ZONE FOR THOSE OF US WHO SEEK CHANGE.

    WHAT THEN IS THERE IN THE FUTURE ? WHAT DOES IT PORTEND ?

    THE ANSWER TO THAT IS THE FACT WITH WHICH WE NEED TO DEAL IN RESHAPING THE FUTURE OF SRI LANKA.BUT WHAT’S THE TOOL WE USE TO RESHAPE THAT FUTURE ?

    THE ANSWER IS BLOWING IN THE WIND.. AND THAT WIND BRINGS WITH IT A VOICE FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE..AND THE SMELL OF HIS BLOOD AS HE DIED AT THE HANDS OF HIRED HOODLUMS.

    THE QUESTION : WHAT NOW?

    THE ANSWER TO THAT IS ALSO BLOWING IN THE WIND , OR AS LASANTHA PUT IT SUCCINCTLY.. THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL, ITS PRIORITIES ARE CRYSTAL CLEAR.

  • Sonali,
    Please accept my congratulations and best wishes.U really deserve this honour.Unbowed and unafraid I am certain that U will reach greater heights in the future.

  • Many congrats on a well-deserved award for some very bold , objective and forthright writing.

    How do we become catalysts for change and function as journalists in a way that wounded societies, such as the Tamils community, can recover from a virtual century of oppression, deprivation ?After nearly a half century in journalism I’ve not seen one single sincere significant attitudinal change by the majority vis-a-vis the grievances , real ones, suffered by the Tamils. This is at the crux of the Tamil demand for separatism and now, for substantial power devolution. Unless this fact is acknowledged, unless that attitudinal change becomes a total national entity change, the Tamils will,not consider any move/solution imposed on them b7 a majority as adequate panacea that will bring healing to their excessively bruised hearts and minds

    We are thus facing the challenge of persuading the majority of Tamils that the majority’s solution WILL BRING THEM HEALING.

    WHAT WILL PERSUADE THEM TO SWALLOW THAT MEDICINE?

    I CEASED BEING NAIVE DECADES AGO.. BUT YES, EVEN AS A LONG TERM PLAN,we need to be agents of change for wounded societies which cry out for change. I fear however that healing and reconciliation in the ambiance of known ‘majoritarian’ attitudes emanating from political and religious leaders stand in the way. I think we could easily be blind to the reality that change has to come from the majority. Until…and if..that comes, we can then start working towards healing and reconciliation. A woman can hardly reconcile with a husband who has oppressed her, sexually abused her, subjected her to mental torture etc.

    Heck, why does she want separation, divorce ? Fact and feminine intuition. More so then with an entire race such as the Tamils.

    I really wonder whether many have as yet truly grasped these basis truths.

    Believe me, the world will be amazed if and when that reconciliation becomes a reality.

    Working towards that ultimate realization is in my book extremely idealistic.Can we change the mind-sets of Lanka’s Sinhala political and religious leaders?

    Lofty ideals unfortunately don’t complement racist-religionist extremism.Dealing with that extremism is the predominant challenge before us. Me? I’m a realist. Some things just will not change and cannot be changed.

    How powerfully will the establishment hit back any effort that seeks such a change ?

    Ask Lasantha.

    To those who have ears to hear and eyes to see, the way is clear.It was as clear to the French before the revolution.

    But to expect a brow-beaten wife to reconcile with a brutish husband? Unthinkable. Read analytically the government’s cowardly wordsmiths submissions on such websites and in the press: The cumulative message is loud and clear : Expect no change from us.There are no minorities..no.just one lovely nation..and truly what is said is this ” Let there be no talk about minorities and their rights.Economic development will suffice and that’s about all that the minorities will ever get.

    Quote : ” Samarasinghe when accepting the award said that everyone of her country’s democratic institutions had now metastasized into something dangerous. ‘Can something that has mutated go back to what it used to be? Can economic progress make up for that unfathomable thing we have lost?’ she asked.

    Sonali, In that one statement you in fact touch the truth…and deliver the answer.

    The way, I therefore think, as i said earlier , is clear. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Oh ! by the way, my French ancestors were on the wrong side of the revolution and fled France in droves.Many of them were children borne by concubines.So, in a way, I’m an exile by default. You’re an exile for being on the right side of the revolution..whom knows, time will tell.

    Tell me, had you not gone into exile, would your priorities for healing and reconciliation be higher than what most needs change : the mutated monsters in our midst who killed Lasantha?

    Muted..but infinitely more plaintive, Argentina still cries for Lasantha..his blood was hosed off the surface of that bloody road, but the images still burn deep into the national psyche. And like that of Abel’s, blood does have this funny way of crying out for justice. Don’t you think so? Now then, are we looking for nationwide healing and reconciliation with a collective entity that stands powerfully against justice? In my book, such facts will continue to determine the priorities in the remaking of societies worldwide even as they did in decades and centuries past.

  • You are an asset to us.
    This is the time the country needs a brave journalist like you. Anyway all the best and hope you can bring more glory to the country even from New York

  • Congrats Sonali. May you be blessed with more courage and strength to voice against media supression and stand against bribery and corruption.

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Press freedom

The Awardees pose for the cameras together with members of IVOH

Sonali gets IVOH Award in New York for her website Lankastandard

Journalist and Editor Sonali Samarasinghe was honoured by The Images and Voices of Hope (IVOH) at its 2011 summit in New York last month. She was ...