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.
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
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