“The Hotbed of Imminent Danger”: Sri Lankan Writer Sonali Samarasinghe

After the death of her husband, writer Sonali Samarasinghe has worked to change the climate of free speech in Sri Lanka from miles away. Sampsonia Way writer Rachel Webber brings her story to The Narrator.

Sri Lankan journalist Sonali Samarasinghe has been hooked on investigative reporting ever since she experienced the frustration of working as a human rights defense lawyer. She wanted to change the Sri Lankan public’s opinion about their oppressive government, so she started writing for The Sunday Leader, a weekly publication run by Lasantha Wickrematunge, the editor who years later would become her husband. But running the small, independent publication was not easy. Faced with government restrictions on advertising for their sharp content, it was difficult to know when they could print the next edition. Often, Samarasinghe and her husband didn’t take a salary in order to pay their journalists.

Besides the economic struggles, the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was threatening Wickrematunge. “I will destroy you,” he said one day over the telephone. Consequently, when Wickrematunge was killed on January 8, 2009, Samarasinghe had many reasons to blame the government. Soon new threats focused on her and she fled the country. [Read more at Sampsonia Way]