Profile of Sonali Samarasinghe
Sonali Samarasinghe is an award-winning journalist and human rights activist. Born in 1970 in Sri Lanka, Samarasinghe practiced law there for twenty years and worked as a journalist focusing on human rights, including government corruption and women’s issues.
For five years Samarasinghe served as editor-in-chief of The Morning Leader, a national weekly, and as columnist for The Sunday Leader, a weekly openly critical of the government. In 2008 she married Lasantha Wickrematunge, founder and editor of The Sunday Leader. Wickrematunge was assassinated in 2009, and his assailants threatened Samarasinghe’s household and family. Samarasinghe and members of her family left Sri Lanka and emigrated to the United States, where she founded the website The Lanka Standard (http://www.lankastandard.com). She remains its editor-in-chief.
Samarasinghe received journalism diplomas from Aquinas College in Sri Lanka and the Australian School of Journalism in Sydney. She has an LL.B. degree from the University of London and attended Sri Lanka Law College after which she was admitted to the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka as an attorney at law. Samarasinghe also has a Masters in International Affairs from the Australian National University in Canberra. She has been a Neiman Fellow at Harvard University and an international journalist in residence at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism. Among the numerous awards for her work are the Images and Voices of Hope for Print and Digital Media (2011), the International PEN/NOVIB Freedom of Expression Award (2009), the Human Rights Prize of the International Federation of Journalists, the Global Shining Light Award at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference (2008), and Zonta International’s Woman of Achievement (2006).
Currently living in Ithaca, New York, she is Ithaca City of Asylum’s writer-in-residence, and Ithaca College has appointed her Visiting Scholar in Residence within the Honors Program in the School of Humanities and Sciences. She is working on a book about her experiences in Sri Lankan politics and media.