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Former AFP journalist’s murderer gets death sentence

July 5, 2017

Sri Lanka’s High Court handed the death sentence Wednesday to a labourer who was found guilty of murdering former Agence France-Presse journalist Mel Gunasekera in a break-in at her home.

Anthony George, who stabbed Gunasekara to death in February 2014, will have his sentence automatically commuted to life in prison as Sri Lanka has an unofficial moratorium on capital punishment.

High Court judge Piyasena Ranasinghe also found George guilty of breaking and entering and of stealing Gunasekera’s mobile phone.

During a lengthy trial, the court heard that he had murdered Gunasekera after she recognised him as a labourer who had been hired over a month earlier to paint her parent’s house.

Gunasekera, 40, was an assistant vice president at Fitch’s Sri Lankan operation, a position she took up in 2012 after a five-year stint as Colombo correspondent for AFP.

She reported extensively on financial and political affairs in Sri Lanka, and also covered the Maldives.

She was the founding editor of Lanka Business Online, a pioneering financial news portal in the island.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.