NEW YORK — Nedim Sener, an investigative journalist with Turkey’s Posta newspaper, was honored with Press Freedom Award, a recognition for his work in the Turkish press against a myriad of odds and challenges that mar the profession in the country, Today’s Zaman reports.
The Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2013 International Press Freedom Awards were presented to Ecuador’s Janet Hinostroza, Egypt’s Bassem Youssef, Turkey’s Nedim Sener and Vietnam’s Nguyen Van Hai in a ceremony at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel on Tuesday evening.
Sener, who is among the four foreign journalists that were honored with Press Freedom Awards for their work in the face of severe reprisals, including physical threats and imprisonment, dedicated his award to the memory of Hrant Dink, a journalist whose killing he blames on the Turkish intelligence service.
“Hrant Dink was threatened by state officials because he had exercised his freedom of expression. He was murdered because state officials turned a blind eye to threats against him and failed to protect his life,” said Sener in the ceremony in New York.
Sener spent a year in jail awaiting trial on terrorism charges following allegations his reporting had contributed to an anti-government plot. He is currently free on conditional release but faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
“Turkey is a record-breaker. Sixty journalists are jailed there on the accusation of being terrorists — that’s more than anywhere else in the world,” Sener said. “Most recently, several colleagues received life terms after a trial that shocked the Turkish press corps. I feel compelled to speak for them now. Don’t be indifferent to their fate! Demand their release!”
He said there is a disagreement between journalists and politicians over the meaning of democracy as the latter view democray only through the prism of ballot box and elections.
“For politicians,democracy means allowing people to vote every four years. For journalists, democracy is an everyday experience. And the essence of that experience is the people’s right to be informed. It is no coincidence that the first act of an authoritarian government is to silence the press,” Sener said, addressing the increasing government pressure on the press.
He also lamented on wide use of self-censorship by media outlets in the face of government pressure. He said majority of the media outlets remained indifferent to Gezi Park protests in June, exercising self-censorship to avoid a crisis with the government.
“The events of Gezi Park over the summer revealed the scope of the press freedom crisis in my country. Thirty journalists were hurt, many were detained, and dozens were fired from their jobs because of their Gezi coverage. But perhaps the gravest problem was that many media outlets did not cover Gezi. Even though dramatic clashes were taking place right outside their windows, many newsrooms chose to self-censor for fear of official repercussions.”