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01 June

P24 receives PEC press freedom award

"Turkish journalists are being punished for telling the truth,” P24 President Hasan Cemal says, as he receives PEC Award 2017 in Geneva

 
Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) granted this year’s press freedom award to the P24 Platform for Independent Journalism.
 
The PEC Award committee handed the award on Thursday in Geneva to Hasan Cemal, the founding president of P24.
 
"Turkish journalists are being punished for telling the truth, for saying things those in power do not want to hear,” Cemal said in a speech as he received the award. Noting that P24 was founded to support media integrity and the free exchange of ideas, Cemal said, however, that in recent times it has been fighting to defend journalists themselves from arbitrary arrest and prosecution.
 
“We are aware that it does not simply recognise the work P24 is trying to do but the plight of those we are trying to defend," Cemal said of the award.
 
PEC Award is given to persons or organizations that show “exceptional courage in fighting for press freedom.”
 
“This year, the PEC Committee has decided to devote the prize to the situation of the media in Turkey, where the media has been the victim of an unprecedented repression for over a year,” said PEC Secretary-General Blaise Lempen at the award ceremony, noting that more than 160 journalists are in prison and media organizations are under “intolerable pressure.”
 
The Geneva-based PEC is a non-governmental organization with special consultative UN status. It aims at strengthening the legal protection and safety of journalists in zones of conflict and civil unrest or in dangerous missions.
 
 
Hasan Cemal’s speech delivered in Geneva is as follows:
 
 
I have been a journalist for nearly 50 years and of course I have many memories.
 
But the one thing I cannot remember is a period in Turkey more repressive and more intolerant of dissent than the one we are living through today.  
 
In 1981, I became the editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper.
It was a grim time in Turkey. The country was under martial law.
Turkish newspapers were not free.
But we were more free than we are today.
 
Cumhuriyet, my old paper, now has an on-line edition. The editor is Oğuz Güven.
 
We were alarmed to read his tweet the other day that the police had arrived to take him into custody.
We were even more alarmed to learn that he was subsequently charged with making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.
 
I hear you ask: How on earth does an editor of a respected publication do that.
 
The answer is that his newspaper made a tweet, one whose tone he didn’t like and which he replaced after less than 60 seconds.
 
And what did that tweet say? It gave news of the death of a public prosecutor in a car accident.
 
Oğuz is of course not a terrorist.
He is a member of a profession that is itself being terrorised.
 
Turkish journalists are being punished for telling the truth, for saying things those in power do not want to hear.
 
Oğuz now joins 12 of his fellow journalists from Cumhuriyet in prison.  
 
Each charge is more ridiculous than the next.
 
Musa Kart is charged with the complex crime, and I quote of  “aiding a terrorist organisation of which he is not a member.”  
 
That makes him sound like a gunrunner.
In fact, he is a cartoonist.
 
One of his inmates is the foreign affairs columnist Kadri Gürsel.  
Kadri is also the Turkish representative to the International Press Institute- a well-known breeding ground for terror.  
 
Ahmet Şık is a UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize winner but according to the prosecutor he has been aiding terror groups and I quote “without being a member.”
 
Murat Sabuncu is also in jail and just happens to be Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief.
 
He also happens to be one of the founding members of P24. 
He succeeded Can Dündar who is not in jail.
He is in exile.
His wife has had her passport cancelled and cannot join him.
 
The list goes on. 
And on.
 
In fact there are 169 Turkish journalists behind jail making Turkey not just the world’s most vicious prosecutor of journalists but worse than habitual offenders like China, Russia and Iran all put together.
 
Those behind bars are not all from Cumhuriyet.
They come in all shapes and sizes:
there are Kurdish nationalists, Turkish nationalists, atheists and firm believers, liberals, conservatives, radicals and Islamists. There are those in their twenties and men and women in their seventies – which makes them as old as myself.  Nazlı Ilıcak is the grande dame of the Turkish and someone with whom I have enjoyed disagreeing with over the years. Şahin Alpay, like Nazlı, has always followed his conscience. That both of my septuagenarian friends should still be jail for over 300 days – and without even appearing in court, is more upsetting that I can say.
 
Put them all in the same room and they’d be arguing and shouting and shaking their fists in the air. (I don’t live in Switzerland after all!).
But, of course, that’s what journalists do.
Their job is to be professional pains in the ass.
 
I feel very deeply for my friend Ahmet Altan – a novelist and another former editor in chief who has been in jail since September.
He is there with his brother Mehmet – an economist as well as a popular columnist. They are being accused of…well, nothing really… they are just in jail.
They were first arrested for giving subliminal messages to the 15 July coup plotters.
 
Believe me, there is nothing subliminal about what Ahmet writes. He says what he means.
 
The motto of the Washington Post is democracy dies in darkness.
We know the other side of that coin:
Tyranny dies in light.
 
P24 is extremely grateful to PEC for this award.
We call ourselves the Platform for independent journalism.
 
And independent journalism is what we set out to support.
We also set out to support an independent judiciary and the separation of powers.
 
These are the three pillars of democracy and the rule of law.
 
But democracy and rule of law is evaporating before our very eyes and in the country that we love.
 
It is not just journalists who are in peril but the freedoms that journalists spend their lives trying to defend. 
 
P24 was founded to support media integrity and the free exchange of ideas.
 
Yet in recent times it has been fighting to defend journalists themselves from arbitrary arrest and prosecution.
 
Four of the cases we are fighting have been fast tracked in the European Court of Human Rights.
 
We are proud of this, but only up to a point.
Defending journalists in court is not the work we want to be doing.
We are an organisation founded by journalists for journalists.
Not lawyers.
 
What we at P24 want to be doing is the thing we do best: Journalism.
We want to be encouraging talented people -- and so many of the really talented people are young.
 
We want to support journalists to be out in the community, looking under every stone, holding power to account and getting readers to think about what is best for themselves, their families, their countries and the world.
 
So this award means a great deal to us – particularly as it is an award from journalists whose job it is to report and defend human rights and freedom of expression.
 
We are aware that that it does not simply recognise the work P24 is trying to do but the plight of those we are trying to defend.
 
On our behalf and on their behalves, we thank you for your kindness, your generosity, and for your support.
 
Long live independent journalism!
Long live democracy!
This award is encouragement to keep the fight alive.
 
Journalism is no crime.
And we shall not subjugate our minds to fear.
 
 
Thank you.
 
 

Tags: Press Emblem Campaign , Hasan Cemal ,

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