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06.07.2017

A symbol of solidarity – Two more Turks honoured with Leipzig’s freedom of the press award

Deniz Yücel and Asli Erdoğan will be awarded the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig’s “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media” 2017

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Leipzig, 6 July 2017. The German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel and Turkish journalist Asli Erdoğan will be honoured together this year with the Leipzig “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media”, which is endowed with 30,000 euros. Following Ahmet Altan (2009), Nedim Şener (2015) and Can Dündar & Erdem Gül (2016), the choice of Deniz Yücel and Asli Erdoğan means the award will once again go to journalists threatened or already incarcerated by Turkey’s judiciary under President Erdoğan. By selecting these award winners, the Media Foundation aims to demonstrate solidarity with all journalists who face wide-scale repression in Turkey for advocating the right to report freely.

The awarding of our prize to Deniz Yücel and Asli Erdoğan is linked to a promise to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is taking part in the G20 Summit in Germany. He and his government can no more get rid of the demand for a return to press freedom and the release of arbitrarily arrested journalists than they can escape the responsibility for their political actions, for which they will some day be accountable”,

explains Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig.

A famous poem by theologian Martin Niemöller ends with the line: ‘Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me’. With this in mind, the media prize jury stresses that we will not simply get used to the persecution of journalists in Turkey,”

stresses Seeger. “With Deniz Yücel and Asli Erdoğan, we honour two journalists who go about their work with conviction and tenacity, who are serious about the original promise of democracy in the Republic of Turkey, and whose critical reporting has resulted in their persecution by that same republic.”

"We very much welcome the choice of the laureates,” says Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom in Leipzig.

President Erdoğan is trampling on the European Charter on Press Freedom and is moving further and further away from the Europe’s democratic consensus.
The Turkish judiciary is trying to silence oppositional voices with ambiguous legal paragraphs. Deniz Yücel is one of more than 150 journalists in jail. We must make it clear to President Erdoğan: journalism is not a crime.”

Statements by former award winners can be found on the Foundation’s homepage. The award ceremony takes places in Leipzig on 6 October, 2017.

About the laureates:

Deniz Yücel_Journalistenwatch Deniz Yücel (Photo: Flickr/Journalistenwatch)

Deniz Yücel was born in 1973 in Flörsheim am Main and has German and Turkish citizenship. He began studying political science at the Free University Berlin in 1996. From 1999, he worked as a freelance writer for media such as Tagesspiegel, taz, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Standard as well as German broadcasters BR, NDR and WDR. He was an editor at taz from 2007 until 2015. Since 2015, Deniz Yücel has been the Turkey correspondent at the WeltN24 group. His work has repeatedly brought him into conflict with the Turkish authorities. Yücel was arrested again on 25 December 2016. He has been accused of carrying out “propaganda for a terrorist organisation and inciting violence”: He had reported on hacked emails from the account of Berat Albayrak – the Turkish energy minister and son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – which suggested corruption. After an arrest warrant was issued, Yücel voluntarily gave himself up to the police in February 2017. In March 2017, a judge ordered that he be remanded in custody. Now Yücel is charged with offences related to terrorist propaganda because he conducted an interview with the PKK leader Cemil Bayik. His criminal prosecution is viewed as politically motivated.

 

Asli Erdoğan Asli Erdoğan (Photo: Gürkan Öztürk)

Asli Erdoğan was born in 1967 in Istanbul. She began studying computer science and physics at Bosphorus University in 1983, then worked at the Faculty of Physics at the same university and also at CERN in Geneva. She wrote her first novella in 1990, while her first novel, Mucizevi Mandarin (Miraculous Mandarin), was published in 1996. She then focused on her work as an author. Her breakthrough as a writer came in 1998 with her third book, Kırmızı Pelerinli Kent (The City in a Crimson Cloak). From 1998 until 2001, she wrote columns for the left-liberal Turkish daily Radikal and reported on conditions in Turkish prisons, on violence against women and on state repression against Kurds.

 

About the Leipzig Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media

Every year since 2001, the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation has awarded its “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media” to honour journalists, publishers, and institutions that have demonstrated great personal commitment to ensuring the freedom and future of the media. The award is also intended to commemorate the Peaceful Revolution in Leipzig on 9 October 1989, during which protesters demanded “free press for a free country”. (http://www.leipziger-medienstiftung.de)

In addition, she worked on the PEN Writers in Prison Committee. In 2010, her novel Taş Bina ve Diğerleri (The Stone Building and Other Places) earned her the Sait Faik Award, Turkey’s most important literary prize. In the more recent years, scholarships took her to cities such as Zurich and Graz, and later she worked for the Turkish-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. On 16 August 2016 Asli Erdoğan was detained during a series of arrests at Özgür Gündem after prosecutors ordered the newspaper’s closure. Erdoğan has been charged with “propaganda for an illegal organisation”, “membership of an illegal organisation” and “incitement”. Her articles and columns have been used as evidence. In November 2016, the public prosecutor demanded lifelong imprisonment for the author, and the trial began on 29 December 2016.

On the first day of the trial, the judge ordered her release from custody for health reasons. The trial continued and she was banned from leaving the country, although this ban was lifted for the time being in June 2017.



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