The Cumhuriyet-journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül have been under threat for years because of their government-critical and independent work. In November 2015, both journalists were arrested and in May 2016 sentenced to 5 years, respectively 5 years and 10 months in prison. They were charged with supporting armed terror forces and state espionages.
Their fate is similar to that of many other journalists in Turkey. By giving them the Prize for Freedom and Future of the Media, the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation wants to shed a light on the important work of all of them: “With the joint award for Can Dündar and Erdem Gül we honour two journalists who represent many of their colleagues in Turkey and elsewhere: They pursue their journalistic profession in an independent and unbiased manner – despite politically motivated persecution, threats of imprisonment or dangers to life and limb”, explains Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of the Media Foundation, the choice this year’s laureates.
With the decision for Dündar and Gül, the jury expressed its worries about the state of media freedom in Turkey – a country which is an important partner for Europe and aspiring to become a member state of the European Union. “The jury’s decision shows that the threat to press freedom in Turkey is regarded as an intrinsic feature of the political system, which suppresses the pluralistic formation of opinion, in turn endangering the work and lives of journalists”, says Seeger. Already in 2009 and 2015, the prize has been awarded to Turkish journalists Ahmed Altan and Nedim Şener.
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom welcomes that the award is given to the Cumhuriyet-journalists who, in the past years, did not only fight for their own right to report freely, but also for their many colleagues under threat. The ECPMF has met Can Dündar and Erdem Gül during their process in Istanbul and actively supports them and many other media workers from Turkey.
The Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media will be handed to the laureates in an awarding ceremony on 7 October in Leipzig and will be the closing event of ECPMF’s European Media Freedom Conference 2016.