To read Şener’s acceptance speech, click here.
Nedim Şener, a leading investigative journalist with the Turkish daily Posta, is considered a terrorist by his government, which alleges that his critical reporting contributed to an anti-government plot.
His case is emblematic of Turkey’s widespread application of vague laws to prosecute and imprison journalists and pressure them into self-censorship. The laws equate covering terrorism with aiding terrorism, CPJ has found.
Since being detained in 2011, Şener faces charges of supporting an armed terrorist organization in connection with Ergenekon, an alleged anti-government conspiracy. After more than one year in prison awaiting trial, he is currently free on conditional release pending the outcome. If convicted, Şener faces up to 15 years in prison.
The case, also involving investigative reporter Ahmet Şık and eight staffers of the ultranationalist news website Odatv, has been broadly criticized by press freedom advocates and colleagues as untenable. The Odatv defendants, including Şener, have argued that incriminating files were planted on their computers with viruses. Independent technology experts have confirmed that the Odatv computers have been externally manipulated; their analyses, however, have not been admitted as court evidence.
Şener, the author of several books, investigated the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. In a book about the killing published in 2009, Şener alleged official involvement in Dink’s murder, including a cover-up of police negligence, concealment of evidence, and failure to investigate threats and surveillance of Dink prior to his death. Following the book’s publication, Şener was prosecuted on several charges, including “revealing secrets” and “attempting to influence a trial.” He faced more than 30 years in prison if convicted–longer than the sentence handed to Dink’s killer. Şener was acquitted of those charges in 2010, only to be imprisoned again, as a suspect in the Odatv case, less than a year later.
In 2012, CPJ found Turkey to be the world’s worst jailer of journalists. Authorities are still holding dozens of Kurdish reporters and editors on terror-related charges and other journalists for allegedly plotting against the government. Şener’s sentence is expected near the end of 2013.
Formerly imprisoned Turkish journalist honored by international press body
Nedim Şener has received the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. DHA photo
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has presented Turkish journalist Nedim Şener with its annual International Press Freedom Award.
Şener, a journalist from Turkish daily Posta who was imprisoned in 2011 as a result of his critical reporting, faced a 15-year jail sentence in the OdaTV case.
He was held for more than one year in pre-trial detention for alleged connections to a terrorist organization as part of the ongoing OdaTV case, but was later released on March 12, 2012.
“This award is a source of honor for me, but it should be a dishonor for the government in Turkey,” Şener said, speaking to reporters.
He said it was “strange” that someone receiving a press freedom award in the U.S. had at the same time been tried for allegedly being a terrorist in his own country.
“Now, I’m receiving this award, but at the same time this draws attention to the fact that 60 journalists are currently in prison in Turkey,” Şener said.
The case regarding OdaTV, an online news portal known for its harsh criticism of government policies, began after police conducted a search of the website’s offices in February 2011 as part of the Ergenekon investigation.
Şener had previously received a number of other journalism awards for press freedom, including the Turkish Journalists’ Association Press Freedom Award, the International Press Institute’s World Press Freedom Heroes award, and the PEN Freedom of Expression Award.
He is the author of a controversial book on the assassination of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, in which he uncovered the alleged involvement of Turkish security agencies in Dink’s killing outside of the Agos weekly newspaper’s office in January 2007.
CPJ head surprised by Turkey’s record
Speaking at the ceremony, CPJ Chairwoman Sandra Mims Rowe expressed her astonishment that Turkey topped the list of the countries keeping the biggest number of journalists in prison. Rowe also noted that the journalists were currently facing the biggest threat yet, even in institutional democracies.
Apart from Şener, three journalists from around the world were also awarded by the CPJ.
Şener and other award recipients Janet Hinostroze from Ecuador, Bassem Youssef from Egypt and Nguyen Van Hai from Vietnam, were “confronting severe reprisals for their work, including legal harassment, physical threats, and imprisonment,” the CPJ noted in a statement on its website.
All four received their awards Nov. 26 during the CPJ’s annual award and benefit dinner in New York.