White House journalist Jeff Mason gets Freedom of Speech Award in Germany
Ali Kayalar – BONNU.S. journalist Jeff Mason, head of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), received the Freedom of Speech Award on June 19 at the Global Media Forum, hosted by Deutsche Welle in Germany’s Bonn – a prize that he said he “never would have sought or expected.”
Mason said the challenges faced by his organization have “increased dramatically” since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
“If there is anything I have learned in the last 11 months of leading the correspondents’ association, it is that we cannot take away those rights or laws that guarantee them granted,” he said, referring to the first amendment of the U.S. constitution.
Mason said it was “humbling for the WHCA to be in the company of previous winners of the Deutsche Welle Freedom of Speech Award” including Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger who is now imprisoned, and Sedat Ergin, the Hürriyet columnist who was previously editor-in-chief of the newspaper when he received the award last year.
Deutsche Welle Director General Peter Limbourg said his organization “sees this award as recognizing free press worldwide and in the U.S. – and as a sign of solidarity and encouragement for those colleagues who have the exciting task of reporting about the U.S. President and his policies.”
“I very much hope Donald Trump does not serve to stir up anti-Americanism. The United States is a great nation with marvelous people, with inspiring artists, scientists and journalists. That’s what today’s event is about,” Limbourg said.
In a speech earlier in the day, he briefly summarized what has happened in the past decade of the forum.
“[Ten years ago] Donald Trump controlled a media show, not nuclear codes,” he said.
Limbourg also called on Turkey to release German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel and other journalists in prison.
Gregor Mayntz, president of the Federal Press Conference, a counterpart of the WHCA, called for journalists worldwide to stay true to their journalistic principles.
“America is the first place to make freedom of press great again,” Mayntz said.
German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters drew a comparison between politics and theater – “Unusual performances, bizarre scenes and remarkable staging” are no longer the hallmark of the stage but have rather become a presence “in the offices of old, honorable, dignified democracies.”
As part of the forum, Cumhuriyet columnist Özgür Mumcu held a panel discussion with Ole von Uexküll, the head of the Right Livelihood Foundation.
Mumcu said he hoped his arrested Cumhuriyet colleagues will be released at the first court hearing on July 24.
Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and nine others from the daily were arrested last year on several charges, including “membership in an armed terrorist organization” and “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member of it.” They have been in jail since Oct. 31, 2016.