Formerly imprisoned Turkish journalist honored by international press body

Formerly imprisoned Turkish journalist honored by international press body

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.