Hürriyet editor-in-chief Ergin wins Freedom of Speech Award

Hürriyet editor-in-chief Ergin wins Freedom of Speech Award

Hürriyet editor-in-chief Ergin wins Freedom of Speech Award Daily Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin has been awarded German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s (DW) Freedom of Speech Award, which honors individuals who “exemplify human rights and free speech.”

In his initial response, Ergin said he was “honored to receive the prize that stands for preservation of press freedom worldwide.”

Meanwhile, DW Director-General Peter Limbourg defined Ergin as a “worthy prize recipient” and underlined that DW, which first started its radio broadcasts in Turkey over 50 years ago, could not look the other way “when journalists, artists and scientists are being systematically intimidated and harassed by authorities.”

Limbourg pointed out that Ergin “shared the fate of hundreds of journalists in Turkey” for being targeted in physical and legal battles due to his efforts to maintain standards of objective journalism. The headquarters of Hürriyet in Istanbul endured two attacks led by pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) protesters in September 2015, whereas Ergin has personally been on trial since March for allegedly “insulting President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan]” in a Hürriyet report.

Ergin appeared before a local court on March 25 on charges of “insulting” the president after the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched a case after investigating a tweet posted on Hürriyet’s Twitter account on Sept.6, 2015, ahead of the attacks on the daily’s headquarters the same day. 

The tweet had quoted an Erdoğan’s statement, “If 400 deputies had been gained, then this would not have happened,” and linked it to a recent terrorist attack on Turkish military forces in the Dağlıca village in the southeastern province of Hakkari’s Yüksekova district. 

A case was subsequently opened against Ergin and former daily Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, accusing them both of “distorting the words of [the president],” “staging a perception operation” and “insulting the president.” 

During his appearance at court, Ergin said the intention was not to insult and that the website had made a “broad interpretation” due to the “nature of rapidly processing a news story.” 

“The headline was removed within a short time. Later we issued a statement saying we were sorry for this mistake,” he said. 

“Over the 41 years of my professional life, I have never supported a publishing policy [of] insults. It is not an acceptable situation for me to be tried as a defendant for the first time in such a case,” Ergin remarked, adding that courthouses had evolved to become the “habitats” of Turkish journalists in 2016. 

“Freedom of the press in Turkey in 2016 is now confined to court corridors,” Ergin told reporters. 

Hürriyet’s headquarters in Istanbul was attacked at the same day as the Dağlıca tweet, which is said to have triggered the violent protesters on Sept. 6, 2015. 

AKP deputy Abdurrahim Boynukalın delivered a fiery speech in front of the daily amid the aggressive group, which attempted to enter the building and pelted its entrance with stones.

Another attack was launched within less than 48 hours. 

All suspects who were detained after the attacks targeting the newspaper building were released. 

Boynukalın, who was seen in another video while explicitly threatening Hürriyet journalists, was elected to the AKP’s steering committee at the party’s congress on Sept. 12, 2015, and was later promoted to deputy minister of youth and sports on Dec. 18, 2015.