This is the second year of awards, increasingly regarded as the European equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.
A special prize for 'particular excellence' went to the Turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar, columnist and former ombudsman of Sabah newspaper, for his efforts “to build trust in journalism”. Baydar was a joint recipient, alongside The Guardian and Der Spiegel for their publication of the Snowden files.
Baydar’s award was in recognition of his reader’s representative column that his newspaper refused to publish last summer at the time of the Gezi Park demonstrations. In one such column, Baydar took issue with Sabah’s front page coverage which sought to blame the intensity of the demonstration on agitation by foreign media rather than as response to police heavy handedness.
A recent report by the Washington-based Freedom House watch-dog organisation paints an unhappy picture of media groups kowtowing to the government out of fear that their non-media parent companies would be punished by being excluded from government tenders and procurement contracts.
In July 2013, Baydar was sacked as ombudsman, a position which he had held since 2004.
“My duty as ombudsman was to uphold the integrity and independence of my newspaper. I was fired for trying to carry out that duty. That I have received this award should be an encouragement to all journalists in Turkey struggling to fight censorship, self-censorship and the unhealthy collusion of media proprietors and government,” Baydar said.
Since leaving Sabah, Yavuz Baydar has acted as one of the founding members of Platform24 (P24), an initiative to support media independence in Turkey (P24 is a close partner of www.mymedia.org.ua
The competition fore the European Press Prize is open to journalists from all 47 nations defined by Council of Europe membership.
The award is the brainchild of independent foundations which support and practice independent journalism. These include Foundation for Democracy and Media (The Netherlands), the Veronica Association (The Netherlands), The Guardian Foundation (United Kingdom), Thomson Reuters Foundation (United Kingdom), Jyllands-Posten Foundation (Denmark), The Politiken Foundation (Denmark), The Media Development Investment Fund (Czech Republic).
About Yavuz Baydar:
Yavuz Baydar began his journalistic career in 1980 in Sweden where he attended the Journalisthögskolan. He returned to his native Turkey in 1994 after a brief stint in London with the BBC. Since then he has worked for radio and television, as well as Turkish and international newspapers. He was the first ombudsman in the Turkish press and has served as president of the World Organisation of News Ombudsman. At present, he has a regular opinion column in the English-language daily Today’s Zaman, and contributes to a variety of broadcast and print media including BBC World, Swedish Radio-TV, NPR, and Al Jazeera. He is a member of the World Editors Forum, the Committee of Concerned Journalists and the UNESCO National Committee of Communications.
P24 is a not-for-profit, civil society organisation, registered in Turkey, which counts as its founders several experienced members of the Turkish press. Its broadly defined mission is to build capacity in the Turkish media, create a public appetite for media independence, and more specifically to encourage the transition to web-based journalism. Its objectives are:
- To encourage the publication of independent, quality and accurate news in Turkey at a time when this is in real jeopardy,
- To provide a forum for journalists of proven integrity who are being denied a voice,
- To promote best journalistic practice.
P24 aims to help break the unhealthy monopoly of government controlled media in Turkey and encourage balanced news coverage.