Turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar was one of the winners of the European Press Prize last week.
Baydar sent iMediaEthics a three-page statement about winning the award, saying he is “deeply moved, honored and delighted to receive this great award.” He also expressed his concerns about the state of Turkish media.
He was awarded “The Special Award” for trying to “build trust in journalism,” specifically in response to his willingness to publicly state criticism of Sabah, his then newspaper employer, which he accused of censoring the protests in Turkey.
“This is the second year of awards, increasingly regarded as the European equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize,” according to a report published on the Organization for News Ombudsmen’s website.
Baydar said he was fired last July because he called the Turkish media “shameful” in a July 19 New York Times op-ed, “In Turkey, Media Bosses are Undermining Democracy.”
Previously, Sabah refused to publish two of his critical columns, Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman had reported.
The Guardian‘s editor Alan Rusbridger and Der Spiegel’s editor Wolfgang Buchner also were awarded ‘The Special Award” for reporting on the documents about the NSA leaked by Edward Snowden. See the full list of winners.
Baydar was the ombudsman for Turkish daily newspaper Sabah for nine years, but was suddenly fired last year after publicly criticizing the newspaper for its censorship of the protests in Turkey, as iMediaEthics wrote at the time.
Sabah announced a new reader’s representative shortly after Baydar’s firing and criticized Baydar’s work as ombudsman. Sabah claimed in an article on its website that Baydar liked to “openly offend” Sabah journalists and that by criticizing Sabah, he was breaking its rules of practice.
Baydar told iMediaEthics at the time that he hadn’t received complaints about his work from Sabah outside of the two censored columns and that Sabah was just trying to “discredit” him.
Baydar recently wrote to iMediaEthics, “I should put much deeper emphasis on another aspect the award invites, and that should leave us to be less cheerful about,” he wrote. “The award comes at a time, which puts Turkey’s embattled, weary and intensely oppressed media — with a very weak moral compass, to a significant degree submissive, in shackles, limping and frightened — under a spotlight.”
Baydar dedicated his award to those who have worked as journalists in tough circumstances. “The award goes way beyond me, to all those colleagues of mine, who year after year had to work under severe conditions that were set to restrict and showed brave professional resistance to serve their social role,” he wrote in part.
For the Turkish publication Today‘s Zaman, Baydar wrote about winning the award:
“I am mostly happy because the award highlights, more than ever before, the immense threat and increasing waves of assault the Turkish media have been facing. I was given a chance to elaborate on the root causes of the problem and noticed, once more, that Turkey, with its growing social instability and its shackled journalism, is under intense focus, as the audience — mainly professionals — has shown.”
iMediaEthics has written to The Guardian and Der Spiegel for comment about the award as well and will update with any response.