An international, independent jury of media professionals has named Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Şik the winner of the 2014 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize
Ahmet Şik, 44, is an ardent defender of freedom of expression, and has devoted his career to denouncing corruption and human rights abuses. Between 1991 and 2011 he wrote for several Turkish newspapers, including Cumhurriyet, Evrensel, Yeni Yuzyl and, more recently, Radikal. He has also worked at Nokta magazine and Reuters News Agency as a photojournalist, and is a member of the Turkish Journalists’ Union.
The journalist had his first brush with the authorities in 2007, following a critical article in Nokta. On 3 March 2011, he was arrested and detained on charges of being linked to Ergenekon, an alleged terrorist organization. He risks 15 years imprisonment if convicted. The arrest was made just prior to the publication of his book entitled “The Imam’s Army”, which was seized and banned. The premises of the book’s publisher and Radikal, for whom Şik was working, were searched.
Released from detention in March 2012 while awaiting trial, Ahmet Şik resumed his professional activities as an investigative journalist. During the summer of 2013, he was injured while covering demonstrations in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom prize was established in 1997 by UNESCO’s Executive Board. It honours a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defense and/or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger. Candidates are proposed by UNESCO’s Member States and regional or international organizations active in the field of journalism and freedom of expression. The laureates are selected by a jury whose members are appointed by UNESCO’s Director-General for a period of three years, renewable once.
The jury that chose Ahmet Şik includes: Florence Aubenas, journalist at Le Monde (France); Gamal Eid, founder and Executive Director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (Egypt); Rossana Fuentes-Berain, Editorial Vice President, Grupo Editorial Expansion (Mexico); Yuli Ismartono, Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tempo (Indonesia); Laura Puertas Meyer, journalist Telemetro (Peru); Musikilu Mojeed, Managing Editor at Premium Times (Nigeria); Fatuma Noor, Features Writer, The Star (Kenya); Rana Sabbagh, Executive Director of Arab reporters for Investigative Journalism (Jordan); Martin M. Šimecka, author and journalist, Editor-in-Chief of Respekt (Slovakia); Paul Steiger, Editor-in-Chief, CEO, ProPublica (USA); Ko-ko U, Chairman of the Yangon Media Group, publisher of the Yangon Times and former Secretary-General of the Journalists and Writers Association (Myanmar); Ljiljana Zurovac, Executive Director of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Press Council (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
The $25,000 prize is awarded annually as part of the celebrations for World Press Freedom Day on 3 May. It is funded by the Guillermo Cano Isaza Foundation and the Helingin Sanomat Foundation.
This year, the award ceremony will take place at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters on Friday, 2 May. The ceremony will be followed by an international conference on 5 and 6 May, with a focus on journalists’ security, the struggle against impunity and trends in press freedom.