Award given to exiled Turkish journalist for story on victim of post-coup torture taken away

Turkish exiled journalist Bülent Ceyhan

A journalism award granted to exiled Turkish journalist Bülent Ceyhan for a story about a teacher who died due to torture while in pretrial detention in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 has been taken away from him.

Ceyhan was granted an award in the category of print journalism on March 31 by the jury of the Metin Göktepe Journalism Awards. Göktepe was a Turkish journalist for the leftist Evrensel daily who died in 1996 due to torture while he was in police custody.

Ceyhan was given the award for a story he wrote about teacher Gökhan Açıkkollu who was detained on July 24, 2016 on trumped-up charges of coup plotting and terrorism and remained in police custody for 13 days, during which time he was subjected to both physical and psychological torture and eventually died.

Ceyhan’s story, titled, “İşte Gökhan Açıkkollu Cinayeti’nin belgeleri” (The documents of the murder of Gökhan Açıkkollu) was posted on the tr724 news website on Nov. 28, 2017. The awards committee of the Metin Göktepe Journalism Awards announced on Tuesday that Ceyhan’s award was being withdrawn on the grounds that the same story was also published by the aktifhaber news website on Nov. 21, 2017.

The committee, which made the decision by a majority of votes, said that no award would be granted to any journalist this year in the category of print journalism.

In a message from his Twitter account on April 1, Ceyhan expressed his thanks to the committee, describing the award as “the most meaningful award of my 21-year-long professional life as a journalist.”

The journalist said he was trying to earn a living in exile as a carrier.

Ceyhan received numerous congratulatory messages on social media, with many saying that a journalist being in exile and not working under the roof of a newspaper are not obstacles for them to perform their job. There were also critics who blasted the committee for giving the award to a journalist in exile who is facing terror charges in Turkey.

After the journalist’s award was revoked on Tuesday, Ceyhan tweeted that he was not expecting the jury to bow to pressure and withdraw the award; hence, he was disappointed.

“It is me who first obtained these documents [about Açıkkollu’s death] and reported on them to SCF [Stockholm Center for Freedom], Aktif Haber and tr724. You could have found out this with a small bit of research. What a pity,” wrote the journalist.

Ceyhan, who used to work for the Habertürk, Millet and Özgür Düşünce newspapers, is among the 29 defendants of a trial which was concluded in March. Twenty-five journalists in this trial were given prison sentences ranging from 25 months to seven years, six months on terror charges.

The journalists were convicted of supporting or being members of the Gülen movement, led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, regarded by the Turkish government as a “terrorist organization” and blamed for the attempted coup in 2016.

The Millet and Özgür Düşünce dailies are among the dozens of media outlets closed by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the failed coup due to their links to the Gülen movement. (turkishminute.com)

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