Jailed Turkish journalist Gürsel nominated for UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Prize

Journalist Kadri Gürsel

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has nominated Turkish jailed journalist Kadri Gürsel as a candidate for UNESCO’s Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. The journalist’s wife Nazire Kalkan Gürsel announced the nomination via her personal Twitter account.

Journalist Gürsel, who is among 10 journalists jailed for pre-trial detention in a “terrorism” investigation targeting daily Cumhuriyet, was arrested on Nov. 5, 2016. He was arrested along with editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, caricaturist Musa Kart, and Cumhuriyet Foundation board members Güray Tekin Öz, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Turhan Günay, Hakan Kara, Önder Çelik and Bülent Utku. The CEO of Cumhuriyet. The arrested journalists and media professionals are accused of “committing crimes on behalf of” the outlawed PKK and Gülen movement.

UNESCO had granted the same prize to journalist Ahmet Şık in 2014. Şık, who was tried in Oda TV case when he was given the prize, is now arrested on the charge of being a member of so-called “FETÖ”, an acronym that was fabricated by Turkey’s controversial political Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in reference to the Gülen movement, as the Oda TV trial has still been going on.

President Erdogan started a witch hunt campaign to root out Gülen movement which has been inspired by Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual who has been a vocal critic of Erdogan on corruption and aiding and abetting armed Jihadists in Syria. Gülen, dubbed as one of “The World’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals” in a list put together by the magazines Foreign Policy and Prospect in 2008, has inspired a civic movement called Hizmet (Service) which focuses on science education, community involvement, interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

Journalist Kadri Gürsel has been in prison for 117 days as Ahmet Şık’s stay in prison has reached to its 56th day.

Created by UNESCO’s Executive Board in 1997, the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize honors a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defense or promotion of press freedom anywhere in the world, and especially when this has been achieved in the face of danger.

The prize is named in honor of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, in December 1986. It is funded by the Cano Foundation (Colombia) and the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland).

According to a report released by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) on Jan. 26, 2017, 191 journalists are either convicted and serving time in prison or jailed in pre-trial, and the most of the journalists have not even seen an indictment against them. The report also stated that 92 journalists are wanted for arrest but remain at large either in Turkey or abroad. SCF has also said that the number of media organizations seized and shut down by the government has reached 189.

Feb. 24, 2017

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