Sedat Ergin, editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily "Hürriyet," received Deutsche Welle's second annual Freedom of Speech Award on Monday (13.6.2016).
Ergin has been on trial since March for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; if convincted, Ergin faces up to four years in prison. DW named him recipient of this year's award honoring persons who exemplify human rights and free speech.
""He shares the fate of hundreds of journalists in Turkey who are exposed to high risks every day in the struggle to maintain independent journalism and press freedom," said DW Director General Peter Limbourg. "We cannot just look the other way and remain silent when journalists, artists and scientists are being systematically intimidated and harassed by authorities."
Upon learning of the award, Ergin said he was "honored to receive the award that stands for the preservation of press freedom worldwide."
On Monday, when he accepted the award in Bonn, he said that he was doing so with "rather mixed feelings. When the subject of the award you have received is freedom of expression, the troubling state of that freedom is inevitably highlighted."
"Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental values of humankind,” the journalist said. “It is an essential aspect of our existence in human societies."
Award comes amidst attacks on journalists in Turkey
In Turkey many renowned journalists and authors have become victims of assassination attempts and terror attacks. “One of my predecessors as editor-in-chief of my newspaper, Çetin Emeç, is also included in this list,” Ergin said in Bonn on Monday.
When summoned to court in Istanbul in late March, Ergin drew a somber picture of the situation, "Press freedom in Turkey in 2016 is confined to courthouse corridors."
One of Erdogan's lawyers brought the case against him, alleging that in an article written by Ergin and published in "Hürriyet," Ergin had derided a speech given by Erdogan after an attack by the banned Kurdish PKK movement on Turkish soldiers.
"Hürriyet," a leading independent Turkish daily newspaper, endured two attacks on its headquarters last year by pro-government mobs.
Speaking about the dangers of his daily life, the laureate said: "It cannot be common for the editor-in-chief of the biggest newspaper of an EU candidate country to go about with a bodyguard in an armored car. When full membership negotiations started a decade ago, it would never have crossed my mind that I would find myself in this situation in 2016."
The treatment of journalists in Turkey has had "a chilling effect on freedom of expression," he said.
Ergin closed by saying that "the award I am receiving will be a great incentive for me and my colleagues to continue on the path towards the goal of independent journalism as we know it."
Ergin received his award June 13, 2016 at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany. Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has been held in prison since 2012, received DW's first Freedom of Speech Award in 2015; his imprisonment was again recognized at this year’s awards ceremony.