Turkey: Ahmet Şık Awarded UNESCO Press Freedom Prize
London, April 15 2014 – PEN International is delighted at the news that writer, investigative journalist and PEN International main case Ahmet Şık has been awarded UNESCO’s 2014 Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize. Named after the intrepid Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza, who was murdered in front of his El Espectador offices in December 1986, the annual award honours journalists or organisations that have made “an outstanding contribution to the defence of press freedom.” The award will be presented to Şık on 2 May 2014 at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris ahead of World Press Freedom Day, which takes place annually on 3 May.
‘Ahmet Şık is a worthy winner of this award, which recognises the quality of his work as an investigative journalist’, said Marian Botsford Fraser, Chair of PEN International Writers in Prison Committeee.
‘It is time the Turkish authorities also recognised that he has done nothing except freely express his views in the course of his work as a writer. All charges against Şık should be dropped immediately and unconditionally.’
PEN International has campaigned for Ahmet Şık since his March 2011 arrest, when he was accused of involvement in Ergenekon, an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the Turkish government by individuals associated with the Turkish military. During Şık’s arrest, copies of the manuscript of his unpublished book The Imam’s Army were seized by police. The book, which details the alleged influence of the followers of US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in the Turkish police and judiciary, is believed by many to be the real reason for his arrest. Şık was released pending trial in March 2012 after a year in pre-trial detention. His trial is still ongoing.
Şık faces up to 15 years in prison if he is found guilty of the charges that he faces, which include ‘knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting an illegal organisation’ under Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code, ‘membership of an armed organisation’ under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code and ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ under Article 5 of the Anti-Terror Law.
Upon his release, Şık gave a statement to the press, calling for those investigating him to be brought to account for unjustly persecuting him. New charges were brought following these comments, accusing Şık of ‘defaming a public official for the performance of their duty’ under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code.
Şık previously faced trial under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for denigrating the Turkish army in a February 2007 article for the weekly magazine Nokta. In the article, Şık referenced the Turkish army’s heavy-handed involvement in matters of ‘internal security’. He was acquitted of these charges in April 2008.
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