World Press Freedom Hero (Honoured in June 2010)
Nedim Şener was ordered freed from the Silivri Prison in Turkey on March 12, 2012 pending trial on charges of supporting an armed terrorist organisation in connection with the alleged the "Ergenekon" plot. He was initially detained on March 3, 2011. The government claims that Şener and others in a case centred on news website "Oda TV" acted as the media wing for the alleged plot in which secularists and ultra-nationalists are said to have planned to use terrorism to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)-led government. Ten journalists have been charged in the case, which saw its first court hearing on Nov. 22, 2011. Other defendants include investigative journalist Ahmet Şik, writer Yalçin Küçük and Oda TV executive Soner Yalçin. The defendants have argued that they are being targeted for the content of their writings and that incriminating files found on hard drives were placed there by hackers. Şener faces 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison if convicted. His next court date is scheduled for June 18, 2012.
Şener, an author and investigative reporter at the Turkish daily national newspaper Milliyet, came to prominence following the publication of his book on the murder of Dink, the Turkish-Armenian who was editor-in-chief of Agos. Şener’s controversial book uncovered the involvement of Turkish security agencies in Dink’s killing outside of the Armenian weekly newspaper’s office in January 2007. His book led to the filing of charges by several senior police and security service officials.
"Şener’s determination to continue with his investigative reporting, particularly in relation to the Dink murder case, despite the threats he has faced, both inside and outside of the courtroom, is to be commended. We are proud to announce him as our 56th World Press Freedom Hero," said Alison Bethel McKenzie, Deputy Director of the International Press Institute.
Following the publication of The Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies in February 2009, the then-chief of police in Trabzon, a police officer of the Intelligence Office Presidency, the Trabzon Police Intelligence branch manager and the deputy chief of the Istanbul Police all filed criminal complaints against Şener.
Through his book and regular writings for Milliyet, Şener revealed the truth behind the preparation, implementation, investigation and prosecution of Dink’s murder, drawing attention to the roles played by official staff. Şener’s investigative reporting showed that the murder had been professionally planned well in advance, as well as blowing the cover of the officials at National Intelligence Organization who threatened Dink in 2004.
Furthermore he exposed the negligence and attempts to cover up the negligent police investigation of Dink’s murder as well as indicating that the head of General Directorate of Security Affairs deliberately attempted to conceal evidence.
His investigations and writings were highly-praised by the IPI Turkish National Committee during the nominations process for World Press Freedom Hero. Commenting on Şener’s selection, the IPI Turkish National Committee said: "He really was a hero to carry out such an investigation and to very openly write about the Dink murder not only in book but also in his articles in his newspaper. He kept it on the agenda; that wasn’t an easy thing to do because of all the problems with all the officials who were involved. It was a very brave thing to do."
Şener first faced trial in June 2009, accused of multiple charges: targeting the persons who have taken responsible tasks in the fight against terrorism, identifying people as targets for terror organisations, obtaining secret information, revealing secret information, violating communication privacy and attempting to effect a fair trial.
He faced a total of 32 years and six months in prison, even though Dink’s murderer was given a 20 year sentence.
Şener was eventually acquitted of most of the charges on 4 June 2010; however he will still face some charges in a later hearing next month.
Speaking to the Press Freedom team at IPI headquarters in Vienna on the announcement of his award, Şener said: "I am very honoured and thankful to the IPI and the Turkish National Committee."
In a TV interview with Turkish CNN last week, Şener had admitted he was “really scared” to receive an award which has already been awarded to two dead Turkish journalists. He further reiterated the concern to IPI. “I am afraid. You cannot feel safe in Turkey; the condition of communications and media freedom is very bad. You can be killed if you write about the Dink murder. It is very dangerous.
"I chose to write about Hrant Dink’s murder because firstly he was a human and he had the human right to life. He was a very good journalist in Turkey. He wanted to protect minorities’ rights and that is very important. But also, I wrote it because Dink was my friend."
Şener is the third Turkish journalist to be selected as an IPI World Press Freedom Hero. In 2000, Abdi Ipekci was selected for his role in helping better relations between Greek and Turkish journalists. Hrant Dink was selected by the IPI Executive Board and honoured posthumously as an IPI World Press Freedom Hero in 2007 following his assassination.