Nieman Fellows in the class of 2015 have selected prominent Turkish journalist and writer Hasan Cemal as this year’s recipient of the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. Cemal was chosen in recognition of a long career dedicated to championing freedom of the press in Turkey and as a representative of all Turkish journalists working today under increasingly difficult conditions.
In a statement, the Nieman Fellows said: “Hasan Cemal and Turkish journalists like him have shown great courage in upholding the importance of a free press in their native land. Bearing witness and speaking truth to power are more necessary than ever in Turkey and other places around the world where journalists face government hostility, harassment, and arrest.”
Cemal has served as a reporter, editor and columnist at various Turkish news organizations. He resigned from the newspaper Milliyet last year after Turkish Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally criticized a column Cemal wrote in defense of the paper’s reporting on sensitive negotiations between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Under pressure, Milliyet censored Cemal and decided not to publish any more of his columns, prompting him to resign.
Cemal is one of hundreds of journalists who have been fired or resigned as a result of the Turkish government’s crackdown on the press. In 2012 and 2013, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. On December 14, some two dozen journalists were arrested under Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws.