Nieman Fellows in the class of 2015 at Harvard University 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 who have resigned in the past few years as a result of the Turkish government’s crackdown on freedom of the press. In 2012 and 2013, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Sunday, December 14, some two dozen media executives and journalists were arrested under Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws.
“Critical voices and a free press are vital to a healthy democracy, which Turkey professes to be,” the Nieman Fellows said in their award citation. “We applaud all those like Cemal and others who work to ensure that the media in Turkey can do their job without fear or favor.”
More recently, Cemal helped found and serves as president of Punto24, a nonprofit initiative aimed at promoting editorial independence, best journalistic practice, and the use of digital media in Turkey. He now writes a column for the Turkish news website T24.
Cemal is also the author of 12 books, including the bestselling “1915: Armenian Genocide,” a personal story acknowledging the role that Turkey and Cemal’s own grandfather, Ottoman general Cemal Pasha, played in the genocide. His other books have focused on the Kurds and their struggle for equality, Turkey’s problems with military dominance and the country’s far-from-independent media.
The Louis M. Lyons Award will be presented to Cemal at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard during the spring term at Harvard.
The Nieman class of 1964 established the Louis M. Lyons Award in honor of the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year after leading the institution for a quarter of a century. Lyons was a forceful advocate for freedom of the press. While he was curator of the Nieman Foundation, he broke new ground by diversifying the class of fellows to include women, minorities, and international fellows. The award honors displays of conscience and integrity by individuals, groups or institutions in communications. The winner is chosen each year by the members of the Nieman class. The 2015 class is composed of 24 journalists representing 13 nations, including Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Serbia, Spain and the United States.
The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard educates leaders in journalism and elevates the standards of the profession through special programs that convene scholars and experts in all fields. More than 1,400 accomplished and promising journalists from 92 countries have been awarded Nieman Fellowships since 1938. The foundation’s other initiatives include Nieman Reports, a quarterly print and online magazine that explores contemporary challenges and opportunities in journalism; the Nieman Journalism Lab, a website that reports on the future of news, innovation and best practices in the digital media age; and Nieman Storyboard, a website that showcases exceptional narrative journalism and explores the future of nonfiction storytelling.