"What I am saying here is not defence... it is an accusation!"
The 2017 Raif Badawi Award goes to Ahmet Şik, an investigative journalist from Turkey. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom will bestow the Raif Badawi Award for courageous journalists at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 11th of October. The award acknowledges journalists in the Islamic world and whistleblowing on human rights violations. Two of the nominees come from East and Southeast Europe.
Ahmet Şik is one of Turkey's best-known investigative journalists. He writes for the government-critical newspaper Cumhuriyet, among others. Since 29 December 2016, he has been imprisoned again.
Ahmet Şik is a Turkish journalist. In 2011, before the publication of The Imam's Army, his book on the Gülen movement, he was imprisoned on suspicion of being a member of the allegedly putschist organisation Ergenekon. The Imam's Army was considered the “most dangerous book in the country”. In a Facebook post, his fellow journalist Deniz Yücel, who has also been in custody for 200 days now, calls the allegations of Ahmet Sik's vita a “ludicrous accusation” in German.
Şik, who completed his journalism education at the Istanbul University’s Faculty of Communication, thoroughly investigated the background of the lengthy Ergenekon litigation, directed mostly against secular military, businessmen and politicians.
"Ahmet Şik is one of the best investigative journalists in the country."
Ahmet Şik is certainly one of the most prominent journalists and authors in Turkey. He remained in prison for a year because he was considered one of the sharpest critics of the Gülen movement.
"What tyrants fear most is courage."
Four years later, in December 2016, he was suddenly accused of, among others, supporting the Gülen movement, which had in the meantime been classified as terrorist. The case of Ahmet Şik exemplifies the whole arbitrariness and bigotry of accusations against journalists in Turkey. Thousands of journalists have on numerous occasions protested against the arrest of Ahmet Şık and 66 other journalists. The case sparked intense national and international criticism. The Reporters Without Borders organisation also criticised the Public Prosecutor's Office and expressed its doubt as to whether the charges were criminal or it was actually all about politics.
Mr. Şik’s courageous speech before the court (‘What I am saying here is not defence... it is an accusation!’) of 28 July 2017, in which he accused both the Gülen movement and the country's dominant party AKP of terrorism, deserves great respect. Ahmet Şik’s words in court were fervent: "History will once again be on our side. You will not be able to make terrorists out of the Cumhurieyet or us. What I’m saying here is not defence or testimony. It is an accusation. This operation, which is directed against us, is nothing more than persecution of the freedom of thought, of opinion and of the press. Some members of the judiciary have taken on the task of being the lynch mob of this hunt. Those who believe that this filthy system, this criminal dynasty will exist forever, are mistaken. This is not a statement in my defence, as I would regard that as an offence to journalism and to the ethical values of my profession. Journalism is not a crime. All that I say is that I was a journalist yesterday, I am a journalist today and I will be a journalist tomorrow. Obviously, a price has to be paid for that. But do not think that this intimidates us. Neither I, nor the journalists, who are outside are afraid of you, whoever you may be. For we know that what tyrants fear most is courage. Down with tyranny. Long live freedom."
Currently Ahmet Şik, who also used to work for Reuters as a photographer and publish photo documentaries on his Instagram account, remains in pre-trial detention along with many other courageous journalists. Given the circumstances, Ahmet Şik sees his persecution by the judiciary as a woeful kind of confirmation and distinction for his own independent journalistic work, as a junta has come to power in Turkey. He takes stock of the situation: ‘Through my journalistic work, I have managed to be the bogeyman of every single political period. For me this is an honorary award.’ In his defence in court, he stated that it was not himself but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who had to be charged with complicity with Gülen, and denied having ever belonged to any kind of legal or illegal organisation.
Ahmet Şik was awarded the UNESCO Press Freedom Prize and received the Günter Wallraff Critical Journalism Award in 2016.