Turncoat, captive reporters who trumpet the party line of dictators were denounced by Turkish reporter Ahmet Sik as UNESCO observed "Press Freedom Day" May 3.
Sik, who was imprisoned for 11 months after publishing a book critical of Turkish police and judiciary, was given the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize before an audience of nearly 300 media, government, and Non-Government Organizations representing 87 countries.
Sik said “Every oppressive regime creates its own media” and that “journalists imprison themselves through self-censorship. They live behind invisible bars.”
He authored The Imam’s Army on followers in the Turkish police and judiciary of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen. The book was seized and banned after publication. Passages from the book were made available on the internet.
UNESCO Champions Press Freedoms
"UNESCO has been at the forefront of promoting a vision of human development that integrates free expression, and its corollary of press freedom," said Getachew Engida, deputy director-general.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova last year condemned the killing of 92 journalists, noting that most of the crimes go unpunished. A report issued in March 2014 found that only seven of the 430 murders of journalists from 2007-2012 were solved.
"Clearly, whosoever provides information becomes a target," said Remy Pfimlin, president of public broadcaster France TV. "The safety of information providers is a political issue facing all states in the world," he added.
Sik, described as "an ardent defender of freedom of expression," was jailed while awaiting trial as part of the OdaTV case, an online news portal known for its criticism of government policies.
UNESCO in 2012 published a 51-page report on press interference and persecution worldwide, noting that the great bulk of press intimidation takes place at the local level.
Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said blatant persecution of journalists "with impunity" by perpetrators such as governments and organizations discourages other reporters from investigating corruption.