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IPI names Turkey's Nedim Sener World Press Freedom Hero

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 15 June 2010 - Nedim Sener was today declared a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute (IPI) following the publication of his book on the murder of fellow Turkish journalist Hrant Dink.

Sener, 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. Sener'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.

"Sener'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 Sener.

Through his book and regular writings for Milliyet, Sener revealed the truth behind the preparation, implementation, investigation and prosecution of Dink's murder, drawing attention to the roles played by official staff. Sener's investigative reporting showed that the murder had been professionally planned well in advance, as well as blowing the cover of the officials at the 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 the General Directorate of Security Affairs had 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 Sener'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."

Sener 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 affect 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.

Sener 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, Sener said: "I am very honoured and thankful to the IPI and the Turkish National Committee."

In a TV interview with Turkish CNN last week, Sener 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."

Sener 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.

The nomination of Nedim Sener was approved by the five-member IPI World Press Freedom Hero jury, which includes:

- Raymond Louw, editor & publisher, Southern Africa Report; IPI Fellow (Chair of the Jury)
- N. Ravi, editor, The Hindu, India; IPI board member
- Galina Sidorova, editor-in-chief, Sovershenno Secretno, Russia; IPI board member
- Ferai Tinc, columnist, Hürriyet Daily, Turkey; IPI board member
- H.D.S. Greenway, columnist and former editorial page editor, The Boston Globe, Boston, MA; IPI fellow

Sener will be one of 60 World Press Freedom Heroes honoured in a ceremony to commemorate IPI's 60th year of defending press freedom worldwide at the IPI World Congress in Vienna and Bratislava, from 11-14 September 2010.

In 2000, on the occasion of IPI's 50th anniversary, IPI honoured 50 World Press Freedom Heroes at its World Congress in Boston. Two additional press freedom heroes - Hrant Dink, from Turkey, and Anna Politkovskaya, from Russia - were selected by the IPI Executive Board and honoured posthumously in 2007 and 2006, respectively. Recently, IPI named slain Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge, Lebanese anchorwoman May Chidiac, Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro and South African editor Laurence Gandar as its 53rd, 54th, 55th and 56th World Press Freedom Heroes.

Every month, until the IPI World Congress in September, the IPI World Press Freedom Hero jury will select an additional hero to make up the full 60 for this year's ceremony.

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