Press release 6 October, 2017: “Keep the scandal alive”

Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media awarded to Turkish author Asli Erdoğan and German-Turkish Journalist Deniz Yücel

Leipzig, 6 October 2017. On the evening of 6 October 2017, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig honoured Turkish author and journalist Asli Erdoğan and the German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel with its Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media. The prize is awarded annually to journalists, media professionals and institutions which stand up for press freedom with exceptional courage and commitment. It is endowed with 30,000 euros. Asli Erdoğan accepted the prize in person, while Deniz Yücel was unable to attend the award ceremony due to his imprisonment in Turkey. His sister Ilkay Yücel accepted the prize on his behalf.

“From here we are sending a strong signal of solidarity with Deniz Yücel and all other journalists who are currently suffering under state repression in Turkey and elsewhere,” explained Dr Harald Langenfeld, Chairman of Sparkasse Leipzig and the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig, during the award ceremony. He highlighted the severe threat to the freedom of the press in Turkey: “And this in a country with which we share deep bonds, both in our hearts and emotionally, whose past and culture overlap and have much in common with our own, in which many people place their hope for Europe and the free exchange of ideas and opinions,” Langenfeld continued.

The Lord Mayor of Leipzig, Burkhard Jung, who is Chairman of the Council of the Media Foundation, also underlined the growing concern in view of current developments in Turkey: “The prisons are fuller than ever before. If journalists are released – for reasons one can hardly rationally comprehend – then they face the prospect of being banned from continuing their profession. The freedom of the press and the media in Turkey is not just in extreme jeopardy, it has virtually been suspended.” He explained that the awarding of the prize was an instrument for the protection of independent journalists: “We want to keep the scandal alive; the scandal that a German-Turkish journalist has been in solitary confinement for nearly a year, simply for doing his job.” He also praised award winner Asli Erdoğan for demonstrating “courage to tell the truth” as a writer and journalist. Addressing her, Jung stated: “You are proof of the fact that free speech is not some cultural artefact smuggled in from the West. It is a planetary, fundamental right of free people, regardless of culture, religion or financial means.”

Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of the Board of the Media Foundation and Director of the Foundations of Sparkasse Leipzig, pointed out that, after Ahmed Altan (2009), Nedim Şener (2015) and Can Dündar and Erdem Gül (2016), the prize jury had once again selected award winners with strong links to Turkey. “We are monitoring the situation in Turkey closely. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government cannot escape the calls for a return to freedom of the press and for the release of journalists detained arbitrarily, nor can they avoid their responsibility for their political actions, for which they will one day be held accountable,” remarked Seeger.

Media Prize laureate Asli Erdoğan expressed her gratitude for the solidarity shown to her: “In prison, the support I received from Europe is what allowed me to remain strong.” When asked during the award ceremony press conference about the political situation in Turkey, she explained: “I have stopped seeking logic behind the conduct of the Turkish state.” She added that Europe needed to make it impossible for Turkey to pretend as if it were a democratic country: “My expectation of Europe is that it must defend the values that were developed here – democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press – against all forms of repression and also for itself,” Erdoğan told journalists.

Deniz Yücel’s sister Ilkay presented the words of thanks which Yücel wrote on 22 September 2017, after 221 days’ imprisonment in Turkey, on learning that he would be awarded the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media: “No matter how long this will continue, and no matter what figments of its imagination the prosecutor’s office will at some point write down in what it dares to call my list of ‘charges’ – I know why I am here: not only because I did my job as a journalist. But because, I might add, I did my job rather well.” He rated his “imprisonment as an award, albeit one I would rather have turned down.” He revealed that the Leipzig Prize had been an important symbol for him in prison: “Of course, I wish to thank you wholeheartedly for your contribution to me not being forgotten in this symphony of steel, concrete and wire.”

During the Leipzig Speech on the Freedom of Media and the Press, held during the award ceremony, Werner Schulz, who was a member of the German Bundestag from 1990 until 2005 and Member of the European Parliament from 2009 until 2014, stressed the value of freedom of expression.

About the laureates

Deniz Yücel, the son of a migrant worker from Turkey, was born in 1973 in Flörsheim am Main and has German and Turkish citizenship. He began studying political science at the FU Berlin in 1996. From 1999, he worked as a freelance writer for media such as Tagesspiegel, taz, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Standard as well as German broadcasters BR, NDR and WDR. He was an editor at taz from 2007 until 2015. Since 2015, Deniz Yücel has been Turkey correspondent at the WeltN24 group. His work has repeatedly brought him into conflict with the Turkish authorities. When the state officially sought his arrest, Yücel voluntarily gave himself up to police in February 2017. In March 2017, a judge ordered his detention. He is still in custody. Among other accusations, Yücel stands charged with offences related to terrorist propaganda because he conducted an interview with the PKK leader Cemil Bayik. His criminal prosecution is viewed as politically motivated.

Asli Erdoğan was born in 1967 in Istanbul. She began studying computer science and physics at Bosphorus University in 1983, then worked at the Faculty of Physics there and also at CERN in Geneva. She wrote her first novella in 1990, while her first novel, Mucizevi Mandarin (Miraculous Mandarin), was published in 1996. Her breakthrough as a writer came in 1998 with her third book, Kırmızı Pelerinli Kent (The City in Crimson Cloak). From 1998 until 2001, she wrote columns for the left-liberal Turkish daily Radikal and reported on conditions in Turkish prisons, on violence against women and state repression against Kurds. Most recently she worked for the Turkish-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. On 16 August 2016 Asli Erdoğan was detained during a series of arrests at Özgür Gündem after prosecutors ordered the newspaper’s closure. Erdoğan has been charged with “propaganda for an illegal organization”, “membership of an illegal organization” and “incitement”. On the first day of the trial in December 2016, the judge ordered her release from custody. The trial continued. Her ban from leaving the country was lifted just a few days ago.


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Whoever wants to support and sponsor the development of a free media has to consider more than the mere economic and employment-oriented aspects. A media centre becomes especially important and attractive when it represents a climate where the media’s great responsibility towards society is recognized as a duty as well as a challenge.

The Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig public savings bank wants to contribute to this climate. One of its key commitments is the fostering of training and further education possibilities for young people in the media field. This involves scholarships (e.g. through the Leipzig Media Award), targeted project support, and the organization of civic education events, such as for the commemoration of the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 in Leipzig.

The Foundation projects are financed by the Foundation itself as well as third party contributions and donations.

Every year, the Foundation awards its “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media”. In addition, the Foundation awards the “Axel Eggebrecht Prize”, the “Günter Eich Prize” and the “Golden Dove” (former “Talent Dove”).

Nikolaisäule (Andreas Lamm)

Sculpture “Nikolaisäule” (“St. Nicholas Column”) as symbol of the “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media” (Photo: Andreas Lamm)

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Teaching and Research

The Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig is particularly committed to education and training in the media sector. Therefore, the Foundation cooperates closely with local universities and other educational institutions and founded institutes, launched initiatives and projects and created the necessary infrastructure for media-related activities. The respective core institutions are:

  • the “Leipzig School of Media” (LSoM) with its part-time academic master degree programs and seminar programs,
  • the “European Institute for Journalism and Communication Research” (EIJC) with scholarships granted throughout of Europe,
  • special events for the genres of radio feature and radio play

Discover these areas by visiting the related web pages and learn more about the funding spectrum of the Media Foundation.

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Award ceremony of the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media 2017


(all pictures: Media Foundation/Volkmar Heinz)

Award ceremony 2017 (from left to right): Leipzig’s Lord Mayor and Chairman of the Foundation Council of Media Foundation Burkhard Jung, Ilkay Yücel (sister of laureate Deniz Yücel), laureate Asli Erdoğan, keynote speaker Werner Schulz, Dr Harald Langenfeld (Chairman of Media Foundation and Sparkasse Leipzig), and Stephan Seeger (Managing Director of Media Foundation and Director Foundations of Sparkasse Leipzig).

Dr Harald Langenfeld welcomed the guests of the award ceremony at Media Campus Villa Ida.

The pianist Serra Tavsanli provided the musical framework.

Lord Mayor Burkhard Jung during his welcoming address.

This year’s Leipzig Speech to the Freedom of Media and Press was held by Werner Schulz, long-term member of Bundestag and European Parliament of Bündnis 90/Grüne.

Laureate Asli Erdoğan was able to receive her award personally.

Ilkay Yücel, sister of laureate Deniz Yücel, received the award on behalf of her brother who is still in custody.

Ilkay Yücel and Asli Erdoğan after the award ceremony.

Ilkay Yücel, Asli Erdoğan and Werner Schulz.

Stephan Seeger, Dr Harald Langenfeld, Ilkay Yücel and Asli Erdoğan during the press conference on the morning of 6 October.

Ilkay Yücel and Asli Erdogan after the press conference.

Christoph Wonneberger and Roland Jahn (both laureatos from 2014).

From left to right: Director Foundations Stephan Seeger, Roland Jahn (Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former GDR), Linde Rotta, and Michael Czupalla (former County Commissioner of the district Northern Saxony).

Dr Harald Langenfeld (right) under discussion with Roland Jahn and Klaus-Michael Rohrwacher (Chairman of Förderverein Völkerschlachtdenkmal association).

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Leipzig Media Award

The Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig is committed to the memory of the Peaceful Revolution that took place in East Germany in 1989. Freedom of speech and unrestricted gathering of information through a free and independent press were key demands of the civil rights activists and demonstrators during the Leipzig Monday demonstrations at that time.

The exhibition “Sites of the Peaceful Revolution” realised by “Bürgerkomitee Leipzig e. V.” (“Citizen Committee Leipzig association”) takes you on a tour through Leipzig to 20 original locations, marked by pillars, where important events happened that helped to bring down the SED dictatorship regime in the year of the Democratic Change (1989/90) (more information can be found here). Additionally, the app “Leipzig ’89” offers a GPS-based tour of the 20 pillars with an audio guide in six languages. In addition to the individual pillars, more than 300 photos, documents and videos are available through this app (the app can be found here).

Through the annual awarding of the “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media”, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig supports the freedom of press and with it the memento of the events of 1989.

The defense of the freedom of press is more important than ever. Even in free societies it is endangered: the patterns of suppression of information are becoming more subtle.

By awarding further prizes – such as the “Golden Dove” for the best documentary of a talented newcomer at the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film (formerly known as “Talent Dove”), the “Günther Eich Prize” and the “Axel Eggebrecht Prize”, the Foundation promotes culturally and qualitatively sophisticated work in text, sound and film.

All awards of the Media Foundation are summarised under the generic term “Leipzig Media Award”.

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European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

It was at the Leipzig Media Congress, held by the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation in October of 2010 on the 10th anniversary of the creation of its Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media, that Hans-Ulrich Jörges, Co-Editor of STERN magazine and Editor in Chief for Special Affairs of Gruner + Jahr, introduced the idea of creating a European Centre for the Freedom of the Press to the public for the first time. In 2009, Jörges had already initiated the European Charter on Freedom of the Press, signed by 48 editors in chief and other influential journalists from 19 countries. The next step, creating a Centre for Freedom of the Press, was a means of putting this charter into practice.

Leipzig was the heart of the Peaceful Revolution in Eastern Germany where, in the fall of 1989, tens of thousands of GDR citizens protested state power and made many demands, among them the demand for freedom of the media. Now Leipzig seems to be the perfect place to continue, with its Media Foundation that has already promoted freedom of the press for years. The Media Foundation builds on the spirit of that autumn in 1989, and has funded the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media since 2001.

Pressekonferenz_Brüssel_30.06.2015 (European Parliament)

Visit of ECPMF project partners at the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, in Brussels (from left to right): Dr Lutz Mükke (Project Coordinator ECPMF), Hans-Ulrich Jörges (Gruner+Jahr), Maria Laura Franciosi (Ossigeno per l’Informazione), Martin Schulz (European Parliament), Luisa Chiodi (Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso), Dr Harald Langenfeld (Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig), Margo Smit (VVOJ), Ides Debruyne (, Stephan Seeger (Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig). Picture: EU-Parliament

Immediately after the 2010 Media Congress, we began working on a concept to serve as the basis for a search for new project supporters. Our tasks included identifying the legal entity that would guarantee the centre the maximum degree of independence and manoeuvrability. The board was eventually able to find a partner with expertise in EU law who was prepared to work with the project pro bono until its official foundation. This partner was the law firm CMS Hasche Sigle. They found the European Cooperative Society (SCE) model to be the most suitable legal form for the project, and set about creating draft statutes based on the Centre’s intended goals.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF for short) seeks to provide those who defend the freedom of the press and the media in Europe with a voice that will be heard. The Centre’s core tasks are to bring European media freedom initiatives and actors together under one roof and to coordinate their activities. Thanks both to its diverse member base from all across Europe and its team in Leipzig, the ECPMF is able to document instances in which the freedom of the press has been violated and journalists persecuted, and to inform both the public and those with the power to make political decisions of relevant ongoing conflict and imminent danger in Europe.

One important step was winning the support of EU institutions in order to establish the project as a European initiative. Hans-Ulrich Jörges; Christoph Keese, Senior Vice President for Investor Relations and Public Affairs at Axel Springer SE; and Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation found an extraordinary advocate in Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. In discussions with other members of the Parliament, including Vice President Alexander Graf Lambsdorff and Elmar Brok, Head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, we were able to form an alliance of supporters spanning all political parties. Finally, in its consultations, the Parliament approved a budget of one million euros to found the Centre.

On the condition that the project would receive EU funding, the Free State of Saxony and the City of Leipzig also declared their willingness to provide financial support. With the additional financial commitment of the Sparkasse Media Foundation, all of the necessary steps could be taken. Ultimately, we were able to create a detailed project plan that would allow us to submit an application to the European Commission and to seek the support of European journalistic organizations, institutions, and associations that promote issues concerning the freedom of the press. To do so, further expert input was needed.

We searched for a suitable project manager and found Dr Lutz Mükke. He was already familiar with the foundation, having been its first Ph.D. scholarship fellow. Dr Mükke began a rewarding search for project partners across Europe. At the same time, our attention was focused on developing a detailed draft concept. In addition to the Free State of Saxony, the City of Leipzig, and the Media Foundation, we also gained the support of the Federal Foreign Ministry. In October 2013 we were able to submit the application to the European Commission on time.

Sadly, to the great disappointment of everyone involved, including the members of the European Parliament themselves, the European Commission did not select the 2013 application. Instead of funding a single Centre, they decided to support several projects and organizations. Nevertheless, following the Board’s recommendation and explicitly encouraged by both the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and the other supporting members of the Parliament, the Media Foundation Council decided to stick to the plan and submit a new application in 2014. There was a new call for project participants and we restructured the concept before submitting it in a new application to the Commission.

In March 2015, we finally received the message from the European Commission in Brussels saying that the Media Foundation had won the bid and had been selected as leading partner, together with partners from three other European countries, to form the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom. The other partners were from Belgium; the Institute for European Media Law from Germany; Ossigeno per l’Informazione and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, both from Italy; and the South East Europe Media Organization, or SEEMO, from Austria.

The founding assembly of this European Cooperative Society (SCE) and the election of the members of the Board and Supervisory Board took place in Leipzig on 24 June, 2015.

The list of founding members includes representatives from more than 20 European journalistic organizations, media companies, and trade unions, as well as media experts and lawyers from all over Europe. The legal entity of the European Cooperative Society guarantees the Centre’s validity in all 28 EU member states and a maximum degree of independence from government institutions. At the same time, it enables the direct participation of affiliated organizations and initiatives in the Centre’s work. This cooperation can be seen in many places, including in the bodies of the ECPMF. Both the Board and the Supervisory Board count a number of representatives from important European freedom of the press initiatives among their members. The Centre’s operations are coordinated in Leipzig at the Media Campus Villa Ida, the seat of the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation.

After having played such a decisive role in developing, planning, promoting, and financing this project, the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation has now decided to pursue its inclusion in the register of cooperative societies and attain full legal capacity to act, thus becoming a completely independent and autonomous institution. The foundation will always support the ECPMF to the best of its ability. The foundation would like to thank CMS Hasche Sigle law firm, BDO auditing company, certified public accountant and tax consultant Hartwig Künckeler, and German Cooperative Union in Frankfurt for having offered their expertise and generous support.

Stephan Seeger
Managing Director of the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation
Director Foundations of Sparkasse Leipzig

Further information: and

ECPMF members

  • Galina Arapova, Director of Mass Media Defence Centre (MMDC), Russia
  • Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, President of European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Federica Delogu, journalist at Ossigeno per l’informazione, Italy
  • Vesselin Dimitrov, Deputy Editor in Chief of Forbes Bulgaria
  • Jodie Ginsberg, Chief Executive of Index on Censorship, UK
  • Nadine Gogu, Executive Director of Independent Journalism Center, Moldavia
  • Esad Hećimović, investigative reporter and editor of OBN TV Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Hans-Ulrich Jörges, Co-Editor of STERN magazine and Editor in Chief for Special Affairs of Gruner + Jahr, Germany
  • Henrik Kaufholz, Co-founder and Manager of SCOOP, Denmark
  • Christoph Keese, Senior Vice President of Axel Springer SE, Germany
  • Dr Harald Langenfeld, Chairman of Sparkasse Leipzig and Media Foundation, Germany
  • Gavin MacFadyen, Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, University of London, UK
  • Răzvan Cristian Martin, Coordinator of the FreeEx Program at ActiveWatch, Romania
  • Anthony McNicholas, Senior Lecturer at Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, University of Westminster, UK
  • Kerstin Mey, Dean of Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, University of Westminster, UK
  • Dr Helga Montag, Member of the Board of Journalisten helfen Journalisten association, Germany
  • Dr Lutz Mükke, General Manager of ECPMF
  • Balázs Nagy Navarro, independent journalist, Hungary
  • Peter Noorlander, CEO of Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI)
  • Professor Stephan Ory, Director of Institute for European Media Law (EMR), Germany
  • Dr Georgios Pleios, Professor and Head of Communication and Media Studies Department at National and Kapodistrian University Athens, Greece
  • Vladimir Radomirovic, Editor in Chief of Pištaljka, Serbia
  • Renate Schröder, Director of European Federation of Journalists
  • Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of Media Foundation, Germany
  • Naser Selmani, Director of Association of Journalists of Macedonia, Macedonia
  • Ljiljana Smajlović, President of Journalists’ Association of Serbia, Serbia
  • Trine Smistrup, Project Manager, Journalismfund, Belgium
  • Margo Smit, independent investigative journalist, ombudswoman at public radio NOS, the Netherlands (former Director of Dutch-Flemish Association of Investigative Journalists (VVOJ))
  • Martin Stoll, President of Ö, Switzerland
  • Dr Dirk Voorhoof, Professor for International Media Law, Ghent University, Belgium
  • Oliver Vujovic, Secretary General of SEEMO, Austria
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Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig

Menckestraße 27
D-04155 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 – 5629 661
Fax: +49 341 – 5629 663

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Media Campus

The “Media Campus” in the Leipzig district of Gohlis was erected by the Media Foundation. Together with the historic Villa Ida building where the actual seat of the Foundation is located it forms an interesting ensemble and thus literally combines old and new.

“Media Campus Villa Ida” is home of the “Leipzig School of Media” (LSoM), a subsidiary of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig. In cooperation with local universities, the LSoM offers part-time master courses for media professionals.

The building includes a large hall for events with a capacity of up to 280 seats, which can be divided by a movable partition wall. This room can also be used as a lecture hall. On the first floor you find two seminar rooms with 25 seats each, a training room for video editing with ten seats and an audio recording studio. On the top floor there is a PC room with 23 seats and offices for lecturers. In addition, the building accommodates a small public bistro, which also supplies the Media Campus and four apartments for scholars/guest lecturers.

Hotel Michaelis Leipzig runs our “Restaurant Campus” and is the exclusive partner for the catering of every event at “Media Campus”.

Media Campus Villa Ida
Hotel Michaelis

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