The 2015 Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media goes to Jafar Panahi and Nedim Şener
Leipzig, 5 August, 2015. Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi and journalist Nedim Şener, of Turkish origin, will be awarded the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media 2015 by the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation. The jury selected from among 48 nominees. "This year once again, the diversity of recommended journalists who are deserving of the award shows that the fight for freedom of speech, and for freedom of the press and the media, must be fought in many parts of the world and is currently being fought by a whole range of different protagonists", explained Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of the Media Foundation. "In selecting Jafar Panahi and Nedim Şener, we honor two media professionals who are exceptional on an international scale and who have fought for decades for freedom of speech in their home countries while continuing their exemplary work, despite politically motivated persecution, imprisonment, and a range of other forms of repression", Seeger added. The award is worth 30,000 euros and will be bestowed in two halves, one to Jafar Panahi, and one to Nedim Şener. The award ceremony will take place on 8 October, 2015 in Leipzig.
"Jafar Panahi has been honored for his art as a filmmaker many times before. It was also the jury’s explicit aim to honor him as a proponent of liberalization in his home country of Iran. The publication bans on his films by the Iranian government are evidence of Panahi’s courage and unbelievable creativity when producing and distributing his films - a skill that enables him, despite the ban on his professional endeavors, to draw an almost documentary-like picture of everyday life under a religious regime that is suitable even for a global audience", Stephan Seeger stated, explaining the jury’s choice. "Nedim Şener is a renowned journalist in Turkey whose fame has grown with the publication of his numerous articles and books. It was especially through his investigation on the assassination of Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian-Turkish language weekly Agos, that he became a target of the state, intelligence agencies, and legal authorities in Turkey, and found himself having to contest charges in court for insulting state institutions, among other things. Şener remains unimpressed by this attempt to intimidate him, and for the sake of his search for the truth and the fight for the freedom of reporting, he accepts the risk of great personal sacrifice", Seeger said in justification of the jury’s decision.
About the laureates
Jafar Panahi was born on 11 July, 1960 in Mianeh, Iran. After studying directing at the Iran Broadcasting University in Tehran, where he was able to familiarize himself with world cinema, he began his professional career completing TV projects and working as an assistant director. In 1995, his first film, The White Balloon, was awarded the Golden Camera at the Cannes International Film Festival. In 1997, he received the Golden Leopard at Locarno Film Festival for The Mirror. His film The Circle (2000), which was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, was banned in his home country. The same is true of most of his subsequent work, including Offside (2006, Silver Bear at Berlinale Film Festival), This Is Not a Film (2011), Closed Curtain (2013, Silver Bear at Berlinale), and Taxi Tehran (2014, Golden Bear at 2015 Berlinale). In addition, Panahi received several other awards such as The Golden Coach 2011 of Cannes Film Festival and the Sacharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2012 of the European Parliament. After Iran’s presidential elections in 2009, Panahi openly supported the opposing Iranian Green Movement. On 1 March, 2010 he was arrested together with his wife and daughter by Iranian police, and was initially jailed for three months without charge. In December 2010, he was sentenced to six years of prison for "propaganda against the system" and a 20-year ban was placed on his work. Despite all this, he frequently manages to publish new films. His latest work, Taxi Tehran, was awarded the Golden Bear at the 2015 Berlinale Film Festival.
Nedim Şener was born in 1966 in Germany. In 1990, he completed his studies in economics at Istanbul University. Since 1991 he has worked for various Turkish newspapers: He began at Ilk Haber, worked from 1992 to 1994 for Dünya, moved to Milliyet from 1994 to 2011, and has been with Posta since 2011. He has published several books dealing with topics that include corruption, fraud, organized crime, tax evasion, the funding of terrorist organizations, and intelligence agencies. In 2009, he published his research on the assassination of Hrant Dink, an editor of the Armenian-Turkish language weekly who had been shot dead in broad daylight in 2007. Şener accused the Turkish authorities, and especially the intelligence agency, of not having prevented the killing, and it was suspected that the police had provided the alleged murderer with an incentive to commit the crime. As a result of his actions, the journalist was charged with the illegal dissemination of confidential information, but was acquitted in court. In 2011, Şener and ten other people were arrested and accused of working in the media branch of Ergenekon, an underground organization which was said to have planned a coup against the Erdogan government. He remained in prison until March 2012, for a total of 375 days. He is still regarded as a terrorist in Turkey.
About the award
Each year since 2001, the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation has awarded the Prize for the Freedom and the Future of the Media in order to honor journalists, publishers, and institutions that dedicate themselves with great personal commitment to ensuring the freedom and the future of the media. The award is also intended to commemorate the Peaceful Revolution in Leipzig on 9 October, 1989, at which protesters demanded "free press for a free country".