Nedim Sener Named World Press Freedom Hero


ISTANBUL — Nedim 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 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 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 General Directorate of Security Affairs deliberately attempted to conceal evidence.

His investigations and writings were 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 organizations, obtaining secret information, revealing secret information, violating communication privacy and attempting to effect 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 June 4, 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 honored and thankful to the IPI and the Turkish National Committee.”

In a TV interview with CNN Turk last week, Sener 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. Dink was selected by the IPI Executive Board and honored posthumously as an IPI World Press Freedom Hero in 2007 following his assassination.

Sener is a journalist who has been following the Hrant Dink case closely since the murder of Dink, in January 2007. His book, Red Friday — Who Broke Dink’s Pen?, will be on shelves in Turkey by the weekend.

According to the book, self-confessed triggerman Ogun Samast, who is from Trabzon, spoke to Prime Ministry inspectors April 15, 2008, at the Kocaeli F-Type Prison where he was being held and said he thought about surrendering in Istanbul after he shot Dink.

“However, I thought, ‘What would they do to me here?’” he said. “I thought, ‘I will surrender in Trabzon; at least I will see my mother [and] father once more.’ Then they caught me in Samsun. It is good that they did. Otherwise, they would have killed me in Giresun.”

Sener wrote that Samast did not want these comments to be included in the inspectors’ report and said he would not sign it if they were, but the inspectors convinced him to allow the “Then they caught me in Samsun. It is good that they did” quote to be included.

The journalist said he received intelligence that the Samast’s fear was not misplaced. When he looked further into this, he said, he discovered a memo and a tape from Resat Altay, then the chief of police for Trabzon. Sener claims Altay sent the memo and tape to then-Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The contents of the tape reportedly record a meeting by the nationalist gang that Samast belonged to. The gang met five hours before Samast was caught in Samsun and went there to meet him two hours later.

On the tape, G.K., a gang member whose name was not revealed, is heard speaking to O.D., a Trabzon police officer whose name was also not given. During these talks, Yasin Hayal’s name is also mentioned.

Hayal is one of the suspects in the Dink murder whose alleged involvement was unknown to anyone but the Istanbul and Trabzon police on the day the tape was said to have been made.