28 Jun 2018

Imprisoned Kurdish journalist wins Courage in Journalism Award

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) has given the 2018 Courage in Journalism Award to journalist and artist Zehra Doğan. Doğan is currently in prison, but she is still reporting and painting. 

Ans Boersma
Ans Boersma NewsMavens, Turkey
Imprisoned Kurdish journalist wins Courage in Journalism Award - NewsMavens
Zehra Doğan, Voice Project.org

Why this story matters:

Zehra Doğan was born in Diyarbakir, one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey. She was one of the founders of JINHA. As a reporter, Doğan became one of the first journalists to speak to the Yazidi women liberated from IS.

Doğan is also an artist, and she was arrested after publishing a painting on social media of the Turkish town of Nusaybin destroyed by state security forces with the Turkish flag flying over the ruins. Zehra is charged with being a member of a terrorist organization.

In March, street artist Banksy gave a powerful tribute to the jailed Turkish journalist in New York. Banksy's protest shows Doğan's painting projected above the number of days that Dogan has already spent in prison. "I really feel for her. I’ve painted things much more worthy of a custodial sentence," Banksy told The New York Times.

She is now writing about female political prisoners and human rights abuses. Since the prison refuses to give her painting materials, Zehra makes her own paint from food, drinks and her menstrual blood. Like in the cases of editor Murat Sabuncu and investigative reporter Ahmet Sık, imprisonment was not enough to silence Doğan. 

Details from the story:

  • Doğan's response from prison on receiving the award: "I accept this award on behalf of all the journalists behind bars. This award is not only for me, but also for other political women in Diyarbakir prison."
  • It's the second time a Turkish woman has received the award. Previously, Ayşe Önal received the award in 1996. Önal reported on the political situation of the Kurds, and about corruption in Turkey.  
  • JINHA, was Turkey's first female news agency and was closed by the government in 2016.
  • Last year, artist and political activist Ai Weiwei wrote to the imprisoned journalist: "If a state can sentence an artist, journalist, or writer in such a fashion then we are truly living in a dark age where no ideas or creativity can be protected and flourish."

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