‘Truth cannot be jailed’

Leipzig honours independent filmmaker from Iran and investigative journalist from Turkey

Two courageous men from countries where media freedom is severely restricted – Iran and Turkey - are honoured with this year’s Prize for the Freedom and future of the Media, awarded by the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig.

Details will be announced on 8th October during the first annual European Media Freedom Conference held by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom. At an evening ceremony and reception, the winners’ achievements will be celebrated and conference delegates will meet Turkish journalist Nedim Sener.

Leipziger Medienpreis 2015 - Jafar Panahi und Nedim Sener Muzaffer Kantarci

Leipziger Medienpreis 2015 - Jafar Panahi und Nedim Sener Muzaffer Kantarci

Jafar Panahi is under house arrest in Tehran and so cannot collect his prize in person. However his confinement has not stopped him from making films – even though he is banned from working as a movie director for twenty years by a court order. It followed his conviction in 2010 for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran”. His first clandestine movie ’This is not a Film’ was smuggled out of Iran in a cake and entered for the Cannes Film Festival.

In 2010 Panahi the political prisoner was appointed to the jury of the Cannes event and since he was unable to travel to France, the other jury members left an empty chair as a form of protest against his detention

Panahi’s latest work, Taxi Tehran, is entirely shot inside a mini-cab with a ‘security camera’ mounted on the dashboard. Instead of calling the shots, the banned director stars in the film, playing the part of a driver and picking up the cast just as though they were normal fare-paying customers. Taxi Tehran is showing in art house cinemas across Europe.

Watch the trailer here:

Panahi has been a laureate of the Venice and Cannes Film Festivals and won the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament with Nasrin Sotoudeh in 2012, when EU Parliament President Martin Schulz commented that they were: “A man and a woman who have not been bowed by fear and intimidation and who have decided to put the fate of their country before their own”.

Panahi shares the Prize from the Leipzig Sparkasse Media Foundation with a German-born investigative journalist from Turkey, Nedim Sener. His research  revealed a plot to destabilise society by creating fake terrorist attacks, to spread panic and justify a military coup that would overthrow the democratic government. The investigation was published and he wrote a book The Dink Murder and Intelligence Lies about the murder of journalist Hrank Dink.

Sener was arrested, falsely accused of plotting against the state and of editing two anti-religious books, interrogated for hours and held in detention for months. While he was behind bars he wrote another book, The Truth Cannot be Jailed. In March 2012 he was released but he still faces a possible trial and prison sentence.

In 2014 Sener took the Turkish government to the European Court of Human Rights and won a landmark decision plus 20,000 euros in damages. The Court decided Turkey had breached his human rights under Articles 5 paragraphs 3 and 4 and Article 10.

Sener continues to write and campaign for greater press freedom in Posta, a popular tabloid-style daily newspaper with the second-highest circulation after Zaman, the Islamic paper.

The author of fifteen books, Sener has been honoured for his work as an investigative journalist by the Turkish Editors Guild.

Media Foundation Managing Director Stephan Seeger says: “In Jafar Panahi and Nedim Sener we honour two outstanding international media professionals who have dedicated themselves for years and decades to free speech in their home countries and not allowed politically motivated surveillance, imprisonment and many types of repression to prevent them continuing their exemplary work.”

Earlier winners of the Award include Journalismfund’s Brigitte Alfter and Ides Debruyne, who are now amongst the founding members of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom. The Media Foundation of Leipzig Sparkasse supports the ECPMF.