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Anna Lindh Journalist Award 2007/2008

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy

Country: Israel
Age: 55
Position: Haaretz
"Writing for me is a way of expression, a way of struggling for truth and justice"

I started my career in the IDF radio station at the age of 18. I served there four years as a reporter and news magazine editor. This was my real school of journalism: being so young, and broadcasting live the historical landing of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in Israel November 1977. My next step in my career was crossing the lines and working for four years as spokesperson and press officer for Shimon Peres, then leader of the Israeli Labor party. In the year of 1982 I joined the leading Israeli daily, Haaretz, where I work until today. I started to cover the occupation in the first intifada, the Palestinian uprising 1987. My main focus is covering the life of the Palestinian people under the Israeli occupation, and writing editorials about it. I also write TV criticism and book reviews.

Above all I like the writing. Writing for me is a way of expression, a way of struggling for truth and justice, and maybe also a way to have influence. Not less than this, I like my travels to the occupied territories, a place very few Israelis still dare to visit. I like my work as long as it is meaningful. Unfortunately, I don't always feel that, since the Israeli public opinion has been brainwashed for decades, and doesn't want to read, doesn't want to know, and doesn't want to hear about the occupation.

About my article

Around 850 Palestinian children were killed by the Israeli occupation in the last seven years. I thought that on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Rosh hashana, Israelis should be reminded of their existence. I picked up all the stories I had published throughout the last year about the killed children and decided to put them together in one article in order to show the Israeli reader what was done on his behalf between one New Year to the other.

Jamila Zekhnini

Jamila Zekhnini

Country: Belgium
Position: Agenda Interculturel
"Meeting diverse people is a constant reminder that truth does not exist"

About two years ago, I started my career as a journalist writing articles for the monthly publication, the Intercultural Agenda (Agenda Interculturel), of the organisation in which I am currently working, the Brussels Centre for Cultural Action (Centre Bruxellois d’Action Culturelle).

What fascinates me most in journalism is definitely the many people one is able to meet through that work: diverse people, points of view, a constant reminder that ‘Truth’ does not exist. It is also a reminder that many paths can be followed, that any particular path is only one amongst many others and that each of those have a particular value; they represent a real wealth and a necessity.
I am still fascinated when I come across the different life paths of most of the people that I encounter, which are usually breathtaking.

Also, when the aim to increase public awareness of an issue touches a larger audience than the one expected, it is very rewarding.
Furthermore, social matters, and this includes all those involving cultural diversity issues, the history of migration and immigration, intercultural communication, as well as those linked with the process of ‘transmission’, inspire me more.

About my article

I had the opportunity to take part in the call for proposal ‘A grant for journalists’ organised by the Roi Baudouin Foundation in which I was able to put forward a subject which I was particularly interested in, linked with the aims and objectives of my institution. The status of woman in Islam is a topic that has been interesting me for some time. I had the opportunity to go more deeply into this issue and especially to meet the women who are mobilized around that question and who address it in relation with the re-reading and re-interpretation of Islamic sources. I was interested in discovering to what extent mobilisation was important, in which context, in what way, and from which social, cultural and religious framework it was derived.

Moreover, we found that this topic was little treated or often from the same perspective. The voices of these women, be they Muslim or not, who express themselves through multiple initiatives and involvements, are little shown in the mass media. We wanted to be the echo of these voices.

Uros Skerl

Uros Skerl

Country: Slovenia
Age: 31
Position: Dnevnik Newspaper
"Writing is a process of transferring tears and joy of people that I met on my journeys into language"

I started my carrier in journalism by writing for Delo newspaper and Stop Magazine while I was still a student. At that time I was mostly writing music reviews, reportages from the concerts and interviews with domestic and foreign rock singers and groups.

After graduation in journalism at the Faculty of Social sciences in Ljubljana I was invited to start working for a prominent Saturday Supplement of Delo newspaper, a weekly political magazine added to the Delo's Saturday issue. From 2003 to 2006 I was publishing feature articles, reports, comments and interviews, covering foreign policy, social policy, ethnic minorities, immigrant situation, underprivileged groups. During my process of skill-building as a young journalist I was lucky to have the opportunity - through interviews and field work - to get familiar with and report on inter-state relations (mostly relations between Slovenia and neighboring countries), EU policies, European policies, international relations, global political currents, and defense policies. I was writing comments on governmental decisions, studying relations between civil society and government and relations between government and ethnic/immigrant societies. I was also writing articles about immigration policies. I attended several different international workshops and seminars for journalists. I was an active member of the Union of Slovenian Journalists and temporarily the editor of Union's web pages.

In 2006 due to unfavorable political situation in Slovenian media, I was forced to change my post from Delo to Dnevnik newspaper, where I am trying to continue with my work.

As I sit in the dark of the night with my computer - a lonesome, sometimes painful, but always a rewarding process of transferring real-life experiences into written language, bringing forward tears and joy of people that I met on my journeys, always with full respect for their power to survive and in admiration of their ability to clearly understand and interpret their lives, every single one of them being a decisive part of historical record of humanity - I am humbly proud to have become a journalist.

About my winning article

Bosnia-Herzegovina and other former republics of Yugoslavia were always part of my identity, since the times of the former common state and afterwards, as post-Yugoslav politics, war, refugees were tightly interrelated with Slovenian policies and our everyday lives. On the other hand, cultural exchange, subcultural praxis and tourism routes between Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have also played an important role in our society.

The Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina were clearly the greatest victims of a complicated interethnic conflict, the war in Bosnia. Many excellent writers have written books on this issue, documentaries and movies were made. Stories like the one I pass along in the article are of incredible importance for Bosnia-Herzegovina's, Serbia's, Western Balkan's, EU's, UN's and the whole international community's political, cultural and, basically, ethical self-(re)evaluation. And they can be found on every step.
As I arrived to Sarajevo the story was there, camping on the grounds of the Kosevo Olympic stadium. Mothers with children from Srebrenica, refugees in their own homeland, reliving fear and trauma they were hoping to forget. Unfortunately, as one of my interviewees in the article describes, even their grandchildren will still remember.

Problems? At first, with every new person, one is afraid to ask – it's hard to choose the right words. Once the victims start speaking, it becomes obvious that all these questions have already been asked several times by themselves. The Muslims of Srebrenica are asking some of the most important questions in the history of human race. This is their story. I was only there to listen, to see, to feel and to painfully transfer it to the readers. As did every of my three colleagues awarded the Euro-Med Journalist Prize for Cultural Dialogue.

Vercihan Ziflioglu

Vercihan Ziflioglu

Country: Turkey
Age: 33
Position: Turkish Daily News
"Playing with words, A passion for me"

I was deeply in love with books and words when I was only a little girl. And what it still alive with all its details in my memory today is that whenever I encountered a book, near and around, and, new or old, I used to inhale the indescribable smell of its pages with a great feeling of quest for learning. As I grew up, I became a pupil of prominent names of both Armenian and Turkish literature at Armenian minority schools. And it was that period of my life when my literary talents were discovered. Then, I started to win small prizes in essay writing contests organized at high school level in Istanbul. I was only fourteen years old when my teachers asked me to prepare the school newspaper.

In 1989, my essays began to be published on children’s pages of Marmara Gazetesi, an Armenian daily established in Istanbul. Every Friday, I used to go the daily Marmara’s office building after school while my friends used to go to the cinema. The act of writing, then, turned into an passion for me. There, at the daily Marmara, I was surrounded with people who were passionately submerged into their work. Clever hands typing the letters on typewriters, skilful hands that were all in ink and that were placing the letters on pages to make them ready for print… These people were working with the oldest techniques and machines of journalism. And I was just a high school student when these were all around me in that busy newspaper environment.

In 1993, Zahrad, one of the most distinguished figures in Armenian poetry, asked me to be a member of editorial board of Armenian literary journal ‘Nor San’, of which he was the editor-in-chief. It was a great honor for me to work with such an outstanding poet whose books were translated into many languages in the world. ‘Nor San’ is one of the pioneering journals of Istanbul’s modern Armenian literature and many significant names were once either writers or journalists of that respected journal of literature. ‘Nor San’ was a crucial turning point in my life. My first interviews, articles and poems began to be published in it. During that process, I wrote my first articles on Armenian community living in Turkey and other social issues. On the first day I graduated from school, I applied to the daily Marmara and I got accepted.

Thus, my adventure of journalism started. During the years I worked for the daily Marmara, some of my articles and poems were also published in journals and magazines of Diaspora. In 2000, my first poetry book titled ‘Ananun Yeraz’(Without a dream) was published by Aras Publication Company in Istanbul. Many of my poems were also included in several anthological works published in Diaspora. These works include 'Diaspora Armenian Modern Literature' (Royal Ok, Michigan 1994), 'Modern Istanbul Literature' (Lebanon, 2004); 'The Other Voice Armenian Women's Poetry through the Age' Massachusetts, USA 2005. My second poetry book ‘Hanelug’(The Riddle) saluted the reader in February 2007.

Hrant Dink and Agos Adventure

When I was only 17 years old, I met journalist Hrant Dink, bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos’ editor-in-chief who was assassinated on Jan. 19, 2007, at a reception held at Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey. Dink told me he would like to see me as a member at his weekly newspaper Agos that was not established but was at the project stage at that time. In 1996, when Agos started to publish its initial editions, I was included to the weekly’s staff. Later on, Dink asked me to be the editor of Agos’ children’s pages published in Armenian. I wrote articles in Armenian in my special column during that period. Never breaking off my connection with Agos and daily Marmara, I also began to write columns in Jamanag, Turkey’s one of the longest established daily newspapers published in Armenian language.

In 1998, following my positions at Armenian community newspapers, I began to work as reporter at Culture and Arts Service at daily Hürriyet. At the same time, I worked as editor of daily Hürriyet’s literary magazine Gösteri. I met remarkable names of Turkish literature during that period. In 2002, I became Turkey representative of a Beirut-based culture and arts magazine called ‘Şirag’. In January 2007, I started working at Turkish Daily News (TDN), Turkey's first and largest English-language daily under supervision of Editor-in-chief David Judson. TDN joined the Doğan Yayın Holding (DYH) family, Turkey’s largest media-entertainment conglomerate, in January 2000. The turning point of my life was the day I met Mr. Judson. I believe the unique work environment he created at the TDN office is the principle factor underlying our success. First of all, he trusted us, and then, never refrained to give his support even in most problematic situations. He also created a multi-lingual work team. Besides English and Turkish, about 15 languages are spoken in our office. A multi-cultural atmosphere and a sense of co-existence in peace and harmony is the main characteristic reflected in our daily. Most of the time, I identify Mr. Judson with the unforgettable character in Dead Poets Society, a true classic movie directed by Peter Weir. I believe, with his unique perspective and understanding of journalism, Mr. Judson is an excellent editor-in-chief who should be modeled.

‘Being apart from newspaper my biggest phobia’

Reporting and writing news stories, briefly journalism, exhilarate me. Each time before I start writing a new story, I feel as if I will not be able to finish it because I still feel myself as an amateur reporter. I say to myself after successful completion of every news stories and articles, “Yesterday was yesterday and I have to quest for something new today. I love to make research and talk to people. Journalism is not only a profession for me, it is my life style. For me, it is an instrument to meet people, talk to them, discuss with them on myriad issues, and it is also a means for defending truths. Writing is my passion, and thanks to thanks to it, I play with the words everyday. Many people in the world cannot have the jobs they love. I think I am a luck minority in this perspective. Sometimes, I even turn a blind eye to so many difficulties I face thanks to my passion for my job. And my biggest phobia is to be compelled to live apart from the newspaper.

I was greatly touched and submerged into emotions when I heard that I won the first prize given in the name of Anna Lindh. First of all, it was an honor and privilege to win such a prize with the name of Lindh. Second, winning such a prize itself was an important achievement. On the day I was awarded this prize, I promised myself, “May this prize not professionalize you. Always keep your amateur spirit.” Paper and writing…I guess these two passions of my childhood will remain so in me forever.

Disputes on identity and sense of belonging to a certain identity

People in the world lose their life because of their faiths, languages, ethnicities, and preferences. Even if we do not wish so, our identities or sense of feeling to an ethnic, religious or cultural identity shape our future. Televisions I watch everyday give me nothing but pain. Recent developments following assassination of Dink in Turkey were notorious and very sad. I just wanted to achieve certain things for the favor of country where I was born and for the Armenian community that I belong to. I just wanted to cry out that Turkey is a multi-colored country just like a rainbow and no one should dare to pale these colors. The only thing I could do to serve that aim was to write and I did so. I used my pen. I always hated the word “minority”. I believe no nations or ethnic groups in the world should be imprisoned within the walls of the notion of “minority”. I just cannot understand why identities and ethnicities are that much important in the world. And perhaps, I will never want to understand it. Despite all these, I share a great deal in my stories and articles to a total of 77 different ethnic origins living in Turkey. My aim is to introduce various ethnic cultures that are fading away to people in the world and to tell all people that these cultures also exist on earth. Words remain ineffective in expressing how much I enjoy telling about in my news stories myriad myths, cuisines, traditions, and habits of these cultures. I also can never give up writing stories about art. I love writing news stories related to art since I think art always has a reactionary stance. Artistic events make me excited for they mostly have a discourse to rise and much to tell.