Welcome to the eighth annual Mehmet Ali Birand Lecture, organized since 2014 by Turkey’s Platform for Independent Journalism (Punto24) on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.

This year’s lecture will be delivered by Eren Keskin, lawyer, co-chair of the Human Rights Association and an indomitable defender of press freedom and freedom of expression in Turkey.

To be featured before Eren Keskin’s lecture are brief messages by author Cemre Birand and Consul General Peter Ericson, who would have kindly hosted this event at the Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul had it not been for the pandemic-imposed restrictions.

Today we salute all journalists who are behind bars in various prisons of Turkey because of the news they reported, articles they wrote, and opinions they expressed.

We know that journalism is not a crime.

We know that when the law prevails all of our colleagues who have been detained for their journalism will be released and acquitted.

Until that day, we will keep demanding freedom for each and every one of them.

Our wish is to be able some day, not too far in the future, to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day altogether.

P24 is pleased to invite you to watch this year’s World Press Freedom Day lecture, given by Eren Keskin.

Ms Keskin is a jurist, co-chair of Turkey’s Human Rights Association, as well as a courageous and inspirational defender of free expression.

The lecture is entitled “The Price of Press Freedom” and narrates a cost which, from personal experience, she understands all too well.

The lecture is the latest in the series we have organised in memory of Mehmet Ali Birand, a hugely talented journalist who did much to raise professional standards and encourage young colleagues.  Up until last year, the lectures were given every 3 May in the Swedish Consulate General in Istanbul – the historic Palais de Suede. Again this year, because of the pandemic, we have made the event available:

on our YouTubes channel with English subtitles

with the English text on our website.

Each lecturer has succeeded in capturing the spirit of a particular moment. The first in 2014 (be it prophetically or ironically) was Ahmet Altan, novelist and editor-in-chief, who only last month was released from 4.5 years in prison, following landmark decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the Turkish High Court of Appeals.

Other speakers have been Peter Preston, of Guardian and Observer fame, Zaina Erhaim, much-laureled citizen journalist from Idlip in Syria, Carol Giacomo from the New York Times editorial board, Philippe Sands author and human rights QC, Beritan Canözer, correspondent for JINHA, the women’s news agency in Diyarbakir, and David Kaye, then UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

With at least 68 journalists in Turkey still behind bars and media freedom still in peril, we felt it important to keep the series going.