Action for truth
Nadire Mater, writer and journalist, one of the most important persons in the struggle for freedom of speech and human rights in Turkey, portrayed by Stefan Lindberg.
The major battle of our time is over Truth. Distorted and covert propaganda, conscious falsifications and attacks against freedom of expression have become part of our reality. Lies have suddenly become part of the flow of news, power increasingly controls information and minorities and weak groups are weeded out.
In many parts of the world, independent bloggers and small actors have taken over a large portion of socially-oriented journalism; they have discovered that the official version is corrupt and in many instances, serves only to dis-inform. It is an upside-down world, where news coverage is more and more often trampled down by censors and the “official truth”.
Mater began working before the military coup in 1980 on the left-wing paper Democrat, where she edited the children’s pages. This was her first step towards journalism. Around 2000 she and a colleague, Ertuğrul Kűrkçű, decided to start an independent news agency, which paved the way for BIANET. They felt that stories about Turkey in the prevailing media climate were not sufficient and that the voices of marginalized people were not being heard.
Nadire Mater is not only known for her books and her journalism, but also for having been an important voice in several legal processes against freedom of speech. When the Kurdish paper Özgűr Gűndem, was faced judiciary pressure, she was one of the 56 journalists and human rights activists who acted as “editor for a day” to show solidarity with the paper. In consequence, in the autumn of 2016 she and other 37 of them were charged, according to article 7/2 and 6 in the Turkish anti-terror law for “terrorist propaganda” and for “disseminating material for a terrorist organization”.
Mater was among the 18 who have been sentenced. In March 2017, she was sentenced to 15 months of prison and fined around SEK 15,000, but the court ruled that the announcement of the verdict be deferred - unlike Murat Çelikkan who is one of the 18, and currently in prison.
Her work as a journalist led her to southeastern Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan, where she met up with soldiers and talked to them about the conditions of war and their everyday lives - stories that seldom expressed heroic acts or nationalistic convictions. Mater encountered a war that was being fought by young, often poor, men who had previously never been in the southeastern areas of Turkey. The soldiers talked about their fears and frustrations, their homesickness and dreams.
Their voices laid the foundations for Voices from the front / Turkish soldiers on the war with the Kurdish guerrillas. The book, published in 1999, was based on interviews with 42 young people who were forced into service in the war zones of southeastern Turkey.
In an interview with Julia Harte from 2011 Mater points out that it was no accident that it was a woman journalist who broke the silence surrounding the soldiers’ terrible experiences of the civil war in the Kurdish parts of the country:
- Men don’t like to expose their weaknesses to other men. They find it easier to talk to a woman.
When Mater’s budding career as an author attracted the authorities’ attention, they charged her according to article 159 of Turkey’s Criminal Code with having “insulted the Turkish military”. A court in Istanbul then forbade the distribution of the book which had already gone through four editions and sold 9000 copies. The police confiscated the publisher’s unsold copies and Mater’s editor, Semih Sokmen, was threatened with fines; Nadire Mater herself was threatened with a prison sentence of between two and twelve years. The book was later freed from the charges against it and translated into English, German, Italian, Finnish and Greek.
In the foreign press one could read: "Mater’s reportage is in the tradition that reveals surrealistic elements of existence and illuminates the destruction caused by war."
This is undoubtedly one of the most important and most explosive books published in Turkey during the last decade. The soldiers’ testimonies expose the army and politicians and show that it is a both ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unjust’ war that is driving the country towards bankruptcy and political suicide.
Nadire Mater is one of the founders of IPS Communication Foundation and its news portal www.bianet.org. The Foundation aims at promoting and applying rights journalism among Turkey’s journalist community as a major instrument in publicizing human rights and democracy. The dramatic decline in the field of democracy and freedom of expression in recent years has increased the importance of online journalism, where Mater now focus all her energy.
The BIANET was among the first to report on internet shutdowns, closed media houses and government censorship, but also about the struggle for the right to veracious information. The unique contribution of the Foundation in the realization of this vision is to ensure that the voices of the ignored and silenced are increasingly heard in public debate through the provision of unbiased, inclusive and actionable news reporting and knowledge sharing. In that regard, IPS has become to be considered as a model for rights-based journalism in Turkey.
bianet.org is the most visible work of IPS with daily production of news in three languages (Turkish, Kurdish, English) as well as release of periodic reports in the fields of Freedom of Expression and Male Violence in Turkey.
Stefan Lindberg is a writer. His latest novel "Nätterna på Mon Chéri" was published 2016. He also works at Swedish PENs secretariat.