Being the voice of the children and of those fighting for the forest

Müzeyyen Yüce, First Place Winner of EU Award in Turkey and Hazal Ocak, who won the Young Journalist award speak of the topics of their stories 
Müzeyyen Yüce, First Place Winner of EU Award in Turkey and Hazal Ocak, who won the Young Journalist award  both say that the prize is a good recognition of their work, but the public interest value of their stories is the most important. 
The first prize winner: "Being the voice of the children is the most important"
Müzeyyen Yüce, a reporter from the Antalya daily “Antalya Körfez” won the first place in Turkey’s EU Investigative Journalism Award for her news story entitled “Children from Nusaybin to Cizre whose future is under siege”, about the situation in the country’s predominantly Kurdish cities following security operations held under months-long curfews. 
Speaking about the award, she said: “Each award is an important source of motivation for journalists and of course the European Award for Investigative Journalism was very important for me in this sense.”  She said it was doubly important that she won the award as a local journalist, noting “It means that the story made for a local audience has received national attention.””
However, it wasn’t the award, but the fact that her story got the word out that was the most satisfactory for her. “What is more important for me than receiving the award is that I was able to make the voices of the children heard. The military operations that were launched in the eastern cities of Turkey in 2015 grew to become a huge ball of fire that also included children along with the civilians.” She said the political aspects of Turkey’s military operations were reported on in the media, but the suffering of the region’s children was never covered. “This is what I wanted to attract attention to” she noted, adding “I wanted to see the fire burning right next to us through the eyes of children.”
The Jury statement about the first prize winning story said: “Most of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish provinces during 2016 were subject to curfews, during which security operations and many rights violations allegedly took place. Many journalists were intimidated from reporting in the area. The author of this report, a reporter from a local news outlet in a major tourism centre of Antalya, ignored these pressures to report from the area. The result was a sound and needed assessment of the situation of cities under curfew based on factual and insightful reporting of the present, but based on a deep understanding of the past. This story is an example of how good reporting goes beyond official statistics. In addition to interviews and observations about the contemporary state of siege, which so much of the media managed to ignore, the reporting analysed the history of conflict. On top of this, it was supported by good photography.”
The Young journalist award winner: “I dedicate my award to locals fighting for the forest”
Cumhuriyet daily reporter Hazal Ocak, who won the EU Investigative Journalism Award in the Young Journalist award category, for her report “One forest two countries” said she hadn’t expected to win the award, but was thrilled because it went to an environment-related report. 
Her winning story reports on the differences in Bulgarian and Turkish environmental legislation to conserve the Strandzha forest, separated by the borders of the two countries. 
“I really didn’t expect the award to be given to an environmental story, but I was really happy about that,” she said.
She said although a fight for the environment is being waged by activists, it is not very visible. “It became visible with the Gezi Resistance. People are fighting for their forests, their living areas”
Noting that Turkey is going through immensely difficult times in terms of freedom of expression, Ocak said she was finding hard to access information from the relevant state agencies, which should be open to public. She also said as an environmental reporter, she was used to receiving threats from businessmen or corrupt politicians who benefit from construction projects that destroy the environment. 
Finally she noted: “It is very important for me and for the people of Thrace that this award was given to this story. The locals collect money among themselves to cover court expenses. Therefore I would like to dedicate this award to them.”
The jury in its evaluation of her story noted: 
“This story, painstakingly reported and supported by meaningful photographs, shows the differing impact of different environment legislation in Bulgaria and Turkey by focusing on the example of the Istıranca (Strandzha) forest on either side of the common border. The story shows the stark contrast and the heartbreaking attitude of Turkey which allows mining and other industrial activities in this area, one of the most important ecosystems in Southeast Europe; and of Bulgaria, which adheres to strict protection rules befitting a nature reserve. The story will also be a strong document for future generations, displaying the brazen attitude of today’s rulers towards environmental protection.”
Ocak, who received her award from jury member Tuğrul Eryılmaz said, “The Strandzha forests have survived the ice age, and they are among the most important forests of the world. While they are being protected by strict legislation in Bulgaria, it is very different for us.” Stating that she had dreamed of becoming a good journalist since she was eight, Ocak added: “This award is very meaningful for me.”