The failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July left more than 270 people dead and resulted in a government crackdown against journalists, among others. Erdogan, with dictatorial aspirations, has abolished press freedoms and specifically targeted journalists at Zaman, the leading news organization in Turkey and home to a phenomenal team of visual journalists.
The government seized control of Zaman in March, alleging the newspaper had ties to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric it now blames for the coup attempt. Erdogon has vowed to “eradicate” supporters of the cleric and the coup. Last week, arrest warrants went out for 47 former executives or senior journalists of Zaman. Among them, former design director Fevzi Yazici (shown in the featured image out front), former editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş, former editor Süleyman Sargin.
If you study the Best of News Design as many of us do, you’re likely familiar with their work. Under Yazici’s art direction since 2002, Zaman and Today’s Zaman have been consistent entrants and winners in the SND annual “Best of News Design” Creative Competition. The publication has earned 119 Awards of Excellence, 3 Silver Medals and a JSR in that time.
Yazici and Zaman have been ardent supporters of SND, sponsoring several events in Turkey and attending every SND annual workshop since 2003.
“All of us who know Fevzi and who admire his work and, most importantly, his zest to advance our profession and to inspire a new generation of visual journalists, are truly saddened by the news of his arrest in Turkey,” said design consultant Mario Garcia. “We pray for him and his family and we urge all of his fellow designers to do the same and to keep informed as to what is happening to freedom of the press in Turkey.”
Yazici last emailed me on July 30. He said he was out of work and concerned about the prospects of arrest, and that authorities had just shut down his daughter’s school. “I do not recognize my own country any more,” he said.
“I’m very worried about what the future holds for him – his safety, his family’s well-being, and his ability to work hard and have a career,” said Washington Post Design Director Greg Manifold. “I really appreciate him as a journalist. Every time we talk, he is always inquisitive and trying to understand a situation better.”
The crackdown in Turkey has seen tens of thousands of public sector workers — journalists, teachers, university professors, judges and thousands of other civil servants — suspended or dismissed, with many having their passports cancelled.
“It’s frustrating indeed to be reduced to hollow ‘thoughts and prayers’ when champions of free speech are detained for no other reason than shining light in the dark corners,” said 2014 SND president David Kordalski. “The plight of my friend Fevzi Yazici and the other brave journalists in Turkey is a stark reminder that it’s more important than ever to fight for the unfettered flow of information.”