28 September 2000
35 columnists from several newspapers of the Middle East countries, including Turkey, participated in the symposium organized by the Umut Foundation in the İstanbul Dedeman Hotel and after having debated about the contributions of media to peace for three days they reached to common positive points.
The event which led to the foundation of Umut Foundation is the murder of my son. Seven years ago, my son was killed with a gun which is an instrument of violence and many like Umut Önal lost their lives in this country. Therefore, we have established the Umut Foundation in order to resist all kinds of violence everywhere, at each level and to contribute to the solutions of problems by peaceful means both in our country and region.
One of the aims of the Umut Foundation is to teach the reconciliation methods to resolve conflicts and consequently to create an atmosphere which will contribute to the achievement and continuation of peace. In this vein, together with other education and research activities, the Umut Foundation holds competitions and distributes prizes on October 28, the "Individual Disarmament" day. We chose “The Contributions of Media to Peace” as this year’s topic; we want to honour the columnists who comprehend the responsibility of media in this issue and tackle this subject.
There are several important reasons behind our choosing this topic for this year’s competition: media, which is accepted as the fourth power in current societies, not only reflects the information only but also transfers the information by forming it in our century where information and to reach the information are very important; therefore, shapes the comprehension and construction of the information received.
Conflict is one of the main topics of the media since it is one of the inevitable parts of interpersonal and intergovernmental relations. While transferring the conflicts, media can both inspire how to resolve these conflicts by peaceful or violent means and also it can create public opinion about its own choices. By means of the prizes it distributes, our foundation wants to promote and reinforce the understanding of journalism and broadcasting, which discusses the ways of solving conflicts by peaceful means rather than discussing their results and it evaluates these events according to their reasons and developments and the conditions of the sphere where they are composed and evolved, which shows the conflicts with an integrated point of view.
Usage of guns and violence emerge as a result of being unfamiliar to the solution methods rather than violence and the conflicts which can not be solved and which are ossified. When interpersonal problems are to be discussed, the result is “individual armament. As a matter of fact, when we look at the General Management of Judicial Records and Statistics of the Ministry of Justice’s period of 1994-1998 we encounter with appalling figures. To the effect that, the number of the cases opened because of murder is 129,447 which is subject to the provisions 448 and 445 of the Turkish Penal Code.
The number of the cases opened against the law numbered 6136 about firearms and knives is 132,321 in the period of 1994-1998. When we inspect the records of the Police Headquarters, the gravity of the situation is obvious since 80% of the crimes are committed with unauthorized arms.
When the individuals in a society learn to resolve the conflicts by means of reconciliation and begin to use these methods, there would be a more peaceful environment. We hope that a culture where not the arms but reconciliation is admired. Therefore, we demanded from the government to declare October 28 as the Individual Disarmament Day as many other days and weeks. This day, which I believe would be realised one day, would enable individuals of the society to become more conscious in accordance with the activities carried out for this purpose. We want a culture where reconciliation is admired. So, the media has a very important responsibility in order to create a society which admires reconciliation culture.
We saw the contributions of media, in the aftermath of the big earthquake which occurred last year, in its attitude towards Turkish-Greek Inclination. The attitude of the media to this topic affected the approach of people to Turkish-Greek Inclination. By means of this attitude the media gave a concrete and striking example of both its formative role in the perception of the issues on the agenda and its role in the determination of the agenda which is known from media theories as well. We can not ignore the significance of other factors which helps the society in reaching to the readiness and awareness level; however, media’s power in reaching masses and being able to do this in every second distinguishes it from others. As a foundation, we hope that positive efforts of the media in these areas will increase and such efforts will be shown for other conflicts both in international and national levels. We believe that this prize will also contribute to this understanding as well.
Media is the transmitter and interpreter of the conflicts for readers, hearers and audiences and in its broadcasts while realising its function of delivery, consciously or not, it also proposes solution methods. Nevertheless, although it is necessary that solution methods be away from absolute judgment and provocation, sometimes it is possible that the news media approaches to an event both as a provocateur with an absolute judgment. Frequently the news media approaches to events as a fight which will be won by one of the parts and it exposits a discourse on the winning of a part and the losing of the other. However, it is the responsibility of such a powerful institution to avoid problems from gaining such seriousness and making them worse as well. The criteria of the prizes given are reconciliation, tolerance and respect to differences. We aimed to emphasize the importance of the topic and to encourage all the columnists to take a similar attitude and responsibility by awarding these prizes to our columnists who have the necessary consciousness. For this reason, five distinguished jurists from different sectors of the society evaluated hundreds of columnists and I utter with great happiness that they reached on a difficult decision.
I want to extend my thanks to our esteemed jurists Mr. Ruhat Mengi, columnist in the Sabah Gazatesi; Mr. Nail Güreli, the chairman of Turkish Journalists’ Association; Mr. Prof. Dr. İlter Turan, the Dean of Bilgi University; Mr. Prof. Dr. Mehmet Gürkaynak, Vice President of Umut Foundation and Mr. Prof. Dr. Ali Atıf, faculty of Eskişehir Anadolu University and also to all of you for your contributions.
I want to extend my thanks also to all those media employees who work for peace and reconciliation and who came and participated in the symposium which lasted for two days prior to this prize ceremony.
I want to thank to UNESCO for its contributions to the organization of the symposium.
We thank to Zel Lurie who is the founder of the Zel Lurie Investigative Journalism Fund and who is also a supporter of the 2000 Common Ground Prizes for his contributions.
I thank to you Mrs Susan Mark Collins, Vice President of Search for Common Ground and you Richard Eisendorf, Media Director of Search for Common Ground who made the greatest contribution both to this prize ceremony and to the seminar.
Our assistants Caroline and Müge, you have burdened all. Thank you.
Today we came together for the prize ceremony and soon we will give the prizes to columnists.
I congratulate all the columnists who gained prize with their articles in Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew and English. And I repeat once more, media carries the responsibility not for violence and arms but for a culture in which reconciliation is admired.
I extend my respect to all of you.
The prize ceremony took place on 28 September 2000 in the Dedeman Hotel.