Voice of America’s Turkish language service received the David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award for its breaking news coverage and extensive follow-up on the attacks on peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C., in May 2017.
Turkish service reporters risked physical harm and continued harassment by the government of Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a result of their coverage of this incident.
VOA Turkish captured exclusive video during President Erdogan’s visit to Washington on May 16, 2017. The video showed Erdogan supporters, as well as presidential security forces and several other armed individuals, assaulting peaceful protesters outside the residence in a manner the Washington Metropolitan Police Department characterised as a “brutal attack.”
The footage of the brawl went viral as national and international news outlets used it in their own reporting on the incident. The skirmish and video footage also became a point of contention between the U.S. and Turkish governments. As a result of the graphic evidence, the FBI investigated the incident and the Washington, D.C. police department sought the arrest of several people linked to the attack, including bodyguards to the Turkish president. A total of 19 people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, were indicted by a grand jury in Washington, D.C. for the May 2017 attack.
“I’m so proud of the work and bravery of VOA’s Turkish service,” said VOA Director Amanda Bennett. “This graphic, honest journalism is not the kind of reporting the Erdogan government wants to see, but it is the type of reporting VOA journalists do every day.”
VOA Turkish is a multimedia language service. Its TV programs air on leading news networks in Turkey. The VOA Turkish website garners more than 75,000 views weekly, while the service’s Facebook page surpassed 2 million weekly video views.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media presents the David Burke Distinguished Journalism Awards annually to recognise courage, integrity and professionalism of journalists working for each of the USAGM networks–Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.