“The biggest challenge for a today’s journalist is first of all to survive“, says Elif Kayi, a journalist from France and a part of the editorial team of EMAJMagazine, who received a Freedom of Speech Prize, awarded by the French press club of Marseille. EMAJMagazine caught up with this young journalist on the go, to get to know more about the award winning story, her impressions and the challenges of journalism.
Name: Elif Kayi
Job: Freelance journalist
Favorite quote: “God will forgive me, it’s his job” (Heinrich Heine)
Passion: Writing and traveling, just can’t get enough of it!
What were you doing when you received the news that you won the prize?
Something very French at this time of the year und totally unsexy: checking my bills, payments, etc. to fill in my tax declaration…
What does it mean to you to win this prize?
Of course I am flattered and it encourages me to keep on writing and researching. But the prize has been created to honor the names of Anna Politkovskaya, Hrant Dink and journalists who lost their lives throughout the world to make their job, so I feel really small in comparison to them.
Tell us about the process of creating the award winning story?
The winning story deals with the issue of military service in Turkey, where consciousness objection is not recognized. Only a small number of Turks have officially admitted to be consciousness objectors (around 60) but there is between half a million and a million so-called “fugitives” in Turkey.
I spoke with many “fugitives”. It was very difficult to get someone to tell his own story and get it published. Even with changing names and avoiding the name of the city where they live. They live in a complete underground, have neither official work nor a real public existence actually. Finally one of the “fugitives” I had met agreed to have his story printed but it took quite some time.
Which is the most important task of a journalist, according to you?
Basically a journalist is someone who should report to others on information they cannot get themselves. But the task of the journalist can also be to make people reflect and think of other attitudes, other opinions, other “realities” than their own. To achieve this, I believe that a journalist should start questioning his or her own certainties and convictions. Being a journalist sometimes means to report and reflect on aspects you do not agree with, this is part of the job.
What are the biggest challenges for a today’s journalist?
The biggest challenge for a today’s journalist is first of all to survive, especially if you work in the print press like I do. In France working conditions for journalists are often quite difficult, especially on a financial level. And I know that it is far from being better in other countries.
The other challenge is the freedom of expression, when it comes to tackle critical issues, should they deal with politics, social issues or religion for instance. I believe in opinion journalism, which is not the same as militant journalism, which I do not support. The first limit of freedom of expression of a journalist often comes from his or her own redaction. Which makes the job really hard. Because you want to report and express something but you also need to eat at some point.
I guess that is one of the reasons why blogging has become so popular. And the less freedom of expression you have in a country, the more active journalists’ blogs become. Just take the extreme example of Iran.
But at the same time we should also keep in mind that journalism has a price, otherwise journalists will all end up reporting facts and blogging in order to express an opinion or report on critical subjects, which is not really the type of situation I would like to have in the future…