Veysel Ok is a prominent Kurdish lawyer specialising in free speech and press freedom.
He provides pro-bono legal support to journalists, activists and academics who have been subjected to intimidation, surveillance, smear campaigns and harassment. His work has been instrumental in the release of several unlawfully detained journalists and writers.
Ok is one of the first to challenge the Turkish laws of accreditation which determine whether a journalist meets official requirements to do their job.
Ok has received a five month suspended sentence for ‘insulting the Turkish judiciary’. Asserting his right to freedom of speech; Ok commented on the ‘loyalties’ of judges. This has landed him in a position of surveillance and harassment.
Nevertheless, he stands strong in his fight for justice and freedom of expression for journalists in Turkey.
“In reality, the fight for human rights is crucial for everyone. In Turkey [all lives] are at risk for defending human rights; not just the work I do.
For the past twelve years, I have been fighting for the right to free expression for journalists and writers. For the past three years, we have continued this fight through at the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), where I am co-director. We provide legal support to journalists and activists who are in prison with no access to legal services. We stand by them and fight for their freedoms, we fight for access to information [and?] in Turkey. This is the wider work I do, and why MLSA is so important.
This award is a win for the fight for free speech in Turkey. It shows that our work has found support from the international community, and that there is a greater international advance. This gives me incredible hope and pride. I would like to thank you one more time for this award.”