Top Dutch choreographer refuses Turkish prize in protest at journalist jailings

hans van manen programme

Celebrated Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen has refused an honorary award from the Turkish state in protest at the jailing of journalists, reports NOS.

Van Manen was reportedly to be given a Turkish ‘choreographer of the century’ prize but told NPO Radio 1 that he was refusing it ‘for the dead simple reason that newspapers are being muzzled and journalists who are just doing their jobs end up in prison’.

He said he also disapproved of the arrest of Dutch columnist Ebru Umar in Turkey in April, for allegedly insulting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

But Van Manen said he was not trying to give off any signal with the refusal, or looking for attention – especially any possible victimisation of his dance group or the prize’s management.

The 83-year-old is a leading Dutch choreographer, recognised internationally. He has worked for 60 years at the Nederlands Dans Theater and Dutch National Ballet, and in 2007 was awarded the Dutch ‘order of the lion’ honour.

Amnesty International claims ‘respect for freedom of expression deteriorated’ in Turkey from 2015/2016. Its last annual report says: ‘Countless unfair criminal prosecutions, including under criminal defamation and anti-terrorism laws, targeted political activists, journalists and others critical of public officials or government policy. Ordinary citizens were frequently brought before the courts for social media posts.’

Last month Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of opposition daily paper Cumhuriyet, was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison for publishing secret state documents. The paper’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül was sentenced to five years.

In April, a Dutch-Turkish journalist Ebru Umar was placed on ‘land arrest’ – forbidden to leave Turkey – after criticising Erdogan on Twitter. She was allowed to leave in early May.

Last month Erik-Jan Zürcher, a professor of Turkish language and culture at Leiden University, gave back a Turkish gold Medal of High Distinction ‘in protest at the dictatorial mismanagement of Edroğan in Turkey’, writing in NRC that in his opinion the country can no longer be a member of Europe.

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