One of the themes the Centers has explored is how to create the best possible conditions for press freedom all over the world. This is an area of particular interest for both the Centers and the School of Journalism at Columbia. It is an enormous project, and in Istanbul as part of the Center’s official launch in 2011, we approached one defined aspect of it.
Columbia Global Centers | Turkey hosted a panel discussion with leading scholars from Columbia and the region titled 'Is the Internet too Free?' as part of the Center's launch in November 2011. In many places that traditionally have not had complete press freedom, the advent of the Internet has enabled new online news organizations as a significant part of the independent press. We invited a group of people who operate such news organizations with distinction, from all over the world, along with some important thinkers who are interested in the phenomenon, to spend a day together discussing what, individually and collectively, these online independent news organizations need—journalistically, economically, legally, technologically—to thrive to the greatest extent possible. The panel featured Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, Professor Sheila Coronel who heads the Center for Investigative Journalism as well as Sami Ben Gharbia, Global Voices Advocacy Director and Nawaat.org co-founder, Mohamed El Dahshan, an economist and writer from Egypt, Kelly Niknejad, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the 'Tehran Bureau' and Professor Aslı Tunç of Istanbul Bilgi University. This event was supported by The Saul and Janice Poliak Center for the Study of First Amendment Issues at the Graduate School of Journalism.
On September 25, 2013, the Center hosted the Istanbul Conference on Geopolitical Developments and Press Freedoms in the Middle East and Turkey.
A one-day workshop on press freedom and geopolitical developments in the Middle East and Turkey brought together a distinguished group of more than 20 regional and international scholars, journalists and researchers. The workshop was co-convened by the Columbia Global Centers | Turkey and the Columbia Global Centers | Middle East.
The workshop was meant to allow for a discussion on recent political events, with a focus on Syria, Egypt, and Turkey, as well as the current state(s) of press freedom across the region and within a global context. It featured contributions by Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger; Professor Safwan M. Masri, Vice President for Global Centers; Steve Coll, Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; Nicholas Lemann, Professor and former dean of the Journalism School, and Ipek Cem Taha, Director of the Columbia Global Centers | Turkey.
The workshop was divided into three main sessions: one on recent regional geopolitical developments, with a focus on Syria and Egypt, a second session focused solely on the recent upheavals in Turkey as well as the country’s internal politics and foreign policy; and finally, a third exploring the issue of press freedom in the region within a global agenda.
Among some of the participants were: Patrick Cockburn, Middle East Correspondent and Columnist at The Independent; David Gardner, Associate Editor at the Financial Times, Lebanon; Hazem Kandil, University Lecturer in Political Sociology; and Fellow at St. Catharine’s College, University of Cambridge; Gilles Kepel, Professor of Political Science at Sciences Po; Nuray Mert, Columnist at Hurriyet Daily News and Professor of International Relations at Istanbul University, Ustun Erguder, Emeritus Professor at Sabanci University and Director of the Educational Reform Initiative at the Istanbul Policy Center, Roger Cohen, Columnist at The New York Times; Amal Ghandour, author and blogger from Lebanon; and Memduh Karakullukcu, Vice-Chairman and President of the Global Relations Forum.
This workshop is envisioned as one of the first in a series of meaningful conversations, events and symposia that will be spearheaded by the Columbia Global Centers to engage more thoroughly in the cities and regions in which centers are located, and to explore how Columbia University—with its diverse intellectual capacities—may positively contribute to global developments and challenges.