Turkey's Press Freedom Day: 95 Journalists Behind Bars
The courts sentenced eight suspects to nine years in jail and five suspects to pay fines in the amount of 29,880 TL [$16,580], three of them directly to the person of Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Ergogan.
Turkish courts have sentenced 24 people, including six journalists, to a total of 91 years, nine months and 18 days in prison, as well as to pay 40,000 Turkish Liras in fines during the second quarter of 2012. They now stand among the ranks of some 95 journalists and 35 distributors who spent those three months behind bars. Below you can find the links to our last press release on this report, which we will continue to send regularly in the future
A total of 95 journalists and 35 distributors have spent the Press Freedom Day on July 24, which marks the publication of the first uncensored newspapers 104 years ago, behind bars in Turkey this year. Courts have also sentenced 24 people, including six journalists, to a total of 91 years, nine months and 18 days in prison, as well as to pay fines in the amount of 40,000 Turkish Liras during the same period in connection with charges stipulated in the country's infamous Anti-Terror Law (TMK.)
As of July 2011, some 68 journalists were residing in Turkey's jails. Courts had handed out sentences totaling 44 years and eight months in prison, while prosecutors had demanded 223 years for the suspects.
Journalists poured out onto the streets and flocked into courts to show their solidarity with their colleagues and oppose their plight.
The Third Judicial Reform Package propounded by the government in consequence of the resulting backlash and which introduced a conditional amnesty for press-related offenses also continued to feature in public debates until its ratification on July 2. Journalist associations, however, struck a cautious note and said the legislation would not resolve the fundamental issues in Turkey pertaining to the freedom of expression, as it fell short of preventing courts from qualifying certain press offenses as "acts of terrorism" and their arbitrary extension of detention and arrest periods.
Throughout the trials and the investigations, authorities have persistently confronted the 95 journalists and the 35 distributors with allegations concerning their presumed involvement in the "media outlets of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK,)" basing their claims on such "evidence" as "following a news story," "writing a book," "engaging in journalism that is critical toward the government" and "working in the Kurdish media."
The journalists and the distributors are facing charges of committing offenses and/or intentionally aiding and abetting the PKK without being its members. Other journalists are also standing trial on charges of establishing an armed or an unarmed organization, leading it or being a member of it, while some have also received sentences in connection with these charges.
Azadiye Welat's managing editors Vedat Kurşun, Ruken Ergün and Ozan Kılınç, as well asBedri Adanır, the owner of Aram Publishing House and the chief editor of Hawar, are the only journalists standing trial directly in connection with the news stories, commentaries and books they have penned down.
Authorities cited a plethora of reasons to keep the suspects under arrest, including "doubt regarding [the probability of the suspects] running away," "destroying, concealing or tampering with evidence," "putting pressure on the witnesses," "a strong and intense probability of the offense having been committed" and the inclusion in article 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CMK) the offenses attributed to the suspects.
The BIA Media Monitoring and Freedom of Expression Report for April, May and June, 2012 consists of the headings "Journalist Murders / Trials," "Imprisoned Journalists," "Distributors and Employees," "Releases," "Attacks, Threats and Obstructions," "Inquiries, New / Ongoing Trials, Decisions," "Trials Against Kurdish Politicians," "Articles 285-288 of the TCK (Turkish Penal Code,)" "Actions for Libel, Personal Rights and Compensation," "Decisions by the Prime Ministry's Board for the Protection of Minors from Obscene Publications," "Bans, suspensions, confiscations," "ECHR (European Court of Human Rights,)" and "RTÜK (Higher Board of Radio and Television) Decisions."
The report relates trials pertaining to articles 215, 220, 285, 288 and 314 of the TCK, with an emphasis on the number of journalists in prison, the length of their detentions or arrests, investigations and trials regarding the freedom of expression and article 7 / 2 of the TMK that authorities frequently employ to restrict the freedoms of expression and press.
Article 7 / 2 of the TMK is also often accompanied in the trials by article 220 / 7 of the TCK ("aiding a terrorist organization without being a member of it,") and article 314 / 2 of the TCK ("being a member of an armed terrorist organization.")
91 years and nine months in jail for violating the TMK
Courts have sentenced 24 people, including six journalists, to a total of 91 years, nine months and 18 days in prison, as well as to pay 40,000 Turkish Liras in fines during the second quarter of 2012 for violating article 7 / 2 of the TMK. Courts had issued sentences totaling 44 years and eight months in prison during the same period in 2011.
Summary of Proceedings for Kurdish deputies
Prosecutors issued 61 summaries of proceedings against 25 deputies of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP,) which holds 29 seats in Parliament in all.
BDP deputies Adil Kurt, Ahmet Türk, Altan Tan, Aysel Tuğluk, Bengi Yıldız, Demir Çelik, Emine Ayna, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Esat Canan, Gültan Kışanak, Hüsamettin Zenderlioğlu, Halil Aksoy, Hasip Kaplan, İbrahim Binici, İdris Baluken, Leyla Zana, Nursel Aydoğan, Özdal Üçer, Pervin Buldan, Mülkiye Birtane, Sabahat Tuncel, Selahattin Demirtaş Selma Irmak, Sırrı Sakık ve Sırrı Süreyya Önder consequently received the summaries of proceedings.
Deputy Özdal Üçer, on the other hand, topped the list with nine summaries of proceedings against him.
The charges leveled against the BDP deputies in the summaries of proceedings include "making PKK propaganda" (TMK article 7 / 2,) "Contravening the Law of Assembly and Demonstration" (article 28 / 1 of the 2911th Law,) "praising a crime and the criminal" (article 215 of the TCK,) "Contravening the Law of Political Parties" (article 78 of the 2820th Law,) "insulting a civil servant for his / her duties" (article 125 of the TCK,) "insulting the prime minister" (article 301 of the TCK,) "inciting people to hatred and enmity" (article 216 of the TCK) and "having membership in a terrorist organization by committing a crime on its behalf without being its member." (article 314 / 2 of the TCK.)
The trials of 16 persons, including nine journalists, were underway during the publication of the report. Courts sentenced four suspects, two of them journalists, to a total of one year and 11 months behind bars and to pay fines in the amount of 12,000 TL on allegations of "libel" and "attacking personal rights."
During the same period last year, courts had sentenced eight suspects to nine years and four months in jail and five suspects to pay fines in the amount of 29,860 TL, three of them directly to the person of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Officials removed a book from the Education Ministry's "100 Essential Works" on the grounds it contained obscenity.
Officials also banned a song, censured a comic strip and returned a magazine back to its publisher on the same charge. They also banned a May 1 celebration banner of the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) upon the allegation that it contained an insult.
Authorities also shut the weekly Demokratik Vatan ("Democratic Homeland") down for a month on the charge they had made propaganda on the PKK's behalf.
Appeals to the European Court of Human Rights
A journalist filed a suit at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) during the second quarter of 2012 on the charge that Turkey had violated the "ban on torture" and "the right to freedom and security."
Higher Board of Radio and Television
Turkey's Higher Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) issued 96 warnings and 68 fines against broadcasting stations, while it also issued 18 warnings and two fines against radio stations.
RTÜK cited a number of reasons for its warnings and fines, including articles pertaining to "rating symbols [regarding age-restricted content,]" "human dignity and the right to privacy," "the presumption of innocence," "proper use of the Turkish language," "exploiting people through fortune-reading and superstitions," "the right to rebut," "contests and lotteries," "explicit publications," "the rule of law," "discrimination," "tobacco and tobacco products," "news presentation" and "advertisement, sponsorship and product placement." (EG / BA)
(BIA) Bianet Independent Communication Network publishes regular reports on the freedom of expression in Turkey, detailing the developments and setback on media freedom and freedom of speech during the three months which the report covers. The reports list the writers and journalists that are facing prosecution as well as the legal and social developments. We bring our report to your attention with the hope that it would serve as an informative tool for your work on freedom of expression in Turkey.
PLEASE CONTACT: Emel Gülcan Emel@bianet.org. If you have any comments or questions, we will be more than happy to help.
Comment on this item
by Pierre Rehov
For terrorists, the death of innocent children is irrelevant. In a society that promotes martyrdom as the ultimate sign of success, the death of innocent children can sometimes even be seen as a public relations blessing.
In every action, intent is paramount. There should never be a moral equivalence painted between the deliberate killing of civilians, and a retaliation that tragically leads to casualties among civilians.
There is, however, one small difference: in the Middle East, reporters are threatened, except in Israel. Their choice becomes a simple one: promote the Palestinian point of view or stop working in the West Bank. Keep the eye of the camera dirty or lose your job. This show should not go on.
by Khaled Abu Toameh
Since 1948, the Arab countries and government have been paying mostly lip service to the Palestinians.
"They have money and oil, but don't care about the Palestinians, even though we are Arabs and Muslims like them. What a Saudi or Qatari sheikh spends in one night in London, Paris or Las Vegas could solve the problem of tens of thousands of Palestinians." — Palestinian human rights activist.
"Some Arabs were hoping that Israel would rid them of Hamas." — Ashraf Salameh, Gaza City.
"Some of the Arab regimes are interested in getting rid of the resistance in order to remove the burden of the Palestinian cause, which threatens the stability of their regimes." — Mustafa al-Sawwaf, Palestinian political analyst.
"Most Arabs are busy these days with bloody battles waged by their leaders, who are struggling to survive. These battles are raging in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian Authority." — Mohammed al-Musafer, columnist.
"The Arab leaders don't know what they want from the Gaza Strip. They don't even know what they want from Israel." — Yusef Rizka, Hamas official.
by Soeren Kern
European elites, who take pride in viewing the EU as a "postmodern" superpower, have long argued that military hard-power is illegitimate in the 21st century. Unfortunately for Europe, Russia (along with China and Iran) has not embraced the EU's fantastical soft-power worldview, in which "climate change" is now said to pose the greatest threat to European security.
For its part, the European Commission, the EU's administrative branch, which never misses an opportunity to boycott institutions in Israel, has issued only a standard statement on the shooting down of MH17 in Ukraine, which reads: "The European Union will continue to follow this issue very closely."
The EU has made only half-hearted attempts to develop alternatives to its dependency on Russian oil and gas.
by Shoshana Bryen
Proportionality in international law is not about equality of death or civilian suffering, or even about [equality of] firepower. Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against suffering that the action might cause to enemy civilians in the vicinity.
"Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable does not constitute a war crime.... even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur. A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality)." — Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court.
"The greater the military advantage anticipated, the larger the amount of collateral damage -- often civilian casualties -- which will be "justified" and "necessary." — Dr. Françoise Hampton, University of Essex, UK.
by Irfan Al-Alawi
"Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi" is Abu Du'a, a follower of the late Osama Bin Laden. By adding the name "Al-Qurayshi" in his current alias, he is also seeking to affirm descent from Muhammad.
The allegation of theological sovereignty over all Sunnis extends to Indonesia and Morocco. The idea that the borders between Syria and Iraq will be dissolved by the new "caliphate" defies all Islamic theology and history. As the Qur'an states, "Allah "made the nations and tribes different." (49:13) Syria and Iraq have been distinct for millennia.
The "Islamic State" seeks to obliterate these diverse identities by expelling or killing all Shias and Sunni Sufis. And it does not invoke the Ottoman caliphate in its propaganda, demonstrating decisively the fake nature of the "Islamic State."
A caliphate is obsolete and the "Islamic State" is totalitarian. All Sunnis need to repudiate them soundly, even by force of arms.