BIANET 30.11.2012 – Journalists, journalist associations and human rights advocates were in solidarity with the imprisoned journalists in April – May – June 2012. The associations followed the hearings, visited the imprisoned journalists and protested the trials.
During the BIA Media Monitoring and Freedom of Expression April-May-June 2012 reporting period, human rights associations, freedom of expression advocates and professional media associations protested the detention and arrest of journalists. Throughout the period, the associations followed the hearings, visited many prisons, and protested the Anti-Terror Law and the Specially Authorized Courts. They made statements about the judicial reform and freedom of press and expression. They published reports. Legal arrangements: In the three-month period, the specially authorized courts and the third judicial reform package were on the agenda of the government and the journalist associations. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with his Deputy Prime Ministers Bülent Arınç, Beşir Atalay, Bekir Bozdağ and Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin on 28 June, to discuss the shutting down of the specially authorized courts. Work on establishing ‘terrorism courts’ to replace the specially authorized courts was accelerated so that they would be ready to be a part of the third judicial reform package.
The Press Council on 2 June, stated that the provision on listening to and recording the conversations between individuals under the section on ‘Crimes Against Private Life and Privacy of Life’ in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) in the third reform package, would limit the freedom of press. It stated that the new regulations increase the penalties and render it an offense for the press to convey information that is newsworthy and publicly known.
The European Union (EU) Turkey Delegation met with representatives from the Foreign Ministry on 8 June during a visit to Denmark’s capital city Copenhagen, which held the EU Presidency at the time. The officials from the Denmark Foreign Ministry stated that the broadcasts of Roj TV would be suspended and that they are in the course of preparing a new law, which would be presented to the parliament in October.
Prison visits: The associations handed their support to the imprisoned journalist during the period of April – June. The Press Council and the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) visited the imprisoned journalists. The Press Council requested information about the conditions of Vedat Kurşun, Tayip Temel, Ahmet Birsin, Fatma Koçak, Semiha Alankuş and Müyesser Yıldız Uğur. TGC visited Müyesser Yıldız Uğur and Barış Pehlivan, who are the defendants of the OdaTV trial, and who have been arrested pending the outcome.
On 11 June, the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) Human Rights Prison Commission members visited some arrested defendants at the Silivri Prison. The members met with the former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Mustafa Balbay and Mehmet Haberal, and journalist Müyesser Yıldız Uğur. On 11 May, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin visited 12 journalists and columnists. He also visited the Silivri No: 6 L-Type Closed Prison. The arrested defendants of the OdaTV trial Barış Pehlivan and Müyesser Yıldız Uğur; Ali Sirmen from the Cumhuriyet newspaper; Freedom for Journalists Platform (GÖP) President Atilla Sertel; CHP deputies Ali Rıza Öztürk and Mehmet Kesimoğlu stated that the visit did not reflect the realities.
Reactions to trials: In the three-month period, the professional associations followed the hearings of arrested journalists. The Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS), TGC, GÖP, the Platform for Solidarity with Arrested Journalists (TGDP), the Free Journalists (ANGA (‘the Journalist Friends of Ahmet and Nedim’), which had been formed to support Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, has become active under this name following the release of the two journalists), CHP deputies Melda Okur, İlhan Cihaner, Oktay Ekşi, journalists Doğan Tılıç, Ayşenur Arslan, Nazım Alpman, Şükran Soner, Ferai Tınç, Baha Okar, representatives from the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), representatives from the International Press Institution (IPI) and British Labour Party Deputy and Member of the European Parliament Michael Cashman attended the 12th hearing of the OdaTV trial on 18 June.
The Millions Want Justice Initiative (MAİ) published a statement on 28 May about the MLKP trial, which has been going on for the last six years. A total of 24 defendants are standing trial. Eleven of those defendants have been arrested pending the outcome. Among arrested defendants are Özgür Radyo (‘Free Radio’) broadcast coordinator Füsun Erdoğan, Atılım (‘Leap’) Newspaper’s general publication coordinator Sedat Şenoğlu, and Atılım Newspaper’s writer Bayram Namaz.
Contemporary Journalists Association (ÇGD) and TGS reacted against the bill of indictment of the ”KCK (Koma Civakên Kurdistan-Union of Communities in Kurdistan) trial,” which was accepted on 11 May.
MAİ made a statement before the 1 May hearing of the Revolutionary Headquarters Trial. Journalists Osman Baha Okar and Hakan Soytemiz are standing trial. Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Deputy Sebahat Tuncel, CHP Deputy Melda Onur, Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖDP) Head Alper Taş and journalist Ahmet Şık supported the statement. On 27 April, a press statement was made in front of the Beşiktaş Court House about the Revolutionary Headquarters trial.
Legislative proposals: On 19 June, CHP İstanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu presented a legislative proposal to the TBMM (Turkish Grand National Assembly) Presidency demanding that the article on ‘İnsulting the President’ (Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code) is annulled.
CHP Group Deputy Chairmen Akif Hamzaçebi and Muharrem İnce presented the TBMM Presidency a legislative proposal on 23 May, demanding that political parties should be able to use languages other than Turkish.
The draft by the government on Internet Media, which was taken up in November, was finalised on 17 April. The Internet Media Association stated that the government’s 17-article draft makes it easier for the employees of the Internet media to get yellow press cards and accreditations. It said however, that with this draft, the Internet media would be brought under supervision, just like the press, and lead to monopolisation. Parliamentary questions: In response to CHP Deputy Salih Fırat’s parliamentary question, EU Minister Egemen Bağış stated that there are a total of 92 arrested journalists. Bağış said that these journalists have been arrested because of gross misconducts such as attempting to change the constitutional order by force, membership in an armed terrorist organisation, making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organisation, provoking armed rebel against the government, knowingly and willingly aiding the terrorist organisation, and making propaganda on behalf of the organisation through the press. Bağış stated that among the imprisoned journalists, there are some, who have been arrested because of crimes such as robbery, escaping from military service, night-time looting, murder, kidnapping, intrusion, voluntary manslaughter, drug dealing, insult through an audio, written or video message, blackmail, and aggravated fraud.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said at the closure of the Turkey-Africa Media Forum, that there are a few journalists in Turkey, who have been imprisoned because of what they have written.
Reports-Statements-Meetings: In the three-month period, the Turkish Publishers’ Association, The International Federation for Human Rights (FDIH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the State Department of the United States of America (USA), Amnesty International (UAÖ), The Human Rights Common Platform (İHOP) and the Alternative Information Technologies Association presented the current situation in Turkey regarding freedom of expression and put forward their reaction.
A 167-page report prepared by the Radio and Television Higher Board (RTÜK) expert Fatih Yalçın was published on 14 June. In the report, it was stated that Oliver Stone’s film, Natural Born Killers, and TV series Kurtlar Vadisi (‘The Valley of Wolves’), Tek Türkiye (‘Only Turkey’), Güz Gülleri (‘Autumn Roses’), Adanalı (‘From Adana’), Ezel, Kollama and cartoons Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, Batman, He – Man, and Pokemon contain violence and lead to behaviour that may constitute crime and violence.
At the 8th İstanbul Gathering for the Freedom of Thought, forums were organized on 9 June regarding freedom of expression. The opening speeches were made by Eugene Schoulgin (PEN International), William Nygaard (Int. Publishers Asso.), Emma Sinclair Webb (HRW) and Andrew Gardner (Amnesty). Tarık Ali (Pakistan-Britain), Paul Auster (USA), Lydia Cacho (Mexico), Hans Branscheidt (MESOP Germany), Prof. Noam Chomsky (USA), John M. Coetzée (South Africa-Australia), Annie Game (IFEX), Karin D. Karlekar (Freedom House) and Nathalie Losekoot (Article 19) participated in the forum through multi-media messages. The participants conveyed their opinions and concerns regarding freedom of expression in Turkey. At the end of the organization, nine international institutions and 22 national institutions from five continents signed a declaration, which stated that there is increasing pressure on freedom of expression in Turkey and which warned Prime Minister Erdoğan, who himself was once a “criminal of thought.”
During the Turkish Publishing General Assembly, it was discussed why freedom of publishing is not possible.
Condemnations: The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the G-9 Journalist Organisations Platform formed by 11 professional associations, the Press Council, TGC, TGS, the İzmir Journalists Association (İGC) and many columnists from almost every newspaper, reacted against the words of Prime Minister Erdoğan during the Justice and Development Party (AKP) İstanbul Congress on 27 May. Erdoğan had said: “Vultures, we took off your collars, you put on international collars. “
The sports newspaper AMK (Open, Brave, Courageous) published on 9 June by Sözcü (‘Spokesman’) Newspaper got negative reactions. (Translator’s Note: ‘AMK’ is the abbreviation of a very rude Turkish curse). Mehveş Evin from Milliyet, Uğur Vardan from Radikal, Hıncal Uluç from Sabah, Ümit Alan from Birgün and MEDİZ-Women’s Media Monitoring Group, condemned the newspaper for its discriminatory approach and called on the readers not to buy the newspaper unless its name is changed.
Human Rights Association (İHD), on 27 May, called on Felicity (Saadet) Party to apologize from gays. The İHD Commission Against Racism and Discrimination stated that the “Adultery Should be a Crime – Homosexuality is Immoral” campaign by the Youth Branches of the Felicity Party organized in Eskişehir and Kocaeli, constitutes “hate propaganda.” In the statement it was said that “the Saadet Party is encouraging murder.”
ÇGD, TGC and the Press Institute Association condemned the reaction by the General Staff and Prime Minister Erdoğan against Bekir Coşkun’s article titled ‘Paşa’ (‘General’). The General Staff, on 3 May, had made a statement saying that certain writers and associations are tarnishing the honour of the Turkish General Staff with what they are writing. Erdoğan said “filth is dripping from his pen,” about Coşkun.
Campaigns organized in support of the journalists: GÖP, on 29 June, organized a “Vacate the Prisons – Freedom to Journalists” march at the İstiklal Avenue.
The employees of the Atılım (‘Leap’) newspaper and the Etkin (‘Active’) News Agency (ETHA) gathered at the Çağlayan Court House on 28 June and protested the police raid that took place on 26 June. TGDP and TGS condemned the raid. Freedom for Balbay Initiative, Balbay Supporters Group, CHP Deputy Veli Ağbaba, Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül, Artists Initiative Group followed the hearings of Mustafa Balbay and Tuncay Özkan. The Free Journalists, TGDP, BDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, and BDP İstanbul Co-Chair Asiye Kolçak made statements against the oppression of Kurdish journalists and attended the protests.
The “Witness Days” was organized by GÖP for the imprisoned journalists on 5 June-28 June. The colleagues, co-workers and families drew attention to the contradictions in the bills of indictment of almost 100 journalists and publishers and called for them to be released.
Initiative for Supporting Fazıl Say organized a petition on 31 May for the composer and pianist, who faces up to 1,5 years in prison for ‘insulting religious values.’ The website ‘tutsakgundem.com,’ which was established to draw attention to the pressures imposed on the media, was launched on 7 May. The website includes a personal background of the imprisoned journalists, information on their journalism activities and the news they send from the prison. The members of Grup Yorum (‘Group Comment’) gave support to Seçkin Adoğan, who has been arrested on grounds of being a member of a terrorist organization on 14 May in front of the Tekirdağ Court House. Grup Yorum also protested the police raids ahead of its 13 May concert in Antakya, which was organized in support of the Syrian people.
Untrue news/disclaimer: Turkish Georgians Platform made a statement because of a news report published on 21 May in the Milliyet newspaper about the City of Batum in Georgia, titled “Entrance to Sin City 1 Turkish Lira.” In the statement, it was said that this attitude, which targets a country, a city, and a people, is racist.
The Agos newspaper, on 22 April launched the ‘As the Armenians of the world, we protest the Hurriyet newspaper!’ campaign on Facebook. It drew attention to the fact that the newspaper frequently uses a discriminatory language, which may be considered as racist in its reports and comments.
”3 May” messages: On 3 May World Press Freedom Day, ‘RSF, UAÖ, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ), TGDP, GÖP, TGC, The Turkish Press Council, the Press Institute Association, CHP İstanbul deputy Süleyman Çelebi and BDP Deputy Co-Chair Filiz Koçali protested the arbitrary detention and arrest of journalists, and drew attention to the fact that the definition of terrorism in the Anti-Terror Law is vague and wide.
News from associations: The Press Council’s Head Orhan Birgit handed over the GÖP presidency to TGF Head and İzmir Journalists’ Society Head Atilla Sertel on 2 April. Sertel handed over the presidency to TGS Head Ercan İpekçi on 4 June.
The Press Institute Association, which constitutes the Turkey National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI) elected its new management on 3 April. Former Hürriyet columnist Ferai Tınç, who had been the president of the association since 2004, was not a candidate this year. Milliyet columnist Kadri Gürsel became the new president.
TGC celebrated its 66th year on 10 June. On the anniversary, TGC President Orhan Erinç talked about the problems of the media. Erinç drew attention to the Specially Authorised Courts, which are products of the state of emergency, the penal code articles, which limit the freedom of expression and the shortcomings of the Press Law.
Fired for what they wrote
Goodbye to Medya Mahallesi (‘Media Neighbourhood’): Ayşenur Arslan, who prepares and presents the Media Mahallesi programme on the private TV channel CNN Türk, made a farewell speech during the programme on 8 June. Arslan said that Medya Mahallesi made an early finale. CNN Türk did not make any statements as to why Arslan was made to take a leave and why the programme ended the season early. Many viewers signed the petition on social media launched to call on the channel to continue the programme.
Akel was fired: Ali Akel was fired for writing an article titled, “You do not explain an apology, you just apologise” about the Uludere incident on 25 May in the Yeni Şafak (‘New Dawn’) newspaper. He had been working at the newspaper for 16 years. EMEK Party, Özgür Der, GÖP, and ÇGD published statements on 30 May criticising the decision. They stated that the firing decision demonstrates the prime minister’s intolerance for criticism and disrespect for freedom of press and expression. Bekir Bozdağ on 3 June rejected allegations that the government demanded that Akel be fired. Babahan was laid off: Ergun Babahan, who tweeted, “America can shove that cup” after the Fenerbahçe-Galatasaray match on 12 May, caused eyebrows to raise. His column in the Star newspaper was suspended. Todays Zaman Chief Executive Editor Bülent Keneş tweeted that Babahan had been laid off. (EG/BA)