The Media Monitoring Report of the Independent Communication Network (BİA) for the first quarter of the year 2010 was presented by bianet editor Erol Önderoğlu in a press conference on 2 May. "The attempts to restrict free discussions related to conflicts between officials within state institutions were the reason for an increase of cases against journalists and other people who voiced their thoughts. As far as legal regulations are concerned, prison threats were prevalent", Önderoğlu indicated.
3 May was not and will not be a day of press freedom in Turkey as long as the judiciary takes ideological decisions that oppose the European Convention of Human Rights and make the ones challenging the "red lines" open subjects to attacks.
Whereas the government of the Justice and Development Party and the higher judiciary cannot agree on issues like the constitutional reform, the judiciary and the Kurdish initiative, they seem to be allies as far as the undermining of press freedom and freedom of expression are concerned.
216 people tried for their thoughts, 69 of them journalists
The Media Monitoring Report for January, February and March 2010 issued by the BİA Media Monitoring Desk reveals that a total of 216 people, among them 69 journalists and furthermore authors, publishers, caricaturists, politicians and other citizens, stand trial in cases related to freedom of thought and freedom of expression. During the first quarter of the previous year a total of 110 people were tried in this context, 60 of them journalists.
Two journalists (Vedat Kurşun and Erdal Güler) are behind bars because of their writings, publisher Bedri Adanır is imprisoned on the grounds of three books. At least 32 journalists were in prison during the first three months of 2010 in the context of operations directed at alleged illegal organizations; their implication in the activities of these organizations are yet unclear. Ten journalists were released again within the first quarter of the year, 21 are still in prison.
The report comprises the cases and struggles of 695 people on 33 pages and is organized under eight different headings: "Murdered Journalists", "Attacks and Threats", Arrests and Detentions", "Cases related to Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression", "Corrections and Legal Redress", "European Court of Human Rights", "Reactions to Censorship" and "Penalties of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK)".
Judicial pressure imposed on press freedom and freedom of expression cannot be hidden by "filters" applied by the Ministry of Justice such as "postponing the pronouncement of judgement", "probation" or article 301 (bans "insults to the Turkish state).
Prison threats of 148 years for "Insult"
During the first three months of this year, 48 people, 19 of them journalists, stood trial under allegations of article 125 (Defamation) of the Turkish Criminal Law (TCK) or other provisions related to "insult". In total, they face imprisonment of up to 148 years. Seven of them received prison sentences of three years, 1 month and 27 days altogether, besides monetary fines amounting to TL 23,780 (€ 11,890).
Moreover, one caricaturist, three media institutions (NTV television station, Evrensel newspaper and bianet) and another15 people, among them 13 journalists, were tried on the grounds of "violation of personal rights via the media" and faced compensation claims of altogether TL 1,278,000 (€ 639,000). Claims of a total of TL 330,000 (€ 165,000) were accepted by the courts.
Compared to the previous year, the total demand of prison sentences for the months of January, February and March 2009 amounted to 61 years; compensation claims stood at TL 1,673,000 (€ 796,666).
Nazlı Ilıcak, Cüneyt Arcayürek, Hüseyin Kocabıyık, Michael Dickinson, Melih Kaşkar, Fatma Sarıbıyık, Yalçın Ergündoğan, Mahmut Alınak, Ali Tarakçı and Emrullah Özbey were convicted in the first three months of 2010.
Dickinson, Kaşkar and Alınak were convicted of their imputations related to Prime Minster Erdoğan, Ilıcak was found guilty for describing Judge Osman Kaçmaz as obstructive.
6.5-fold increase in the number of TMY defendants!
A total of 103 people, including 15 journalists, were tried under charges of "printing or publishing statements or announcements of terror organizations", "spreading propaganda of a terror organization" or "disclosing or publishing the identity of officials on anti-terrorist duties, or identifying such persons as targets".
New cases related to the Anti-Terror Act (TMY) were opened against Kurdish politicians Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk, Nurettin Kurt, Hasan Kılıç, Rıfat Başaran and 17 members of the Peace Groups.
In the context of the Kurdish question, a two-month publication ban was imposed on the Kurdish Azadiya Welat newspaper; Hakan Tahmaz from Birgün newspaper, Veysi Sarısözen from Günlük newspaper, Rıfat Başaran from Radikal newspapers and Namık Durukan from Milliyet newspaper face imprisonment.
Six people (Vedat Kurşun, Murat Kolca, İrfan Dündar, Fırat Aydınkaya, Ozan Kılınç and Fehmi Kılıç) were convicted according to the TMY and sentenced to 28 years and five months imprisonment and a TL 16,660 (€ 7,935) monetary fine in total. For the same period of the previous year, 16 defendants received prison sentences of four years and eight months in total.
27 defendants accused of "praising crime and criminals"
27 people, four journalists among them, stood accused of "praising crime and a criminal" according to article 215 of the TCK. Osman Baydemir and Mahmut Aydıncı were handed down monetary fines of TL 3,000 (€ 1,500) in total. New cases were opened against Ali Barış Kurt, Mehmet Nuri Kökçüoğlu, Pınar Sağ and Mehmet Özmen.
21 conscientious objectors on trial, Aydemir in prison
Conscientious objector Enver Aydemir is being detained in the Eskişehir Military Prison (north-western Turkey) since 21 January. 19 human rights defenders who supported Aydemir are tried under article 318 of the TCK for "alienating the public from the military". Other defendants are Ali Barış Kurt and Mehmet Nuri Kökçüoğlu.
Delayed release means punishment!
Erdal Güler, responsible manger of the Devrimci Demokrasi ('Revolutionary Democracy') newspaper, and Vedat Kurşun from the Kurdish Azadiya Welat newspaper are behind bars under allegations of "publishing praise' for organizations such as the PKK or the Maoist Communist Party (MKP). Kurşun is facing imprisonment of up to 525 years; Güler will not be released before 2014.
Publication director of the GazeteVatan.com website, Aylin Duruoğlu, and Mehmet Yeşiltepe from the Devrimci Hareket ('Revolutionary Movement') magazine were both released at their first hearings after 10 months of detention. Another eight journalists were released during the first quarter of the year.
Bedri Adanır, concessionaire of Aram Publishing and official of the Hawar newspaper, faces prison sentence of up to 31 years. Adanır has been in jail for the past four months and stands accused of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization" and "praising a criminal" on the grounds of three books.
Former Ankara correspondent of Cumhuriyet newspaper Mustafa Balbay was detained in the context of the operation related to the "Ergenekon Organization" under allegations of "changing the constitutional order by armed force". Aydınlık magazine writer Emcet Olcayto stands accused of "membership of an illegal organization", journalist Tuncay Özkan faces allegations of "membership of an illegal organization and a coup attempt". Balbay, Olcayto and Özkan have been detained for the past 14 months.
Gün TV official Ahmet Birsin is being detained for a year now since an operation against the Democratic Confederation of Kurdistan (KCK), the umbrella organisation that includes the PKK. Adana Radio Dünya publication director Kenan Karavil and Seyithan Akyüz from Azadiya Welat are behind bars as well.
Özgür Radio publication director Füsun Erdoğan was detained in the course of an operation against the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP); Erdoğan and İbrahim Çiçek, Atılım magazine publication co-ordinator, have been in detention for three and a half years now.
Deniz Yıldırım, Aydınlık magazine publication director, and Ufuk Akaya, National Channel intelligence chef, are in jail in the Silivri Prison since 9 November 2009 because they got hold of records regarding telephone conversations of Prime Minister Erdoğan.
Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter İsmail Eskin was arrested on 4 December 2009 when he was covering a demonstration and has been in detention ever since. DİHA reporter Hatice Özhan is detained in the Ağrı Prison since 19 February because of her participation in a program on Kurdish ROJ TV and by reason of a telephone conversation with the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Headquarters.
The journalists' lawyers and professional journalism organizations criticize that this kind of case files comprise grave errors of procedure such as "keeping the file confidential for a year", "converting detention into punishment" and "restricting the right to defence".
Statute of limitation should be lifted for journalist murders!
The Social Memory Platform was initially created by families of killed politicians, whose cases remained unsolved. Members of the platform now also supported the family of murdered Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. The platform advocates for an initiative by the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the political parties with the aim to lift the statute of limitation for this kind of murder.
The state did not touch upon any of the instigators of the murders of Ümit Kaftancıoğlu, Abdi İpekçi, Çetin Emeç, Uğur Mumcu and Ahmet Taner Kışlalı. The same danger is now lurking in the context of the Hrant Dink murder and the murder of journalist Cihan Hayırsevener which happened on 18 December 2009 in Bandırma (southern coast of the Sea of Marmara).
5 journalists attacked, 4 threatened
Journalists Cenker Tezel, Emrah Güner, Tamer Topçu, Ertuğrul Yılmaz and Ozan Özhan were attacked during the first three months of the year. Journalists Dilek Karakoyun, Fırat Alkaç, Celal Yıldız, Ramazan Pekgöz and Agos and Taraf newspapers were threatened.
Though the local journalists do not remain indifferent to the violence they have experienced, officials elected and appointed by the state cannot be brought before the judiciary.
Eventually, the state took action in respect to threats that were sent to Prof. Dr Baskin Oran, former member of the Prime Ministry Human Rights Advisory Council, by the Turkish Revenge Brigade (TİT) during the past three years. However, the prosecutor may assess writings sent to the Turkish-Armenian Agos newspaper related to minorities and containing curses and threats against Oran as "freedom of thought" expressed by an "Agos writer".
OSCE and RSF criticize internet law
Bilgi University Assoc. Dr Yaman Akdeniz prepared the "Report on Internet Censorship in Turkey" for the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Akdeniz called for a reform of the Turkish Law on Internet Crimes (no. 5651). In March this year, RSF added Turkey to the organization's list of countries "under surveillance" due to internet censorship.
ECHR punishments increased by 100 percent!
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decreed for a total of TL 133,000 (€ 66,500) in monetary and moral compensation including legal costs to be paid by Turkey in the first quarter of the year. Turkey was convicted of violating freedom of expression in five cases comprising the applications of 24 people. The sum of fines for the same period of time in the previous year amounted to TL 58,122 (€ 29,061).
Applicants to the ECHR were Adnan Görkan, Esmer Savgın and Kerem Savgın; furthermore the newspapers Gündem, Yedinci Gün, Haftaya Bakış, 19 employees of the Yaşamda Demokrasi newspaper and Çağrı magazine official Aziz Özer. (EÖ/VK)