It seems that Turkey will continue to be a country that has not internalised democracy and where everyone, who express their opinions, live under the threat of a prison sentence as long as the Kurdish problem is not solved through peaceful means, the parliamentary democratic system is not solidified and the problems are not openly discussed.
As the non-solution of the Kurdish Problem and the deadlock in politics deepens, violations of the freedom of media and expression have elevated to the level of the 90s, when there was a "low density" war between the Turkish Armed Forces and the PKK.
Limiting the investigation and prosecutions based on Turkish Penal Code 301 with the intervention of the Ministry of Justice, amending the Turkish Penal Code to convert prison sentences to fines, suspend them, "put off the announcement of the judgment," and similar arrangements have not proved meaningful in improving the standards of freedom of expression.
The number of thought criminals have doubled in a year!
According to the April-May-June 2010 Media Monitoring Report published by BIA Media Monitoring Desk, a total of 249 people, 53 of whom were journalists, are standing trial for expressing their thoughts. During the same period in 2009, a total of 125 people, 57 of whom were journalists, were on trial facing prison sentences or fines. The fact that there was a hundred percent increase in the number of people standing trial for expressing their opinions is worrisome.
The report, which covers a total of 471 people, 170 of whom are journalists, deals with the violations under the following titles: "attacks and threats", "detentions and arrests ", "cases of freedom of media and expression", "regulations and seeking one's rights", "European Court of Human Rights", "Reactions against censorship " and "RTUK (Radio and Television Higher Board) practices."
110 anti-terrorism law suspects!
The Anti-Terrorism Law (TMY) is one of the most effective means of systematically and illegally suppressing freedom of expression.
The number of TMY suspects is increasing steadily since 2008. In April-May-June 2010, a total of 110 people, 24 of whom were journalists, stood trial based on the anti-terrorism law. They all faced prison sentences. The number of suspects, which was 14 in 2008, rose to 20 in 2009.
The list of people, who were tried in the second quarter of the year, whose trial has just begun and those, who were acquitted or convicted: Ismail Besikci, Zeycan Balli Simsek, Cevdet Bagca, Ferhat Tunc, Fatih Tas, Leyla Zana (10), Ertugrul Mavioglu, Ali Kirca, Fehmi Kilic, Ziya Cicekci, Namik Durukan, Hasan Cakkalkurt, Roni Margulies, Adnan Demir, Ferhat Tuzer, Berna Yilmaz, Utku Aykar, 54 mayors of the closed-down Democratic Society Party (DTP), Mehmet Guler, Ragip Zarakolu, Ahmet Turk (8), Irfan Aktan, Merve Erol, Nedim Sener, Filiz Kocali, Ramazan Pekgoz, Hakan Tahmaz, Ibrahim Cesmecioglu, Bulent Yilmaz, Hamza Gunduz, Mehdi Tanrikulu, Vedat Kursun, Aysel Tugluk, Mahmut Alinak, Bedri Adanir, Selim Sadak (2), Hatip Dicle, 17 members of the Peace Group, Veysi Sarisozen, Veysi Urper and Ozlem Aktan.
Anti-Terrorism Law punishment handed to 10 people, 4 of whom are journalists
Azadiya Welat newspaper's head Vedat Kursun was sentenced to 166 years and 6 months in prison for publishing news that amount to "PKK propaganda." Cevdet Bagca, Mehmet Guler, Irfan Aktan, Merve Erol, Hamza Gunduz, Mahmut Alinak, Selim Sadak, Leyla Zana and Veysi Sarisozen were the others, who were handed punishments.
Widespread organisation accusations and arrests!
A total of 25 journalists are still in prison for "being related to an armed organisation" in Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), Kurdistan Labour Party (PKK), Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) or "Ergenekon" trials. Some suspects of PKK and Ergenekon files have taken their "prolonged arrests, which have turned into punishments" to the European Court of Human Rights.
Devrimci Demokrasi (Revolutionary Democracy) newspaper's head Erdal Guler and Azadiya Welat newspaper's former executive Vedat Kursun are currently in prison for "publications that praise" organisations such as PKK and the Maoist Communist Party (MKP). Guler will not be released before 2014.
A prosecutor has demanded a 50-year prison sentence for Bedri Adanir, the publisher of Aram Publishing and official of Hawar newspaper for "disseminating the organisation's propaganda" and "praising the guilty" in reports published in three books and magazines. Chief-editor Gurbet Cakar of Dengê Hevîya Jinê women's magazine, DIHA reporter Hamdiye Ciftci and Ali Konar from Azadiya Welat have recently been arrested.
Mustafa Balbay, the former Ankara representative of the daily Cumhuriyet (Republic), who was arrested within the framework of the "Ergenekon Organisation" operation has been in prison for more than 500 days for charges of "changing the constitutional order by force of arms." Under the same operation, Aydinlik (Bright) magazine's writer Emcet Olcayto and journalist Tuncay Ozkan have remained in prison since September 2008, for charges of "membership in the organization" in the case of Olcayto and "membership in the organization and attempted coup" in the case of Ozkan.
The preparation of the indictment regarding Gun (Day) TV official Ahmet Birsin, Adana Radio Dunya (World) chief editor Kenan Karavil and Seyithan Akyuz from Azadiya Welat, took more than a year. They had all been arrested in the operation against KCK.
Fusun Erdogan, the chief editor of Istanbul Ozgur (Free) Radio, and Ibrahim Cicek, publishing coordinator of Atilim (Dash) magazine, have been under arrest for almost four years now. They had been arrested in the MLKP operation.
Aydinlik magazine's chief-editor Deniz Yildirim and Ulusal (National) Channel's news chief Ufuk Akaya, have been in the Silivri Prison since 9 November 2009, for acquiring records of Prime Minister Erdogan's telephone conversations.
The G9 Platform, which represents 11 media organisations, has called for the abolishment of all articles in the Constitution, Turkish Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Law that limit the freedom of expression, and for the release of imprisoned journalists.
Jurisdiction more "sensitive" towards "personal rights" than ever!
10 journalists have stood trial in suits for a total of 1 million 779 thousand 002 Turkish Liras in damages.
Harun Aksoy and Nuri Aykon from Vakit (Time) newspaper were ordered by the court to pay indemnification of 616 thousand TL in the "Onbasi" (Corporal) case. The fine comes to a total of " million 300 thousand TL together with interest and court costs. Separately, writer Yalcin Ergundogan of the Sesonline.net web site was ordered to pay a compensation of 1, 500 TL.
A total of 17 people, 7 of whom were journalists, stood "defamation" cases; Berrin Tursun, Erdem Buyuk, Mujde Ar and Mustafa Arigumus were sentenced to a total of 4 years in prison.
While Baris Yarkadas and Meral Tamer were acquitted, caricaturist Halil Ibrahim Ozdabak's cases was dropped due to statute of response.
Six months in prison for supporting conscientious objection!
A total of 21 people, one of whom i a journalist, stood trial for charges of "alienating the people from military service" based on article 318 of the Turkish Penal Code. Volkan Sevinc, Gokce Otlu Sevimli, Halil Savda and Zarife Ferda Cakmak were sentenced to 6 months in prison each, for supporting conscientious objector Enver Aydemir.
Attacks increased from 2 to 6; detentions increased from 2 to 3
While five reporters (Mehmet Ali Unal, Veysel Polat, Omer Celik, Murat Altunos, Pinar Ural) and Dogan Media Holding became the target of attacks, three reporters (Serkan Demirel, Cagdas Kaplan and Remzi Coskun) were detained. In 2009, two journalists had been attacked and two had been detained.
Dramatic increase in ECHR penalties in the last two years!
Turkey has been ordered by the ECHR to pay fines to Abdulkerim Bingol, 12 employees of the Yedinci Gun (Seventh Day) and Toplumsal Demokrasi (Social Democracy) newspapers, Ercan Gul, Deniz Kahraman, Zehra Delikurt, Erkan Arslanbenzer, Ozcan Sapan, Norma Jeanne Cox, officials Fevzi Saygili and Nizamettin Taylan Bilgic of the Gunluk Evrensel newspaper a total of 75 thousan euros for violating their freedom of expression.
ECHR penalties have increased 645 percent compared with the same period in 2009. In 2009, the penalty was 11 thousand 613 euros. The increase has been continuing since 2008 when the penalty was only 8 thousand euros.
Journalist murders remain unpunished!
None of the instigators of the Abdi Ipekci, Ugur Mumcu, Ahmet Taner Kislali and Hrant Dink murders in the last 30 years, have been brought to light. While the security forces' crimes against journalists remain unpunished, "state negligence" in the Dink murder was not discussed thoroughly. (EO/EA/TK)