Thousands of people demanded the release of journalists who are arrested and imprisoned in the scope of the Ergenekon probe during a demonstration in the popular Istanbul district of Beyoğlu on Sunday (13 March). The most prominent figures recently arrested are journalists and book authors Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık.
Ergenekon is a clandestine terrorist organization charged with several crimes with the ultimate aim to trigger a coup d'état.
The protest march was organized by the Freedom for Journalists Platform (GÖP) and drew attention to violations of press freedom. The attendants demanded to amend laws to eliminate restrictions before freedom of expression, first and foremost the Turkish Criminal Law (TCK).
Thousands of people joined the walk from Galatasary Square along Istiklal Avenue to Taksim Square, among them representatives from the media and politics and also artists. The families of the detained journalists attended the demonstrations as well as renowned figures such as TV journalist Uğur Dündar, Head of the IPI Turkey National Committee Ferai Tınç, Democratic Society Party (DTP) Diyarbakır MP Akın Birdal, musician and former MP Arif Sağ, Milliyet newspaper General Publications Director Sedat Ergin, writer Metin Uca, Radikal newspaper Publications Director Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Ahmet Hakan, journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, TV journalist and lecturer Haluk Şahin, NTV host Mirgün Cabas, journalist Mete Çubukçu, former Hürriyet newspaper Editor-in-Chief Oktay Ekşi, musician Derya Köroğlu, politican Prof. Necla Arat, documentarist Ümit Kıvanç, ATV jouranlist Zafer Arapkirli, Boxer magazine columnist Kanat Atkaya, journalist and writer Ece Temelkuran, journalist Musa Ağacık, journalist and bianet Co-ordinator Ertuğrul Kürkçü, journalist Rıdvan Akar, journalist Mehmet Tezkan, director Çayan Demirel, , writer and interpreter Yıldırım Türker, director Sırrı Süreyya Önder, interpreter Murat Çelikkan, journalist Füsun Özbilgen, journalist Yılmaz Özdil and journalist Leyla Umar.
Other public figures who supported the demonstration were Filiz Karakuş from the Socialist Feminist Collective, Masis Kürkçügil, journalist Kamil Tekin Sürek, Özgür Mumcu, socialist-feminist writer Gülnur Acar Savran, Agos newspaper General Publications Director Rober Kopbaş, Arat Dink, lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu, Mustafa Türker, lawyer Turgut Kazan, Head of the Istanbul Bar Association Ümit Kocasakal and the Bar Association's former Head Kazım Kolcuoğlu.
"For my pen, my book, my honour"
The journalists were holding a chain, covered their mouths with a band and carried photographs of their detained colleagues. They chanted slogans such as "Ahment and Nedim will get out and write again", "Don't be silent but scream, press freedom is a right", "AKP, hands off the media", "A free press cannot be silenced" or "For my pen, my book, my honour".
A joint press release was read out by Ercan İpekçi, the current President of the Freedom for Journalists Platform. He said that they went on the street not out of concern that the journalists are being tried, arrested and threatened but out of concern about the restriction of the people's right to be informed.
"68 journalists are in prison, 45 journalists are being tried un-detained. More than 2,000 court cases are pending against journalists, more than 4,000 investigations are being carried out", İpekçi said.
"This situation is the works of the people who are governing this country. Have a close look at this picture... This is picture is a shame!" İpekçi argued.
"We are the only voice for the detained journalists"
bianet talked to journalists who attended the demonstration.
Hüseyin Tahmaz, editor of the Turkish news channel CNN Türk: "We made this demonstration because we cannot resort to anything else buy writing and walking against this injustice. We were all startled by this coup attempt when the Ergenekon trial started. We had enough hope to support Turkey in uncovering the worrying dark days since the 1970s. We started to be confused because the trial takes that long and waves [of arrests] are still being continued. Just then, the Ergenekon prosecutors helped to clear up our confusion. The ones who included names of people into this case without even being aware of the books they wrote, of the fact that they spent their lives fighting to uncover this kind of gangs, they have proven that they created a bag to put in everybody they consider as opposition to the hunt they are carrying out"
Ceren Cevahir Gündoğan, Producer: We demonstrated for press freedom and freedom of expression. We protested against taking opponents into clamps by using the Ergenekon procedures as an excuse. These protest actions should be done constantly. I do not think we will create a difference if our attitude is not persistent after this protest today and if we do not direct this energy properly.
Rober Koptaş, General Publications Director of the Armenian Agos newspaper: "There are many issues related to the arrest and imprisonment of our two colleagues that we cannot align with our mind and conscience. In my opinion, the prosecution should be much more careful in carrying out the Ergenekon investigation. Many questions arose by the arrests that do not explain anything about the reasons and the alleged offences of the people".
"It is said that the reasons for the arrests are not related to journalistic activities. We are all filled with indignation that both Ahmet and Nedim were interrogated about their journalistic activities and that they were put in jail thereupon. I think that the Ergenekon trial is absolutely crucial and just because of this we believe that this matter should be handled absolutely correct. (...)"
Önder Çakar, Screenwriter: I know Ahmet personally quite well. And I know about his affiliation with socialism. I think the latest developments are a provocation of the groups that organize Ergenekon because they are trying to unite people from opposite fronts who should not be together. In that way they are trying to divide the people in Ergenekon supporters and opponents of the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party]. However, there are different ways as well. There are socialists in this country. In my opinion, this is a provocation". (NV/EK/AS/EÖ/VK)