Sidebar

10
Pzt, Ara

Back in January, a Turkish court meted out its punishment against journalists Ragıp Duran and DİSK Basın İş Board of Directors member Ayşe Düzkan over their participation in a solidarity campaign with the now-closed Özgür Gündem newspaper, together with Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol and Editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş.

The Istanbul 13th Court of Serious Crimes sentenced Aykol to three years and nine months in prison for conducting terrorist propaganda and Bektaş, Çelebi, Duran and Düzkan to 18 months in jail each. What’s more, the court declared that there was no cause for a reduction in their sentences, since “they didn’t show enough remorse in their behavior during the hearings.” As a result, the court refused to suspend the sentences, noting that it “did not come to the opinion that (the journalists) would not commit a similar crime in the future in the event that the sentences were suspended.”

The case went to appeal, but the court has upheld the sentence, declaring the sentences to be lawful.

Even if we don’t have the ability to alter the decisions of the judiciary, it behoves us to make a few corrections in the name of defending journalism, the truth and justice. Becoming “an editor-in-chief on duty” to demonstrate solidarity with Özgür Gündem is an obligation if one is to defend journalism, as well as freedom of the press and expression. Journalism is not a crime, and it is impossible to expect anyone to express remorse for something that is not a crime.

Rather than remorse, we feel pride at how our Board of Directors member and our journalistic friends have shown solidarity with the paper. We’re not trying to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again in the future; instead, we’re emphasizing that we will again defend journalism when necessary. It’s simply part of having a conscience.

At a time when the charter rights related to freedom of the press and expression are trampled upon and even the Supreme Court has effectively ceased to be, we know well that it is impossible to claim that the courts “correctly interpreted the incident” — as they purport to have done in this case — and that these punishments are political, rather than legal.

We have defended journalism, and we will continue to do so. Most importantly, we’re not remorseful about doing so.

The punishments against Hüseyin Aykol, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Hüseyin Bektaş, Ragıp Duran and our Board of Directors member Ayşe Düzkan are unjust. We loudly proclaim once more that we stand shoulder to shoulder with all journalists that have been wronged by the law.

 

About case

A Turkish court has upheld prison sentences that a lower court originally passed on 16 January 2018 against journalists Ragıp Duran and DİSK Basın-İş Board of Directors member Ayşe Düzkan for participating in the “Editor-in-Chief on Duty” campaign with the now-closed Özgür Gündem newspaper. At the same time, the higher court also upheld sentences against Özgür Gündem Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol and two of the paper’s editors, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş. 

As a result of the latest decision, Aykol will spend three years and nine months in prison for conducting terrorist propaganda, while Bektaş, Çelebi, Düzkan and Duran will each serve 18 months.

As DİSK Basın-İş, we will continue to provide further updates on the matter.

On the eve of November 12, the Israeli army bombed Al-Aqsa Canal, one of the most important sources of information, during the attack on Gaza, and demolished a few houses where the civilians resided. Two Israeli soldiers and seven Palestinian civilians lost their lives during the Monday night conflict. Al Aksa Channel began broadcasting shortly after. Many journalists wearing vests with the sign PRESS were targeted, and some lost their lives, during the Great Return March protests since 30th March, Land Day for the Palestinians. Targeting media organizations and journalists in times of conflict is a method that many military forces resort to, and is primarily an attack on the public's right of access to news. DİSK Basin-Is condemns the Israeli Army's attacks on Palestinian media and journalists, and we declare that we advocate our colleagues and the the right of access to news of the people all over the world.

For quite some time, Cumhuriyet newspaper has been a target of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). They took the newspaper’s journalists captive and sought to sentence them to dozens of years in prison. They tried everything, only to run into the resistance of the journalists who work there. When the newspaper’s administrators and writers were arrested, others stepped up to assume their place out of a sense of solidarity. Naturally, it makes us proud to say that one of those was our chair, Faruk Eren.

This time, however, those that couldn’t destroy Cumhuriyet from the outside opted to use the fifth column from within, making common cause with those who would run the paper into the ground – so long as it became theirs. Such people sent informants’ letters to the palace, resulting in the arrest of journalists. While journalists at home and abroad were engaged in solidarity, they revealed themselves to be witnesses for the prosecution.

Ultimately, they succeeded, grabbing the positions they so lusted after. Alev Coşkun, who provided testimony against Cumhuriyet employees, became the Cumhuriyet Foundation chair, while Aykut Küçükkaya was named editor-in-chief.

No sooner had they assumed their positions than they put their plans into practice. They set about altering the paper’s front page while removing our chair and acting Cumhuriyet news editor, Faruk Eren, as well as DİSK Basın-İş member and Cumhuriyet News Editor Bülent Özdoğan.

We know well who is behind this, as well as how they acted as strike breakers when the laborers at Cumhuriyet’s printing shop began labor action. What’s more, we know of their greed for power.

And as we know them, they know us. They knew well that our friends would not pledge fealty to them simply to remain in their positions. They knew well that our friends would continue to protect journalism and editorial independence under any circumstance. That’s why their first target was DİSK.

But every time you target the workers of Cumhuriyet, you will find DİSK as an opponent.

And in the face of this purge at Cumhuriyet, we call on all labor, professional and democratic groups, especially journalistic organizations, to defend the right to the news and the profession of journalism.

Oğuz Güven, Cumhuriyet newspaper’s chief online news editor, went before a judge today for a tweet that read “cut in half by a truck” – a tweet that stayed online for a grand total of 52 seconds.

Güven, a member of DİSK Basın-İş, had already spent a month in prison under arrest for the tweet, “Car belonging to prosecutor in FETÖ case cut in half by truck,” before he was released pending trial. Today, Güven was sentenced to three years and one month in jail for “conducting terrorist propaganda” and “disseminating terrorist propaganda.”

The journalist plans to appeal the case.

The reading of Güven’s verdict lasted a total of just 52 seconds. The fact that the judge took such a symbolic amount of time represents yet another threat to journalists. More than just a lesson to his colleagues and profession, the judge’s indifferent “chopping down” of his raison d’être, the law, in 52 seconds provides yet another indication of how the law in our country – which has been deprived of freedom of expression for so long – has become a stick in the hands of the government.

At the same time, Güven’s news stories and retweet from previous years were also presented as evidence of criminal action – to the degree that prosecutors didn’t even use the current definition of terrorist propaganda but dusted off the version from 1992 to prepare their indictment. And even though Güven’s defense repeatedly poked holes in the prosecution’s case, the court sentenced the journalist to jail time.

With Güven’s trial, journalism in Turkey has again been declared guilty. What’s more, they did this by even ignoring their own laws that they put in place. According to the press law, the statute of limitations for opening a case against a news story is four months, but in their effort to present some of Güven’s tweets from 2015 as evidence, they also murdered justice, just as they betrayed their own profession.

As DİSK Basın-İş, we wish to remind everyone that press freedom is not the freedom to only do stories that please the government and that freedom of expression and journalistic activities are not a crime. We’d also like to note that freedom of expression, the right to acquire and present the news, as well as true law and justice, is needed by everyone.

The justification for Oğuz Güven’s punishment can be used to declare everyone guilty, and this latest ruling is emblematic of why Turkey has turned into a prison for journalists.

We will continue our struggle until Oğuz Güven and all journalists, especially those languishing in jail, are liberated and freedom of the press and expression is guaranteed.

You can’t try journalism and the people’s right to acquire the news.

DİSK Basın-İş

Six of our colleagues who have been held captive for the past nine months as part of the case against Cumhuriyet newspaper have been released, but Akın Atalay, Kadri Gürsel, Murat Sabuncu and Ahmet Şık remain behind bars. Our colleagues showed to all during five days of hearings that they would not bow down to lies and slander and that they would not obey pressure exerted at the whim of authorities. It was Ahmet Şık that best encapsulated the stance of all these journalists: “I’m not just speaking for me but for all my colleagues; I’ve only bowed down to kiss the hand of my mother and father until now. That won’t change from now on either.”

Our colleagues did not make a defense in the court but an accusation; they were not on trial but were the ones putting the system on trial. Their resistance offered a source of hope for everyone in Turkey, in which pressure gains a new dimension with every passing day.

The coordinating group in which DİSK Basın-İş participated also displayed some of the most profound moves toward solidarity in recent times. The fostering of international solidarity ensured that the word about the case was successfully spread. Even if the public as a whole couldn’t enter the courtroom, it was able to follow the case minute by minute thanks to the “journalists on the outside” and Cumhuriyet’s lawyers.

We will not abandon our four colleagues still being held captive in the Cumhuriyet case or our other colleagues being held in prison.

This case also offered us a chance to see once more the importance of solidarity. We express our gratitude to international organizations, especially the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Press Institute (IPI) and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the Journalists on the Outside group, lawyers, those that drew the proceedings in the court and everyone else that made a contribution.

We will stand firm in our courageous position and continue to foster solidarity against those that lie about our colleagues, slander them and declare them traitors.

 

Solidarity is our greatest weapon against despotism.

Freedom to journalists

Diğer Makaleler...