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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

French journalist Mathias Depardon was detained almost a month ago while taking photographs for National Geographic close to Hasankeyf, a historical area of Southeast Anatolia that will soon be inundated by the waters from a controversial dam.

Since that day, Depardon has been kept in isolation despite announcements that he would be deported. In protest at his treatment, the journalist launched a hunger strike, ending it after finally being permitted to meet with French consular officials on 27 May.

We are currently witnessing that even foreign journalists are now receiving their share of Turkey’s oppression. Turkey’s government, which has altered the media landscape in the country and exerted pressure on the press in an effort to manufacture consent for its policies, has become uncomfortable with the international media. At present, it is attempting to prevent international media representatives from accessing the news in Turkey by canceling permits, deporting journalists, declaring media professionals as spies and arresting press workers.

Accessing the news is a universal right; no one can restrict this right by criminalizing international media representatives. We demand the immediate release of all captive journalists, particularly French journalist Mathias Depardon, as well as Dicle News Agency (DİHA) Board of Directors Chair Zekeriya Güzüpek and Kurdish Editor Mehmet Ali Ertaş.

The chief web editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper, DİSK Basın-İş member Oğuz Güven, was detained by police in a house raid this morning. Naturally, we weren’t surprised, as we have all born witness to what has happened to Cumhuriyet in recent months.

Today is World Press Freedom Day. For many in Turkey, it’s a day that has become like many others; for others, it’s a day on which announcements remind us about how far we have fallen in the world press freedom index. But it’s not a day of just mere words or statistics – especially for those held captive or their loved ones. We have shouted ourselves hoarse declaring that press freedom is a precondition for democracy and any system that recognizes human rights. But in a Turkey with journalists who are under arrest, on trial or deprived of the ability to make a living, such a situation restricts every citizen’s right to speak.

We’ve witnessed people in this country with banners proclaiming “Down with human rights,” as well as people that say “So-called defenders of human rights.” We’ve now come to the point in which there aren’t even any “so-called human rights.” Instead, with the European Convention on Human Rights suspended, we have an interminable state of emergency.

We know that beautiful days will return to this soil. Duly, we will work to maintain and plant new seeds of hope.

And a word to our colleagues and professional organizations: journalism is about acting as a witness to history, not prosecutors. The job of a journalist is to cover stories that are in the public interest. As such, in an era when the pressures have increased to such a degree, professional organizations must be as bold as the government. They must seek to protect freedoms, not the status quo.

We repeat once more that it is unacceptable for our colleagues to be consigned to languishing in isolation in prison and that they must be released immediately. We will continue to raise our voice for a country in which media organizations are not closed and journalists are not subjected to every manner of oppression.

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