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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.