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.