The 2nd session of the 3rd hearing of lawsuit of 46 indicted journalists of them 33 arrested is going on in Silivri Istanbul 15th High Penalty Courthouse. Extraordinary security measures were taken in front of the hearing, as the independent journalists are facing terrorist charges on ridiculous grounds.
”The government wants to set an example. Journalists are being told; There are limits on what you are allowed to say.”
Dozens of journalists have gone on trial in Turkey accused of terrorism for backing an illegal Kurdish group. ”This trial is clearly political,” says Ertugrul Mavioglu, an investigative journalist whose terrorism charges for interviewing Murat Karayilan, a member of the umbrella group KCK – which includes the Kurdistan Workers’ party – were dropped in December last year. ”The government wants to set an example,” he says. ”Journalists are being told;There are limits on what you are allowed to say.”
The hunting of journalists in Turkey is damn right outrageous! But it’s also an extreme example of an ongoing worldwide trend where governments and strong interests groups are using far more sophisticated methods to silence those who write stuff they don’t like.
It’s understandable in a world of growing social unrest, terrorist threats and violent protests, that leaders are afraid things may get out of control, but the crackdown on independent journalists and media is an even more dangerous way to go.
If this becomes the “new normal” it will prove – once and for all – that our beloved democracy have failed.
And then what ?
Forming A Pattern
Of the 44 journalists now on trial, 36 have been in detention since December 2011.
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the Turkish government for the prosecution of pro-Kurdish politicians and activists, and journalists who report their views.
Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher at Amnesty International, says: ”This prosecution forms a pattern where critical writing, political speeches and participation at peaceful demonstrations are used as evidence of terrorism offences.”
More than 100 journalists are in jail in Turkey,that’s more than in Iran or China, many of whom work for Kurdish media outlets.
About 800 more face charges and numerous journalists have been fired or have had to leave their jobs because of pressure from the government.
No Difference Between Bullets And Articles?
In a recent speech, the Minister of the Interior, Idris Naim Sahin, compared writers and journalists to Kurdistan Workers’ party fighters, saying there was ”no difference between the bullets fired in and the articles written in Ankara”.
Meral Danis Bektas, a lawyer, says Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was openly threatening journalists. ”This attitude creates a terrible climate for press freedom.”
Mr. Mavioglu suggested it was becoming increasingly difficult for Turkish journalists to do a good job. ”You can write anything, but only under constant threats of unemployment, fines, arrest or worse.”
The government says none of the journalists on trial have been arrested for their work, but because of terrorist offences.
Exposing Sexual Abuse
However, the 800-page indictment includes a charge of ”denigrating the state” against one journalist who wrote about sexual harassment at Turkish Airlines.
Other offending articles include reports on casualties in the conflicts between the Kurdistan Workers’ party and Turkish forces.
Facing between seven and 20 years in jail, the defendants are accused of belonging to the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), which the state says is the urban wing of the PKK.
Thirty-six of the 44 defendants have been in prison since December 2011 awaiting Monday’s start to the trial.
Another 46 journalists are in prison pending trial in different cases, according to the Solidarity Platform for Arrested Journalists.
Court Refuse Statements In Defendants Own Language
Judges emptied the public gallery and delayed the hearing’s start by several hours because of the noise created by family and friends calling out defendants’ names, waving and blowing kisses as they entered the courtroom.
After the raucous start, the court refused to hear testimony in Kurdish, the first language of most of the defendants.
“Using your mother language is like breathing. Should permission be sought when taking a breath?” says defendant Yuksel Genc, who read the only testimony in Turkish, Reuters reports.
According to the reports coming through, (not all does) Genç was detained in Beyoðlu and taken to the local police station.
Yuksel Genç was imedeatley handed down a prison sentence of 12 years and six months. She was a member of the “First Peace and Democratic Solution Group” that returned to Turkey in response to the call issued by PKK President Abdullah Öcalan on September 1, 1999.
Yüksel Genç didn’t participated into the trial as she had a transfer for hospital, Dicle News Agency reports.
The outcome of this hearing will probably be used by Turkish authorities to justify further hunting of critical journalists and writers in the country.
And if they get away with it, governments and interest groups in other countries may try to do the same.
This is bloody serious stuff!
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Other related articles:
- Erdogan’s ambition weighs on hopes for new Turkish constitution (dailystar.com.lb)
- PKK chief says will follow Öcalan’s solution model (worldbulletin.net)
- Alleged Kurdish extortion ring: France charges 11 (seattletimes.com)
All Human Rights Reserved (h) 2013