The day independent journalists were jailed

One year ago today some forty-eight journalists were detained in Turkey in perhaps the harshest attack on media to date. They were mostly working for Kurdish media, Ozgur Gundem, DIHA News Agency, ANF.

It is not a coincidence that in the report they released yesterday Reporters Without Borders called Turkey the world’s biggest prison for journalists. Today in prison there are, according to RSF, a total of 72 media workers in Turkish jails, of them 42 are journalists. The international organisation said these figures only related to cases they have established being against media workers. Other cases are still being investigated by RSF.

Indeed according to the Platform for Freedom for Jailed Journalists on 18 December there were 74 journalists in prison.

The operation on 20 December 2011 was launched by the Special Authorized Court Office and was grounded on Anti-terror Law. It was part of the so called KCK (Kurdish Communities Union), the specifically designed operation which has been targeting Kurds in whatever way they organise (being it democratically elected institution, unions, civil society, cultural organisations, unions etc) within the society. The charges are so vague that indeed anyone with an interest (however slight) in Kurdish issues could be accused of being part of this KCK structure.

The media, specifically the Kurdish, left wing and independent media, could not go untouched by this wave of frenzy repression of anything that has to do with Kurds. And indeed they were attacked in the most vicious way. Scores of journalists have been detained and many of them today are still in prison.

On 15 September 2012 the trial opened and it was even clearer then that the journalists are in prison for what they wrote. News on environment, labor, politics, women, life, culture, art and daily developments were defined as criminal evidences in the indictment which was prepared by Public Prosecutor Bilal Bayraktar and accepted by Istanbul 15th High Criminal Court on 11 May.

So the trial is indeed against men and women but it is also against freedom of press.

The journalists’ interviews, reports and phone conversations are put forward as criminal evidences of membership and leadership of an illegal organization. The news published on Fırat News Agency (ANF) are presented as evidences of Kurdish press’ link to the PKK. It is also claimed that Roj Tv broadcasts on deaths in conflicts aim to provoke the people.

The indictment also argues that the interview with BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, news on BDP panel discussions and Öcalan’s meeting notes are to be considered as Kurdish press’ link to the “terror organization”, referring to the PKK.

Last night in Istanbul there was a rally to ask freedom for the journalists and freedom of press and thought. Many more rallies are planned. Journalists around the world are sending solidarity messages to their colleagues well aware that freedom of the press is constantly in danger.

As the journalists in prison wrote to colleagues “defending the freedom of press is not only our responsibility but the duty of journalism organizations as well. We are asking you to be a legal intervening party to the litigation procedure so that you may observe this case which is the principal case with respect to freedom of press. Your becoming intervening party will also reveal how “terrible journalism organization” we organized to commit “crime”. This appeal reflects for us a call for defending journalism principles and ethic as well the principles of free press. But it is also an appeal to stop alternative sources of information of society being attacked”.

Nucan Cudi / NEWS DESK

ANF NEWS AGENCY