August 8, 2014

2 men sentenced to 24 days in prison for burning Zaman daily

The Ankara 16th Criminal Court of First Instance recently ruled that two men who burned some copies of the Zaman daily belonging to a citizen in Ankara, after they stole the newspapers from the Zaman subscriber's mailbox, be sentenced to 24 days in prison and pay a fine of TL 833 each.

The Ankara court found Mustafa Korkmaz and Onur Tunç guilty of violating Article 22/1 of the Press Law, which prohibits the harming of publications that are printed in accordance with the law and the prevention of such publications from being distributed and sold.

However, the pro-government Sabah daily distorted the story with the title, “Two men who picked up Zaman dailies from the ground and threw them away found guilty by court.”

A citizen named Nur Kozak filed a complaint with an Ankara court after she could not find the daily in her mailbox and saw part of the daily burned on the street. The court found the two men guilty on the grounds that they had breached the Press Law and violated the right to information.

In its verdict, the court ruled that stealing the daily from the subscriber's mailbox and burning it was a violation of the right to information as defined in the Press Law.

Along with the Zaman subscriber, the daily's distributor, Mehmet Ali Ede, also filed a complaint against the perpetrators, as he witnessed the two men stealing the newspaper from the mailbox. Ede asked the perpetrators why they had taken the newspaper, complaining that the subscriber might blame him and warning them not to repeat this crime.

According to Ede's statement, the two men responded by saying: "It's none of your business. We know her. If necessary, we will deliver the newspaper to her." Following the incident, Ede saw one of the perpetrators, Korkmaz, burning the daily. Therefore, Ede called the police and informed them of the incident. When the police arrived at the scene, they noted that the two men had burned the daily and then thrown it away.

The victim, Kozak, in her complaint, said that her freedom of communication had been violated by the two men, while the distributor Ede filed a complaint on the grounds that the two men had prevented him from doing his job. The head of the main distributor company of the Zaman daily, Adem Özcan, also filed a complaint against the perpetrators, saying they had prevented the company from doing its job.

The pro-government Sabah daily distorted the incident and the court's ruling in its news reports, claiming that the two men had been sentenced to prison for throwing the daily away instead of stealing and burning it, and covered the incident as though it were a plot by the so-called "parallel state" against ordinary citizens.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking at a rally in the Black Sea city of Tokat in July, urged people to boycott the Zaman media group, which was perceived as a major blow to media freedom and people's right to obtain information.

Denouncing media outlets supportive of the Hizmet movement, a social and religious grassroots organization that originated in Turkey and is inspired by the teachings of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, Erdoğan told supporters at the rally not to buy these newspapers. “Throw them away if they are delivered to your houses,” Erdoğan told people in Tokat. This openly discriminatory remark is not the first of its kind. Erdoğan made similar calls in the run-up to the March 30 local elections, targeting the Zaman and Today's Zaman dailies.

Following the start of Erdoğan's smear campaign against the Hizmet movement and the Zaman media group in particular, some citizens in İstanbul have been recorded stealing newspapers from the mailboxes of Zaman subscribers. A minor who was caught stealing newspapers told a Zaman subscriber who recorded the incident that he stole the newspapers because Zaman writes lies about the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). When asked to provide examples, the teenage boy -- who turned out to be the son of a local AK Party official -- was unable to do so. Similarly, Zaman sued a member of the municipal police for stealing the newspaper from some people's mailboxes, allegedly on the orders of an AK Party municipality. The municipal police officer is being tried, and prosecutors have requested a prison sentence of five years.

Erdoğan's smear campaign against sections of the media is the latest chapter in a longstanding psychological war. In March of this year, before, during and after the municipal elections, the Today's Zaman's website crashed repeatedly due to cyber attacks, causing temporary access problems for visitors, especially those coming from outside Turkey.

Published on Today's Zaman, 07 August 2014, Wednesday