February 1, 2015

EFJ representative visits Zaman, says journalists not arrested in democratic countries

Barry White, the Britain-based National Union of Journalists (NUJ) representative of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), recently visited the headquarters of the Zaman daily -- which was raided on Dec. 14 as part of a government-backed media crackdown -- and said that journalists are not arrested for doing their job in democratic countries.

Meeting with Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, who was among those detained during the Dec. 14 operation, White said it is not compatible with democracy to detain or arrest journalists in order to put pressure on them. “These arrests block people's right to information and prevent them from taking their own decisions about democracy. The thing that happened to Zaman is an example of the prevention of journalistic activities. All newspapers should unite to fight against this.”

White also said the EFJ has long supported Turkish journalists, many of whom have been exposed to attacks due to their journalism, and that the EFJ supports all journalists who are threatened or criticized for simply doing their jobs.

Dumanlı was among 31 people detained in the Dec. 14 operation in which several prominent media figures including Samanyolu TV (STV) General Manager Hidayet Karaca and a number of police officers were accused of “membership of a terrorist group.” Dumanlı was released on Dec. 19 due to lack of evidence.

However, Karaca and three police officers were arrested on charges of forming and being a member of an armed terrorist group based on a once-popular soap opera called "Tek Türkiye" (One Turkey) broadcast by STV some years ago.

“Violations of Human Rights in 2014” -- a report prepared by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) using official government statistics and with research conducted by various civil society organizations -- drew a dark picture of the year 2014 for Turkey as far as fundamental rights and freedoms are concerned. According to the report, released in early January this year, Turkey stands 154th out of 180 countries in an index of freedom of expression, ranks 137th of 197 countries when measuring freedom of the press and 137th out of 167 on assurance of civil freedoms.

Citing a “significant decline” in press freedom in Turkey, US-based watchdog Freedom House also downgraded Turkey from “Partly Free” to “Not Free” in its “Freedom of the Press 2014” report released in May 2014.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 01 February 2015, Sunday