November 16, 2015

Writers’ associations decry 28 imprisoned journalists in Turkey

Several of the world's leading journalistic bodies, including PEN International (PEN), have criticized the imprisonment of 28 journalists in Turkey at a meeting held to commemorate the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, an annual international day intended to support writers who are currently imprisoned.

The meeting, held by the Turkey branch of PEN, the Turkish Publishers Association (TYB), the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee and the Writers' Union of Turkey (TYS) on Sunday, underlined that Turkey is experiencing hardship regarding freedom of speech and press freedoms.

The Day of the Imprisoned Writer was started in 1981 by the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee and is observed each year on Nov. 15.

The participants of the meeting announced that Turkey has 28 journalists currently in prison, one of the highest figures in the world.

Ali Konar, Erdal Süsem, Erol Zavar, Ferhat Çiftçi, Gurbet Çakar, Hamit Dılbahar, Hatice Duman, Kamuran Sunbat, Kenan Karavil, Mikail Barut, Mikdat Algül, Mustafa Gök, Tahsin Sağaltıcı, Nuri Yeşil, Sami Tunca, Sevcan Atak, Seyithan Akyüz, Şahabattin Demir, Yılmaz Kahraman, Özgür Amed, Muhammed İsmael Rosool, Cevheri Güven, Murat Çapan, İdris Yılmaz and Vildan Atmaca are among those imprisoned in Turkey.

Also, Hidayet Karaca, the CEO of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, has been in jail since Dec. 14, 2014 after he was detained along with 30 other suspects, including Zaman daily former Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı, as part of a crackdown on dissenting media by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

Another journalist, Mehmet Baransu from the Taraf daily, was arrested in March on charges of publishing classified documents from a 2004 National Security Council (MGK) meeting. He faces a prison term of 52 years.

Gültekin Avcı, a columnist for the Bugün daily and a former public prosecutor, was arrested in September on charges of being part of a coup attempt and a member of a terrorist organization based on articles he wrote about the Iran-backed Tawhid-Salam spy ring.

Seven of Avcı's columns were submitted as evidence for his alleged crimes. Tawhid-Salam is an Iran-backed terrorist organization and has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Appeals as such on three separate occasions -- in 2002, 2006 and 2014.

The president of TYS, Metin Celâl Zeynioğlu, on Saturday decried the removal of channels and radio stations owned by the Samanyolu Broadcasting Corporation from the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) infrastructure.

“In the past, if a journalist was detained or if a channel was blacked out, there would be an outcry,” Zeynioğlu said. “Now, the İpek Media Group is overrun by trustees and the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group is being taken off air, but we can't do anything.”

“In Turkey, we have become used to it,” Zeynioğlu added.

On Oct. 27, an Ankara court ordered the takeover of Koza İpek Holding, which owns the İpek Media Group, appointing trustees to run its five critical media outlets -- Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, the Bugün daily, the Millet daily and the Kanaltürk radio station.

The channels and dailies were turned into a government mouthpiece just a short while after their seizure, with the trustees sacking 82 journalists and appointing new pro-government replacements.

The Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, Shaber and Samanyolu channels have become targets of the government crackdown because they are considered to be sympathetic to the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, which is a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses the movement of instigating massive corruption probes that went public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 and which implicated ministers in his government and even some of his family members as part of a plot to overthrow the government.

Published on Today's Zaman, 16 November 2015, Monday