Representatives of a large number of international journalists’ and writers’ organisations such as IFJ, EFJ, IPI, Reporters Without Borders and PEN have come to Turkey for the Cumhuriyet trial.
Many parties and civil society organisations such as the CHP, June Movement, EMEP, People’s Houses and the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions have also announced that they will be in front of the judicial complex.
CHP MPs have commented about the way the commencement of the Cumhuriyet trial coincides with 24 July Press Day. CHP Deputy General Chair Veli Ağbaba said, ‘The AKP mentality that labels journalists as potential criminals is actually waging terror against the free press. One third of all detained journalists in the world are unfortunately in Turkish jails.’ For his part, the CHP’s Barış Yarkadaş stated:
‘There remains nothing to celebrate. Censorship has come back in its harshest form. If anybody is to celebrate, it is the ruling party, because they have left no media that is able to report the oppression and injustice that it engages in. The day is their day. When enlightenment replaces AKP darkness, history will attach the value it merits to Cumhuriyet employees’ honourable resistance.’
Ağbaba, stating that fifteen years of AKP rule have fully destroyed the free press, said, ‘The place we have reached is an even worse position than in coup periods. Members of the press in the Turkey of 2017 long for the 80’s.’ Ağbaba, saying, ‘It is impossible to speak of press freedom given the existence of an authoritarian rule that directly and openly interferes in the press,’ continued, ‘The AKP mentality that labels journalists as potential criminals is actually waging terror against the free press. One third of all detained journalists in the world are unfortunately in Turkish jails. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who in 2003 said, “An independent and free press is one of the indispensable conditions of democracy,” needs to be reminded once more that Turkey was in the final places in world press freedom rankings in 2017.’
Solidarity with Cumhuriyet
Ağbaba rounded up his statement saying, ‘On 24 July, I call on all forces of democracy to fight against these dark prospects, and on the same day I convey my feelings of solidarity to Cumhuriyet Newspaper’s columnists, cartoonists and managers who have been unjustly and unlawfully been kept in prison and will be brought before a court for the first time.’ For his part, the CHP’s Barış Yarkadaş said with regard to 24 July Press and Lifting of Censorship Day, ‘There remains nothing to celebrate. Censorship has come back in its harshest form. If anybody is to celebrate, it is the ruling party, because they have left no media that is able to report the oppression and injustice that it engages in. The day is their day.’ Yarkadaş, noting that the AKP has turned Turkey into a total hell for journalists, said, ‘There is a rulership that sees journalism as a crime. We are faced with a fascistic attitude that only wants its own voice to be heard and cannot tolerate alternative voices.’
352 journalists under arrest’
Yarkadaş, noting that 178 journalists are in detention, commented, ‘Following the AKP’s 20 July coup, 103 more journalists were thrown behind iron bars. Since the proclamation of the state of emergency, 352 journalists have been arrested. On the other hand, steps have been taken to leave 1404 journalists without jobs. The passports and press cards of 800 journalists have been confiscated. And, 173 media organisations have been closed.’
Yarkadaş, noting that the ruling party censored the press in a variety of ways, said, ‘Sometimes censorship is conducted through the police, crime reports, the public prosecution and the courts, and sometimes through cancelling announcements and advertising. A journalist who undergoes an investigation, is imprisoned and is crucified on social media becomes unable to write. If you add to this the cancellation and blocking through ruling party intervention of announcements and advertising, censorship turns into self-censorship. The journalist suffers intimidation from the police-courts on the one hand and in economic terms on the other. This gives rise to self-censorship. In fact, the most dangerous censorship is the kind that people apply to themselves. Censorship strangles the journalist, but self-censorship undermines the profession and makes it impossible to carry it out.’
Journalists held hostage
Yarkadaş, noting that the media was going through the darkest period in its history, commented:
‘Cumhuriyet Newspaper’s columnists have been held in prison unjustly and unlawfully for months. The arbitrary detention of Ahmet Şık, Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel, Güray Öz, Hakan Kara, Turhan Günay, Musa Kart, Önder Çelik, Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör and Emre İper continues.
Similarly, Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat and Deniz Yücel are whiling their days away in jail on concocted charges. Writing and expressing an opinion is quite openly deemed to be a crime. Journalists are virtually being held hostage to prevent the people from learning the truth.’
Yarkadaş, concluding that the coinciding of the Cumhuriyet trial with Press Day is ‘a strange irony of history,’ commented, ‘Their only crime is lack of subservience to the AKP and seeking out the truth. Let everyone know and not forget that all their names will be written with golden letters in history. When enlightenment replaces AKP darkness, history will attach the value it merits to Cumhuriyet employees’ honourable resistance.’
The CHP’s Mehmet Tüm said, ‘It is impossible to speak of a special day for journalism and the press in the state of emergency Turkey that started on 20 July. Reporting the news is in fact regarded as being a terrorist activity. So much so that, on a day that has gone down in our history as Press Day, Cumhuriyet columnists find themselves on trial on absurd charges the like of which the world has not seen.’ Tüm commented, ‘Those who have brought this country to this state are not those journalists who are incapable of being bought off, but the prohibitive, conspiratorial, coupist, single-man mentality and its defenders; those who, having supported the terrorist organisation in infiltrating the state, try to deceive the people with the fairy tale that “I was duped.” The state of emergency coupists equate reporting the news with the crime of terrorism. Along with Cumhuriyet, it is actually journalism that is on trial. Just as periods of despotism have ended, this dark period of oppression and censorship will in the same way end one day. Following this coup period, 24 July will probably not be commemorated as a holiday, but as the day of struggle for press freedom.’
The CHP’s Ömer Fethi Gürer, noted in his comment that it would not be possible for 24 July to be commemorated as Press Day.
Ömer Fethi Gürer said, ‘Cumhuriyet Newspaper’s columnists and cartoonists, who have been thrown in prison for simply carrying out their duties as journalists, will months later be brought to a court hearing on a day that coincides with 24 July Lifting of Press Censorship and Press Day. In a Turkey in which the oppression and intimidation of journalists is forever increasing, I hope journalists will meet up with days of enlightenment in which there is no fear of being imprisoned for what they have written and in which they are not subjected to censorship, self-censorship and intimidation.
Professional organisations at the judicial complex
Before the trial in which our newspaper’s columnists, cartoonists, managers, reporters and staff members are being prosecuted and which will be staged today, members of the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) will assemble at 8.30 in the morning in front of our newspaper’s building in Şişli. The group will then stage a march to the Istanbul Judicial Complex in Çağlayan. The group named Journalists on the Outside will hold a solidarity demonstration before Istanbul Judicial Complex at 9 o’clock in the morning. A large number of people are expected to support the demonstration that also has the support of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions Press Union. A variety of solidarity campaigns have been staged at home and abroad prior to the hearing. Various posters produced by the Journalists on the Outside Initiative have been displayed by certain municipalities free of charge.
Huge support from lawyers
Great interest is also being shown by lawyers in the trial in which our paper’s managers and columnists are in the dock. Kemal Aytaç, Attorney-at-Law, commented that twenty bar association chairs will be at the judicial complex today to monitor the trial and 1100 lawyers who wish to defend the charges have made applications to intervene, said, ‘Previously, around 600 lawyers applied to intervene in the Dink trial. We are witnessing applications by 1100 lawyers to intervene for the first time. The factor leading to such intense interest in the trial, apart from the Cumhuriyet trial being a historic trial, is that three of our lawyer colleagues are in detention. This trial will be a precedential trial. We will all see together whether the judges will heed their consciences or whether they will heed voices coming from elsewhere.’
‘We Want Freedom for Journalists’
Socialist International General Secretary, Luis Ayala, issued a statement prior to the Cumhuriyet Trial whose first hearing will commence today and called for freedom for the detained journalists.
Ayala, saying, ‘The Socialist International, which is an organisation that encompasses all of the social democratic and labour parties of the world, is today at the side of the journalists in Turkey who have been unjustly imprisoned while attempting to defend the people’s right to obtain news,’ stressed that press freedom and the right to obtain news was one of the most basic pillars of all democratic systems. Ayala, underlining that a democratic form of governance was impossible without press freedom and the right to obtain news, commented:
‘Freedom of expression and a free press, which forms the basis for freedom of expression, has been enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one of the most fundamental human rights and this right must be observed by all the nations of the world. We call for the immediate release of all detained journalists in Turkey; our efforts will continue until the detained journalists are freed.’
The leader of the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has also called for journalists in Turkey to be released. Corbyn, posing in a t-shirt bearing the image of our paper’s detained reporter Ahmet Şık, called for freedom for the detained journalists in Turkey. Corbyn’s photograph was also posted by journalists calling for attendance at the Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial.
Calls on social media for attendance at the trial
Many calls were made on social media for attendance at the trial set to start at 9 o’clock today at Çağlayan Judicial Complex. The Federation of Debating Societies, United June Movement and Youth Opposition announced on social media that they will attend the hearing. The Federation of Debating Societies’ call read, ‘Youth, just as in all places the palace attacks, will also resist the palace at the Cumhuriyet trial, will be at the side of Turkey’s honourable journalists until the end and will step up the fight against the palace for them and together with them. The attainments of the Republic are so deeply rooted that they cannot be razed from Turkish soil. This is the reason, despite all the attacks, operations and detentions, republicans cannot be subdued and the republican resistance cannot be broken. The palace is waging a fight it will lose. This fight is our fight. This cause is our cause. Our cause is the Republic.’
We are beside Cumhuriyet
Youth Opposition stated in its announcement, ‘We are at Çağlayan Judicial Complex tomorrow (today) for the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial. We are beside Cumhuriyet and the truth will not be silent.’ People’s Houses members, saying, ‘The people’s right to obtain news cannot be blocked,’ called for attendance at the trial slated for today by distributing Cumhuriyet newspaper in three locations.
Press Freedom Award in Silivri!
The press freedom award conferred by Karşıyaka Municipality and the Izmir Journalists Society was awarded to Sözcü Newspaper’s Izmir reporter Gökmen Ulu on behalf of the detained journalists. The award was received by Ulu’s wife and will be sent to Silivri Prison. Izmir Journalists Society Chair Misket Dikmen commented with reference to the award that was conferred for the sixth time this year, ‘There are nearly 160 journalists detained in prison in Turkey. We do not in any way forget our detained colleagues. They are inside, but we as journalists are not in a different situation on the outside, either. We decided to award the Press Freedom Award this year to one of our fellows from Karşıyaka. We saw fit to confer the Press Freedom Award on the journalist from Izmir, Sözcü Newspaper reporter Gökmen Ulu, whose detention order includes the peculiar expression, “Being a member of a terrorist organisation while not being a member of a terrorist organisation,” and all the detained journalists.’ Karşıyaka Mayor Hüseyin Mutlu Akpınar said, ‘Unfortunately, media organisations and members of the press are under pressure in Turkey. The Press Freedom Award is normally given to the free press but, in this country, we are obliged to give it to detained press members.’ Gökmen Ulu’s wife Burcu Ulu commented, ‘The conferring of the Press Freedom Award this year on Gökmen has made me and our family proud. It has lifted morale a little in the difficult process we are going through. I hope that Gökmen will be among us very soon and he will collect the award himself.’
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