EFJ President Arne König reports on his visit to special security prison Silivri to attend the latest hearing in the KCK case

In the special security prison Silivri outside of Istanbul in Turkey

the trial against 46 journalists and media workers continued on February 4th. They are accused of being members of, or

working on behalf of KCK, the so

called “city organization” of the illegal and armed PKK, the Kurdish Workers Party.

 

The EFJ was present in the person of

its president Arne König as well as the president of the Turkish Union of Journalists Ercan Ipekci.

 

The prosecutor is still in the

process of reading the 800 pages of indictment to the court. “It was shocking

for us to hear that normal journalistic activity can be seen as illegal and as

an act of terror”, Arne König commented. He cites three examples:

 

The accused

editor of the Dicle News Agency, Ömer Celik, had in tapped telephone

talks with his reporter discussed details from a demonstration which the

reporter was covering on behalf of Dicle News Agency. According to the

prosecutor, Celik asked his reporter to find information that Celik could use

in articles to attack the right nationalist group the demonstrators protested

against.

 

In another case,

Celik received a telephone call from an activist who invited Celiks news agency

to send a reporter to cover a planned event. Ömer Celik asked the source what

kind of event it would be and where this was going to take place. Celik then said

they could not send a reporter as there was no one to send, but they might get

pictures from a photographer on the scene, he hoped. The text could be prepared

via telephone afterwards.

 

In a third

example, Celik got a call from a local organization of Bar?? ve Demokrasi Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party). The party member said they would present a press release and asked Celik

to send a reporter. Celik said he could not guarantee they could send a

reporter and this must be discussed in the news room. The caller insisted that the

news agency should send a reporter as the issue was important. Again, Celik

insisted this would be a decision that had to be taken in a news agency meeting.

 

These examples were used by the

prosecutor to claim that Ömer Celik is under the command of KCK and collects

information to spread propaganda in their interest. Furthermore, he is accused

of using his journalistic profession as a cover for terror activities. “If this

is the case, that all talks of this sort in a news room are preparation for

terroristic activities, then there would be several hundred thousands of

terrorists all over Europe”, concludes Arne König, referring to the more than

300 000 journalists who are represented by EFJ. “It is a most normal situation

in a news organisation that the editor talks with reporters about stories and which

resources are available in terms of reporters to send”.

 

The EFJ has for a long time tried to

be present at court cases against Turkish journalists. The situation was – in

numbers – worst in the spring of last year when more than 100 Turkish

colleagues were imprisoned. Now it stands at around 75. “But there is no real

change of attitude from the Turkish authorities”, says Ercan Ipekci. Only last

week has seen a big operation against lawyers, some of them were advocates of

the accused journalists. As a direct result, several lawyers and six journalists

were arrested and accused of being member of an illegal terrorist organization

(DHKP-C).

 

“We

call on the international community to help to put an end to this infringement

of the freedom of expression in Turkey”, appeal Ercan Ipekci and Arne König.

EFJ now fears that a legal so called “reform package”, which would have helped

differentiate between journalists and terrorist, will be very weak and not at

all improve the situation. A further risk is that the government puts forward

to parliament a proposal on forbidding Turkish organisations and individuals to

receive financial support from foreign sources: “There is a need for a broad

discussion of the need of media freedom and freedom of expression in the

Turkish society”, says Arne König.