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:
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
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
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.