Ørberg, the EFJ delegate from the Danish
Journalists' Union (DJ) tells his dismay and shock of the visit to Europe's
biggest court house in Istanbul and the court hearing of imprisoned journalist,
Füsun Erdogan. DJ has ‘adopted' Erdogan as parts of the ongoing EFJ campaign to
Set Journalists Freed in Turkey.
is planted on journalists
3 June 2013)I just managed to grab her hands for a quick greeting
before the security guards surrounded the 50-year-old journalist Füsun Erdogan
forming a human barrier between us.
Erdogan was quickly taken away from the courtroom in Europe's biggest
court house, on the outskirts of Istanbul.
was a moving and tragic moment. Her family and friends followed her with their
eyes. It seemed that none of them see this coming - Erdogan is sent back to
jail after 7-year imprisonment and she may not be free again.
sat inside the courtroom for two hours for the hearing and listened tentatively
to the lawyer defending her case. But the four judges made no attempt to hide
the fact that they were occupied by something else on their computers.
hearing, we did not hear a word from Erdogan because she was not allowed to
herded out of the courtroom when a break is announced. Together with a number
of other supporters of Erdogan, I met with a German Bundestag member from Die
Linke, who is a prominent Turkish opposition politician, and my colleagues from
the Turkish Journalists' Union (TGS), with whom I spent the morning in order to
understand Erdogan's case.
is Erdogan's niece, and for two hours she whispered the most incredible story
in my ear: namely the story of what her aunt is being accused of.
I was listening tentatively the ‘crime' Erdogan was accused of, a court
official suddenly announced that the trial was to terminate and resume at the
end of September. Three more months in Gebze women's prison for a completely
absurd "crime", her family and friends were struck with disappointment.
Ipeksi, the President the Turkish Journalists' Union and I found a place within
a short distance from the court house, where we held a press conference for the
handful of journalists who have been following the trial. Following that, Ercan led the
journalists to Taksim Square and demonstrated together with protesters for press
freedom in Turkey. Meanwhile, I found a little cafe and sat down with three of Erdogan's
sisters and her niece, who filled me in with details
on the story behind her imprisonment.
society organisations have been following Erdogan's case and the ‘crime' she is
accused of, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without
Borders and of course the EFJ. But all of them rejected the accusation of the Turkish
government of Ergodan's ‘crime'.
accused of being a member of a Marxist organisation (MLKP, the Marxist-Leninist
Communist Party), which is accused of undermining the government by violence
and listed as a terrorist organisation. Erdogan was
accused of being a senior member of the organisation providing financial advices.
is - she has never been a member of such an organisation. But how did the
prosecutor make such claim against Erdogan? Why Erdogan is being put in prison?
In 2006, Erdogan
was abducted on the street in Izmir and taken to a building which was suspected
to house MLKP. The authority found a list of MLKP members
in the building. Erdogan's presence in the building is now being used as
evidence against her. The authority was convinced that her
presence in the building proved that she is a senior member of the terrorist
fantastic set-up is like something taken from a bad detective novel, but
nevertheless, it is what her two lawyers - one of whom is her sister - sought untangle
during today's hearing.
was put behind bar because of her critical journalism?
Erdogan is known by as a socialist for a number of years. In prison, she has
written a book about Rosa Luxemburg (1870-1919) who is seen as an exponent of a
'democratic communism' and places his faith in spontaneous mass action and
rejects Lenin's centralism. The book has not yet been published, so it can
hardly be the reason for her imprisonment.
however, could well be her critical radio journalism at Özgür Radyo (Freedom Radio), which was founded by her in 1995.
She was the director at Özgür Radyo until
the police abducted her in Izmir. The radio station still exists and is highly
critical of the authorities - including the past month's heavy-handed treatment
of demonstrators at Taksim Square. Füsun's husband is also a journalist
critical of the government. He is convinced that her imprisonment is intended
to serve as a warning for those journalists critical of the government in the
this year, Erdogan has written a letter from prison to the EFJ saying that her
imprisonment is related to her work as a journalist. She also reported her deteriorating health as a direct consequence of her
become evident that the imprisonment of many journalists in Turkey has silence
the critical voices. Self-censorship is becoming a norm in the Turkish media
and solidarity is rare under such circumstances. The union (TGS) has only 1,000
members, out of about 100,000 Turkish journalists. Most recently, 500 union members
were forced to terminate their memberships as they were afraid of losing their
jobs at the state news agency, Anatolian
News. But this made little difference because most of them were fired
Many of EFJ
affiliates have ‘adopted' a Turkish journalist in a campaign for their freedom.
The Danish Journalists' Union (DJ) has adopted Füsun
Erdogan and been following her case closely. Since the imprisonment, her health
conditions have deteriorated drastically, The union and the EFJ are making an
appeal to the European Parliament and the European Commission to demand that
Turkey must act to free its journalism in prison.
my return to Denmark, I
encountered a few young people near Taksim Square. They told me that they want
the authority to respect them and their rights. They want understanding and
acceptance, instead of arrogance and violence. They
want education and work. They want a fair share of in Turkey's new prosperity. And
they want the freedom to decide the future themselves, rather than having
religious dogma being imposed upon them.
vast majority of Turks do not sympathise with these young people. They believe that the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has
skilfully balanced between Western democracy and strong Islamic traditions. And
they adore him for his firmness and paternal strictness against ‘foreign
criminals who want to split up modern Turkey'. Not least, they regard the Prime
Minister as the economic success of country.
But it is
my impression that the young people who have sparked off a movement that cannot
be stopped. In Istanbul alone, there are 6 million
young people under the age of 30 who are strongly oriented towards the idea of
democracy shared by the rest of Europe. They love their country, but they are seeking
change - peacefully and democratically.
colleagues see the protests as a healthy sign, and as a small step towards
greater democracy and press freedom.
In order to
achieve the above goals, the pressure on the regime must be maintained. All EFJ
member unions, including my union, have sent letters to their respective prime
ministers and foreign ministers to make their influence on Turkey.
It must be
said that, our effort to help Erdogan's case is just a modest contribution from
the Danish union. The pressure on the Turkish government must be maintained
with the efforts of all EFJ affiliates and civil society organisations in order
to free the journalists who are currently in jails.
This article was written by Esben Ørberg and first
published in Danish at magazine of the Danish Journalists' Union.