Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released a statement on the third Judicial Reform Package that will be debated in parliament soon.
"By finally addressing certain major failings in the Turkish judicial system, this bill is a step in the right direction. (...) But the bill envisages just a few adjustments whose effects will be very limited if legislators think they suffice and refrain from more thorough reforms. Patching holes is not enough. Civil liberties will not be properly guaranteed until the Anti-Terrorism Law, the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure are completely purged of the repressive attitudes that pervade them". RSF said.
"We await the releases of journalists with impatience," Reporters Without Borders said. "But there will not be enough of them, because what are really media cases are more often than not defined as terrorism cases by the judicial system and most of them will be excluded from this provision. Furthermore, the many journalists prosecuted in connection with their writing who benefit from a three-year suspension will in practice be forced to remain silent during this period".
Prosecutions and sentences for 'media and opinion offences' committed before 31 December 2011 and carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison will be suspended for three years and the cases will thereafter be closed for good if the persons concerned have not committed another similar offence during this period. If they have, the suspended investigation or prosecution will resume. According to the justice ministry, this provision could affect 5,000 cases involving journalists.
Abuse of pre-trial detention is one of the most criticized aspects of the Turkish judicial system. Suspects often spend years in prison before being tried, especially in terrorism cases. Judges systematically rejected bail requests without having to explain why.
This crucial point is addressed by article 76 of the bill. If adopted, judges will have to justify a refusal to grant bail. Concrete evidence will have to be produced to demonstrate a risk that the suspect would try to flee, tamper with evidence or put pressure on witnesses.
"We cannot wait to see how this amendment will be implemented," Reporters Without Borders said. "Around 100 journalists have had to kill time in prison for months if not years while awaiting a possible conditional release. The expectations are enormous."
The bill would also limit the time between a suspect's arrest and announcement of the charges. Journalists are often held for months or more without knowing the charges against them, in flagrant violation of the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights. This prevents their lawyers from being able to present effective arguments for their release.
"The Turkish government has repeatedly contented itself with cosmetic gestures designed to temporarily defuse domestic or international criticism," Reporters Without Borders said. "This must not happen yet again. The plight of Turkey's journalists is now well known internationally and is undermining the image of country that claims to be a regional model. This is a litmus test for the government." (ÇT/VK)
Source: Reporters Without Borders.
Click here to read the full press release.