At the Symposium on Freedom of Thought and Expression from 12 to 12, writers, publishers and lawyers discussed the situation of arrested and laid-off journalists and what should be done about it.
The symposium was organized in co-operation of PEN Turkey, the Writers Union of Turkey, the Professional Association of Translators and the Publishers Association of Turkey and held at the Turkey Journalists Association (TGC) in Istanbul on Thursday (15 March).
Lawyer İlkiz: Detainees' whole life is under investigation
Lawyer Fikret İlkiz highlighted legal aspects of freedom of expression. He drew attention to absurd trials related to freedom of expression from the military coups on 12 March 1971 and 12 September 1980 till today.
İlkiz pointed to the fact that journalists and writers today are not only being taken to account by reason of their writings but in the context of their whole past life. "If we want to establish a free future, we have to stand up against this and protect these people", he said.
Kazan: Judiciary is the warrant for freedom of expression
Lawyer Turgut Kazan mentioned laws and the system of special authority courts as factors for restrictions to freedom of expression. "Even if laws were corrected and special authority courts would be abolished, there would still be no progress as long as there are no protection mechanisms", Kazan argued.
"The judiciary in Turkey should be aware of being the warrant for freedom of expression. When interpreting the law the judiciary should know that the related file is not only a piece of paper. Otherwise, amendments of the law are meaningless".
Kazan very much appreciated the recent release of four journalists of the Oda tV trial and emphasized that the struggle had to be continued until all detainees would have been released.
Publisher Sökmen: We did not print 'The Imam's Army'
Müge Gürsoy Sökmen from the Metis Publishing Company reminded that at different times in the past publishing houses jointly protested against oppressions applied to books. However, they were not able to do the same for the book "The Imam's Army" written by journalist Ahmet Şık.
"We were told that printing this book was going to be deemed as 'aiding and abetting a terrorist organization'. People are ready to be prosecuted for something they actually did but it is not that easy for something you have not done. 30 years after the coup d'état this situation reminded us that once more we entered an environment of fear where books are accounted for as weapons".
Writer Mater: A year of mass arrest and a year of struggle
Nadire Mater, Project Advisor of the Independent Communication Network (BİA), emphasized that 104 journalists and 35 newspaper distributors were currently behind bars in Turkey. She pointed out that 75 percent of these journalists were from Kurdish media outlets.
Mater quoted government officials and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in particular as saying about detained journalists, "They are not journalists, they are burglars and rapists". She said that the year 2011 was the year of mass arrests for journalists. Nevertheless, it was also the "year of struggle" with the contribution of the Friends of Ahmet and Nedim (ANGA) especially. She underlined that this struggle had to be carried on.
Journalist Mavioğlu:"It must be a joint struggle"
Journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu said that he had been kept busy all his life with trials opened against him on the grounds of the news and books he wrote. He was continuously facing efforts to intimidate him. "It is easier to resist as long as we know it and we have to resist".
Cumhuriyet newspaper writer Zeynep Oral argued that no attention had been paid to journalist Mustafa Balbay or Kurdish journalists before Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık were arrested. In this context Oral underscored the importance of a joint struggle.
Freedom to Detained Journalists and Writers
The organizing journalists and publishers organizations called for the release of the detained journalists and writers and the abolishment of anti-democratic laws.
The final declaration of the Symposium on Freedom of Thought and Expression from 12 to 12 criticized the arrests of writers and journalists in the scope of alleged relations to terror. The signatories of the declaration demanded their immediate release.
"Turkey is at a point today where the existence of democracy has to be discussed. Writers and journalists with a critical attitude are said to be affiliated with terror or being made jobless. Academic autonomy is on the verge of being eradicated. Most basic human rights and particularly the right to life are being contravened or ignored unpunished".
"We, the undersigned organizations of writers, translators, critics and publishers, demand to end arrests that became a tool of intimidation in Turkey. We demand the immediate release of arrested writers and journalists; the abolishment of all anti-democratic laws and applications such as Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Law (denigration of 'Turkishness') and the Anti-Terror Law; we demand fair trials without arrest for writers, journalists and academics by brining the Turkish Criminal Law and the Press Law in line with the European Convention on Human Rights".
"There is no freedom of thought in a country without freedom of expression".
Professional Association of Science and Literature Authors (BESAM), Professional Association of Translators (ÇEV-BİR), Professional Association of Literature and Science Authors (EDİSAM), Kurdish Writers Association (KYD), Association of Screen Writers and Translators (OYÇED), PEN Turkey, Turkish Centre of the Association of International Theatre Critics (TEB), Turkey Authors Association (TED), Turkey Publishers Association (TYB) and Turkey Writers Union (TYS). (NV)