The Turkish Journalists Association (TGC), the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), the Turkish Journalists Federation (TGF), the Contemporary Journalists Association (TGD) and the Press Institution Association demanded fair trials fo journalists and criticized that detention time is being transformed into punishment. The organizations demanded the government to acknowledge press freedom and the people's right to be informed.
"Journalists should have fair trials" was the title of the press conference held on Wednesday (18 August) at the Turkish Journalists Association. TGC President Orahn Erinç read out a joint statement on behalf of the journalist organizations.
Erinç emphasized that prison sentences handed down to journalists in Turkey obstruct journalists from fulfilling their duty and constitute a threat to press freedom.
"47 journalists and press employees are currently tried and detained in Turkey. Besides the journalists detained pending trial, more than 700 criminal and compensation cases against journalists are being tried".
Erinç pointed out that six journalists are prosecuted in the scope of the Ergenekon case. "All of them have been in detention since the beginning of the investigation. Requests to release them are repeatedly rejected. It is obvious that detention is not used as a means of precaution but as a way of punishment", Erinç criticized.
Erinç in particular referred to the cases of Mustafa Balbay, Tuncay Ozkan, Deniz Yildirim, Ufuk Akkaya, Hikmet Cicek, Emcet Olcaytu and Ergun Poyraz, journalists who are being detained for a considerable amount of time. Erinç indicated:
"We would like to bring to mind these experiences to the people who are trying to put forward a defence on behalf of the 'state of law' and the 'rule of law'. No journalist has ever been detained for such a long time in the past 33 years, not even during the tyranny of Abdülhamit, the time of National Courts, the Sheikh Said Rebellion Martial Law or in the times of the Single Party or the Democratic Party".
Erinç said that journalists were detained for a comparable length of time only in the context of the 'Peace Association Trial' during the times of the military coup around 12 September 1980 which he described as the 'revenge of the AKP'.
Gazeteciler açısından uzun tutukluluk süresinin tek örneğinin "AKP'nin 'intikam almak'tan söz ettiği 12 Eylül dönemindeki 'Barış Derneği Davası' olduğunu söyleyen Erinç, şöyle konuştu:
"Personal freedom is the most basic freedom. According to Article 19/7 of the Constitution of 1982, detainees have the right to a trial within a reasonable time and to request their release pending trial or during the investigation. Additionally, articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights grant the protection of personal freedom in the broadest sense".
"We set off from the presumption of innocence and say that this is a breach of the rules regarding detention during prosecution and contrary to human rights. We trust in the fact that the result of the case will eventually show who is innocent and who is guilty. The offences imputed on our colleagues stem from their actions done as professional journalists. We do not ask why they are being prosecuted. Instead we raise the question if our colleagues are not tried in accordance with the rules of the European Convention".
After the statement was read out, there was time for questions.
One journalist asked Erinç how he evaluated the statement of State Minister Hayati Yazıcı who said, "One comes and blames Tuncay Özkan or Mustafa Balbay; somebody else will come and blame Mustafa Özbek and Veli Küçük [Ergenekon defendants]. Then you will not be able to differentiate. Everybody is equal before the law".
Erinç replied, "We are not concerned with politics, hence I cannot evaluate the words of a minister. We neither question why journalists are being tried, we say that the rule of law should be applied when they are prosecuted.
Ferai Tınç, President of the Press Institute Association responded:
"We see that indictments related to journalists were prepared within the framework of conversations and secret documents in the scope of their activities as journalists. We think this is a restriction of their professional freedom. We need legal amendments. Punishments to silence the press should be lifted. Whoever takes steps for press freedom should be supported".
The husband of Suzan Zengin, detained journalist of the Workers-Peasants (Isci-Koylu) newspaper, remarked, "They are not only in Silivri [where the Ergenekon case is tried]. I wanted to draw attention to this fact". Erinç assured, "As a professional organization we closely follow all journalists on trial".
Atilla Sertel, President of the Turkish Journalists Federation, indicated, "You are asking your questions almost like questioning the reason for this press conference. This is a wrong approach. We take a just and equal stance towards all journalists".
TGS President Ercan İpekçi pointed out that the list of 47 people detained pending trial gave the minimum figure. He anticipated the number on the list to expand further in the future. "We have to protect all journalists instead of saying a journalist from your newspaper is tried under these charges and a journalist from my newspaper is tried under those charges. The penalties are an award for the journalists but for the country they are a shame".
The press conference was attended by Oktay Eksi, President of the Press Council, Nazim Alpman on behalf of the Contemporary Journalists Association, Yilmaz Karaca, President of the Journalists Associations Press Foundation, Nail Güreli, President of the Turkish Journalists Association Press Senate, Sibel Günes, Turkish Journalists Association Secretary General, Ali Ekber Yildirim, Deputy Chair of the Izmir Journalists Association, lawyer Turgut Kazan as a member of the Press Council, TGC Legal Advisor Fikret Ilkiz, journalists Ahmet Altan, Şükran Soner ve Mine Kirikkanat. (BT/VK)
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