Akın Birdal, deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) urged the parliament to take steps in order to provide press freedom. Birdal's call came before the background of convictions of journalists and writers despite the fact that Turkey signed international agreements such as the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a press conference held in the parliament on Thursday (14 October), Birdal said, "Every new decision regarding the conviction of journalists is a breach of press freedom as a base of a democratic society".
Birdal pointed out that several articles of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) and the Anti-Terror Law (TMY) are being used to restrict press freedom and freedom of thought. Birdal referred to data published by the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) when he stated that 634 people were tried under these articles in 2009. 111 defendants were acquitted, 24 received a monetary fine and the vast majority of 499 defendants were sentenced to prison, Birdal summarized.
"In 2009, besides these "legal" restrictions, ten newspapers were seized for 27 times in total, seven magazines were confiscated 15 times. One television broadcast was suspended twice. 16 press organs were raided. Access bans have been imposed to a total of 4662 internet sites. The situation in 2010 is not any different. In the course of discussion on the constitutional amendments, the ruling political power frequently emphasized freedoms and democratization. It was said that Turkey would become more democratic once the amendments would have been approved. Yet, cases are still being opened against journalists and the surpression and restrictions continue as well", Birdal criticized.
He quoted the cases and sanctions against journalists Rıfat Başaran, Namık Durukan, Hasan Çakkalkurt, İsmail Saymaz, Kemal Göktaş, İrfan Aktan, Merve Erol and newspaper writers of the Taraf daily as examples.
"The General Publications Director of Özgür Radio, Füsun Erdoğan, has been imprisoned for months. Even though also her husband was arrested and imprisoned, they cannot see each other. Author Mehmet Güler and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu were convicted due to the book 'More difficult decisions than death'. Most recently, the book 'Global State and Kurds without a state' was seized and a trial was opened in relation to the KCK file."
"On 13 May, Vedat Kurşun, former Chief Editor of the Azadiya Welat newspaper, was sentenced to imprisonment of 166 years by the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court under charges of 'membership of the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party] and 'spreading organizational propaganda'. The court ruled for the maximum punishment of twelve years and eight months for 'membership of an illegal organization' and a 106-count sentence according to Article 7/2 of the TMY for 'spreading propaganda'. While the government is being praised for the installation of the [Kurdish] TRT Şeş [television channel], on the other hand it tries to silence and dim out ROJ TV that broadcasts in Kurdish from abroad", Birdal indicated and continued:
"Left-wing and Kurdish newspapers and the socialist press get the biggest share of these bans and restrictions".
"Duty of the parliament"
"Besides a democratic public conscience it is most of all the duty of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM) to put an end to the pressure and bans imposed to press freedom and labourers", Birdal claimed.
"Therefore, we bring this problem before the TBMM Human Rights Examination Board and the Parliamentary General Assembly in order to lift these oppressing, despotic, frightening and threatening laws as soon as possible. There is no democracy and peace when hands and pens are being cuffed", Birdal concluded. (EÜ/VK)
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