In the "Stand up for Journalism" action, the Freedom for Journalists Platform (GÖP) criticized the fact that 50 journalists are currently imprisoned in Turkey. The representatives of 23 journalism organizations made an announcement in Ankara in the centrally located Güven Park and demanded the release of their colleagues.
The action on Friday (5 November) was part of the campaign "Freedom for Journalists in Turkey" launched in co-operation with the European Journalists Federation (EFJ). Besides the demand to "release all detained journalists immediately", the organizers also addressed the government and the parliament with their call for immediate radical changes in the laws in order to prevent Turkey from this "dangerous course that might cut the country off from the democratic world".
Representatives of the press organizations are going to visit journalists Mustafa Balbay and Tuncay Özkan, detained defendants of the Ergenekon case, on 11 November. One day later, a delegation of the platform is going to monitor the hearing of sociologist İsmail Beşikçi. On 23 November, a group of representatives will follow up the trial against Filiz Koçali, publications director of the Günlük newspaper.
The members of the platform voiced their concern about a constant rise in the number of investigations and trials against journalists and about the increase of physical attacks, oppression and threats. They also criticized the course of the trials related to the murders of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and journalist Cihan Hayırsevener.
Among the 23 organizations of the platform are the Turkish Journalists' Society (TGC), the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), the Contemporary Journalists' Association (ÇGD) and the Uğur Mumcu Resarch Journalism Foundation (UMAG). The platform announced, "The number of journalists in prison continually rises and thousands of trials and investigations have been launched against journalists. That is the result of the provisions in the Turkish Criminal Law and the Anti-Terror Law which restrict press freedom and which are still in force".
The platform pointed out that 50 press employees have been incarcerated in Turkish prisons since 30 September. 44 of them are detained and six have been convicted. This number, according to GÖP, continually rose in 2009 from 29 between January and April to 35 between May and August and 44 between September and December.
The platform emphasized the following key points:
- There are another 29 journalists who received monetary fines or prison sentences and who cannot file an appeal because either the judgement has not been finalized yet or the sentences was postponed for five years. More than 100 journalists are facing acute prison threats.
- At least 1,200 trials seeking monetary fines or prison sentences are currently pending against journalists and media institutions.
- Among the media institutions employing tried or convicted journalists are Akşam, Aydınlık, Birgün, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel, Güneş, Hürriyet, Kanal B, Milliyet, Radikal, Sabah, Star newspaper, Star TV, Sözcü, Taraf, TGRT, Türkiye newspaper, Ulusal Kanal, Vatan, Vakit, Yeni Şafak, Zaman, Azadiya Welat, Günlük, Özgür Radyo, Atılım, İşçi-Köylü, Dicle News Agency and Gerçek Gündem.
The majority of cases is based on charges of "violation of secrecy", "attempt to influence a fair trial" and "spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization". Many trials have also been launched on the grounds of "insult", an offence being sanctioned with imprisonment according to the Anti-Terror Law. The platform demanded to lift the according provision. (EÖ/VK)