Justice Must be Brought to Turkish Journalists

Reporters Without Borders seconds the United Nations' call on the Turkish government to "guarantee freedom of opinion and expression," as the imprisonment and punishment of journalists on charges of challenging and acting to 'overthrow government via conspiracy' are ridiculous and unacceptable. In accordance with the UN, Reporters Without Borders believes it is inherent that Turkey comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in ensuring that Turkish journalists are innocent until proven guilty, and that their 'crimes' -- should there be any -- are legitimate and not politically motivated to satisfy the needs and desires of authorities who seek to keep them silent.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the March 3rd arrest of two Turkish journalists charged for belonging to an alleged "terrorist" conspiracy known as "Ergenekon," Ahmet Sik (writer for Milliyet, Cumhuriyet and Bianet newspapers and author of several books about the "Ergenekon" case) and Nedim Sener (reporter for the liberal daily Milliyet). Seven journalists of OdaTV have been arrested in the same case. Most recently, on March 25th, the last unpublished draft copies of a book -- which explores the relationship between the police and the influential Islamic "Gülen Movement" -- by Sik were seized and destroyed by authorities.

Since then, thousands have been demonstrating every weekend in Istanbul, in response to a call from the Freedom for Journalists Platform (GÖP). Reporters Without Borders supports each and every one of these protesters and will continue in the fight to bring justice to Turkish journalists. This latest crackdown, unanimously condemned as targeting two of the most prominent Turkish investigative journalists with charges that are still "secret," has clearly exposed the limits of the "democratic progress" achieved over the past few years.

This is not the first time Turkey has shined amid the spot light of press freedom violations. The twenty-year Anti-Terrorism Law has been repeatedly used to muzzle journalists raising "taboo" issues such as Turkey's national minorities, abuses from the police, justice or the military, or the "Ergenekon" case. For instance, anyone taking an interview from a PKK member, even to criticise it, faces prison for "making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organisation." An example of this is the case of Radikal journalist Ertugrul Mavioglu, whose trial is to start this week. Despite amendments that led to a dramatic fall in the number of sentences, the very existence of Article 301 of the Criminal Code, which punishes "insults to the Turkish nation and the Turkish Republic," constitutes a clear intensive to self-censorship. As recently as March 28th, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was condemned in appeal to pay a 6,000 TL fine for mentioning the massive killings of Kurds and Armenians perpetrated in the early 20th century. The Turkish Law 5651 on the Internet provides for the widespread mass blocking of websites, including on such grounds as "offence to (Mustafa Kemal) Atatürk." As a result, YouTube was blocked in May 2008, myspace.com in September 2009, Vimeo in September 2010 and Google-owned Blogger platform in March 2011.

Because of repressive instances such as these, Reporters Without Borders classifies Turkey as a 2010 country under surveillance for online freedom of expression, and the country is ranked 138/178 on the 2010 Press Freedom Index.

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