Turkey: A Bad Day for Freedom of Expression
As pointed out in a previous post on this blog, despite the March 12 release from jail (pending trial) of Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik -- two high-profile journalists who had been imprisoned for over a year on coup-plotting charges -- serious concerns remain regarding freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Turkey. Several news items from today only seem to highlight those concerns. In a very useful article, the Bianet website gives an excellent rundown of how many journalists in Turkey are still in jail (104 according to the article) and what they are charged with. As the article makes clear, most of the journalists are in jail due to Turkey's vague anti-terrorism laws which give prosecutors the ability to charge almost anyone with assisting or being part of a terrorist group. Case in point is today's news that Prof. Busra Ersanli, a respected political scientist who has been in jail for several months in connection with an investigation into Kurdish political organizing, will face charges of "leading a terrorist organization." The indictment against Ersanli also calls for charging Ragip Zarakolu, a well-known publisher who was jailed at the same time as the professor, with "aiding" a terrorist group. Both could face more than ten years in jail if convicted.Meanwhile, although he just got out of jail, journalist Ahmet Sik is now facing another investigation -- this one into critical remarks he made upon being released from prison. From Today's Zaman:
Journalist Ahmet Şık, who was recently released pending trial in a coup plot case, now faces charges for statements made to the press as he was leaving prison and in which he accused police officers, judges and prosecutors involved in his case of conspiring against him, the Sabah daily reported on Monday.
Şık is among four journalists who were jailed pending trial in the OdaTV case, launched as part of a probe into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal network accused of plotting to overthrow the government. Thirteen suspects are facing charges of involvement in the media wing of Ergenekon. Şık and three other journalists implicated in the case were released after the 11th hearing of the OdaTV trial at the İstanbul 16th High Criminal Court last week.
An angry Şık strongly criticized the trial as he was leaving Silivri Prison last Monday and said the judges, prosecutors and police officers involved in his case will also be jailed.
“There are five people jailed in my case alone. Some 100 journalists are still in prison. The issue of freedom of expression is not just the problem of journalists. There are some 600 students [in prison]. We will go ahead with our struggle. The judges, prosecutors, police officers who plotted and implemented this conspiracy will be put in prison....Justice will be served when they enter here,” he told reporters.