Turkish journalists persecuted for journalism

This 2013 video from the USA is called Panel: What’s Happening in Turkey? (Noam Chomsky‘s Talk)

By Akin Olgun:

‘A journalist’s only weapon is the truth’

Saturday 11th February 2017

AKIN OLGUN writes on the oppression journalists face in Turkey and highlighs the case of his arrested friend Ahmet Sik

A JOURNALIST, describes the Turkish author and investigative journalist Ahmet Sik, is “one that seeks the truth.”

It wasn’t long before Sik experienced the danger that comes with chasing the truth in Turkey.

Living in an authoritarian country and going after the truth means you are risking your life.

When you look at the number of journalists killed in different countries, you may not see the terrifying methods of oppression used by the authoritarian regimes there. But you should realise that the most courageous journalists are found under those regimes.

Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist and editor of the Agos newspaper who was assassinated in January 2007, summarised the situation facing journalists in Turkey when he said: “Either I really liked danger, or it liked me.”

If you are chasing the truth and you reveal it without distorting it then you are in danger. No authoritarian regime likes to hear criticism and it always sees such things as a “threat.”

But the truth is a journalist’s only weapon. The fact that those in power are scared of the person who holds the truth shows us what an illusion that power actually is.

The early 1990s were dark and unforgiving times in Turkey. Anyone who lived through them will tell you about the extrajudicial executions, the kidnappings and the missing people, the villages that were burned down and the Kurds who were killed.

They will tell you how no-one questioned the violence of the state.

Renault’s symbol became a symbol of fear for dissenters. In these cars, the counterinsurgency kidnapped people, many of whom were never found.

Every week the families of those missing people, who came to be known as “Saturday Mums,” held a sit-in at the Galatasaray square in Istanbul. For over 600 weeks, they continued to ask about the fate of their loved ones.

The reason I write this flashback is to begin the story of how the Turkish authorities tried to silence and label Ahmet Sik a threat, all because he took his camera wherever there were extrajudicial killings or state violence.

Metin Goktepe, a journalist at the Evrensel newspaper, was a close friend of Ahmet’s. In January 1996, Goktepe was following the story of the funerals of political convicts who were killed in an operation at the Istanbul Umraniye prison.

He was detained by police and taken to the same gym where hundreds of people who wanted to attend the funerals were being held. The police beat and killed him.

Sik and Goktepe’s journalist friends fought to get justice and put those responsible behind bars.

In June 2011, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minster, described Sik’s unpublished book investigating the Gulen Movement’s infiltration of the judiciary, the police and the army as being more dangerous than a bomb. It was written during a time when the government and the Gulen Movement were allies conspiring together to conduct a witch hunt through illegal wiretapping and tracking. It was a time before the Gulen Movement was branded a terrorist organisation and blamed for the failed July 15 2016 coup.

Sik’s unpublished book, The Imam’s Army, landed him in jail for 375 days.

The reason Sik was released was because of the incessant campaigns from democracy groups and because the fight between the Gulen Movement and the government escalated, revealing cracks in their partnership.

Met by journalists at the doors of the prison upon his release, Sik said: “Everyone should know this. From all this oppression and persecution, a life that we yearn and fight for and a life that the government is scared of will blossom.”

After leaving the prison, Sik continued to chase news and write. The main media channels, that were under extreme pressure and control, found ways to keep him off the air and out of their papers. The method they used to do this was one of history’s most oppressive, censorship.

Sik began reporting on the jihadists crossing the Turkish border into Syria and investigating the forces that provided them with logistical support.

Right after, he started looking into the Turkish intelligence services and the government’s role in the shipment of arms across the border. This, once again, made him an enemy of the state.

He started receiving threats from those organising the shipments. He began noting down the people who would be responsible for things that might happen to him.

After spending time in London campaigning on the freedom of the press with the NGOs English PEN, Free World and Article 19, Sik returned to Turkey and found the country had been dragged into a new period of darkness.

Erdogan perceived the failed July 15 coup as “God’s gift” and used it as a chance to purge his erstwhile allies in the Gulen Movement. He did not hesitate to use this chance to label his political opponents terrorists and attack Kurds, opposition politicians, academics, journalists and writers.

Though the Gulen Movement had become enemy number one, its methods remained a friend of the government. Erdogan started taking away all democratic rights by implementing a state of emergency and issuing executive orders until “safety was restored.” What followed was Turkey’s largest state-sponsored witch hunt since the coup of September 12 1980.

Sik was once again a target. He knew that he would be arrested but he refused to stop seeking and reporting on the truth. “Just because we are worried,” he said, “doesn’t mean we have to hide the truth.”

On December 29 last year, Sik was once again detained by the police at his home. His ideas, his journalism and his social media feeds were classified as “terrorist propaganda” and used against him in court. Sik responded to questions by explaining what journalism is.

He told his prosecutors: “I believe that sharing the truth with the public without distorting or betraying it is a duty…

“It is a right for the public to know the truth and this right has been entrusted to the journalist.”

In 2011 Sik was arrested by Gulenists for exposing their corruption and brutality, but this time he is accused of operating terrorist propaganda in support of the Gulen movement.

Those who accused him realised that their accusations sound ridiculous and so have added support of the Kurdistan Workers Party to their accusations.

Ahmet Sik is currently still in jail.

According to data from the Journalists Association of Turkey, 780 journalists’ press cards were cancelled in 2016.

Over 800 journalists had to go in front of a judge because of what they wrote while 189 journalists were physically and verbally attacked. Over 150 publications have been shut down and over 140 journalists are under arrest.

In addition, 14 members of parliament from the HDP opposition, including the party’s co-leaders and 37 mayors, are in prison.

“Even under different gods, fascism is the only religion that doesn’t change,” tweeted Sik recently. I should add that there is now a separate case against him because of these words.

What can we do? That was the question.

There is only one thing. To tell the truth at the top of our voice.

“The emperor has no clothes.”

Akin Olgun is a Turkish freelance journalist and former political prisoner living in exile from Turkey.

Oil spill in Turkey endangers birds

This 2012 video is called Birds of Turkey.

From BirdLife, with photos there:

Major oil spill in Turkey; emergency teams deployed

By Doğa Derneği, 19 Jan 2017

A major oil spill is affecting coastal areas in western Turkey. Doğa Derneği (Birdlife Turkey) has deployed an emergency team of volunteers to help oiled wildlife.

In the clear waters of Izmit Bay in western Turkey, a major oil spill is putting human health and marine biodiversity at risk. The spill occurred last Friday near the rich Key Biodiversity Area of Kocaeli Tepeleri, affecting bird species such as European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis, Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo and Common Coot Fulica atra.

Over the weekend, locals rang the alarm as oiled birds and deep-sea marine life started washing up ashore. As soon as the leakage began, Doğa’s Local Conservation Groups began work to rescue the affected wildlife, transferring them to the nearest wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre, Faruk Yalçın Zoo.

Itri Levent Erkol, Conservation Manager at Doğa Derneği, visited the coast and surrounding marine areas as soon as they were informed of the disaster. “Even if officially the cleaning and rescue work is now considered finished, we are still finding dead bodies of cormorants and coots”, says Erkol. “We are even finding oiled birds alive and citizens are having to take them home to clean them up.”

Doğa notes that many are using diesel or gasoline to remove the oil from affected wildlife, but they recommend the use of olive oil instead, as the other solvents may cause further harm to the animals.

Zoo officials informed Erkol that 17 of 58 rescued birds died for different reasons related to the oil spill, but the conditions of the survivors are improving.

Doğa’s president, Dicle Tuba Kılıç, called government officials to make an official announcement stating the companies responsible for the oil spill and to give official data on the affected wildlife.

“We’re worried the oil threat is still present for birds that winter in the area,” said Erkol.

Although nearly a week has passed since the catastrophic event, official statements have not yet been made about who is responsible for the spill or regarding any official rescue operations.

“This disastrous event once more shows that Turkey is not ready to handle oil spills, even at regional level” says Erkol. “More wildlife rescue centres should be established at key areas and official rescue work should be carried out – with the support of volunteers from local and national NGOs.”

Free speech threatened in Turkey

This video says about itself:

Turkish author Pamuk ‘worried about free speech in Turkey’

31 March 2016

Orhan Pamuk is Turkey’s most famous author. The Istanbul native was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. His books, such as “Snow” and “My Name Is Red”, have been translated into more than 60 languages. We caught up with him in Paris, where he is promoting director Grant Gee’s film “Innocence of Memories“, based on his novel “The Museum of Innocence”.

Orhan Pamuk gave us his point of view on the current political climate in Turkey.

By Steve Sweeney and Caroline Stockford in Istanbul, Turkey:

Turkey: Writers defiant as trial is adjourned

Friday 13th January 2017

Three facing terrorism charges pledge to defend free speech

THE trial of three prominent Turkish writers was adjourned in Istanbul on Wednesday as the defendants vowed to defend the “basic human right of freedom of speech.”

Ahmet Nesin, Professor Sebnem Korur Fincanci and Reporters Sans Frontieres journalist Erol Onderoglu appeared at the Caglayan High Criminal Court in Istanbul on Wednesday, charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” — namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The three had acted as guest editors of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem as a symbolic act of solidarity with Asli Erdogan and Necmiye Alpay, who were recently released on bail.

A packed courtroom, with international writers’ and solidarity groups from Germany, Italy and Welsh PEN present, heard the judge adjourn the trial until March, when the case will be heard alongside others related to Ozgur Gundem.

Following the adjournment, the defendants addressed people gathered outside the court. Prof Fincanci said: “We are here to defend the basic human right of freedom of speech. There can be no freedom for us while journalists are still in prison.

“Our solidarity struggle is to create a better environment both in Turkey and the world. International solidarity shows that we are all struggling together.

“We thank all of our colleagues from abroad and we have had thousands of messages of support from people saying that we are in their hearts. So feel this support and feel powerful.”

Newspaper Evrensel editor-in-chief Fatih Polat said: “There is not much difference in being inside or outside prison for journalists in Turkey at the moment.”

Earlier, in the same Istanbul court, the trial of Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar and journalist Erdem Gul was also adjourned.

They face charges over a story in 2015 in which they alleged to have uncovered the smuggling of arms to Syria by intelligence services.

Mr Dundar did not appear at the court as he is in exile in Germany.

But Mr Gul remained defiant, stating: “The only evidence in our case is journalism. The media is on trial.

“All journalists should be freed immediately from prisons in Turkey. The only organisation we are members of is the journalists’ organisation.”

He finished by quoting the words of poet Can Yucel: “However much we are able to live without lies, so much the better.”

See also here.

Turkish media banned from reporting on terrorism: here.