According to the BIA Media Monitoring Report for the second quarter of 2011, 68 journalists went to jail till July, 12 of them because of their news, writings and utterances. Turkish courts decided for prison sentences of 44 years and 8 months in total in April, May and June.
Twelve people went to prison in the scope of freedom of expression until July 2011: Vedat Kurşun, Ruken Ergün and Ozan Kılıç, former chief editors of the Kurdish Azadiya Welt newspaper; Azadiya Welat Batman representative Deniz Kılıç; Dicle News Agency (DİHA) Batman representative Erdoğan Alkan; Diyarakır representative Kadri Kaya; Batman Post newspaper writer Mehmet Karabaş; Aram Publishing owner Bedri Adanır who is also in charge of the Hawar newspaper; Barış Açıkel as editor-in-chief of the Devrim Yolunda İşçi Köylü newspaper (‘Revolutionary Workers and Peasants’); Saadet Irmak, owner and chief editor of the Yeni Yorum (‘New Comment’) and Ülkede Yorum (‘Comment in the Country’) newspapers and university students Berna Yılmaz and Ferhat Tüzer.
These ten journalists and two university students were tried/are still being prosecuted under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law (TMK) related to “propaganda for an illegal organization” on the grounds of their writings, news, publications and utterances.
A total of 68 journalists are in prison as of 30 June 2011.
A total of 56 journalists are currently behind bars in the context of operations and investigations related to the Union of Kurdistan Communities – Turkey (KCK) (22), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the clandestine “Ergenekon” organization charged with the attempt to topple the government (15), the Party and Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of the Turkish People (DHKP-C) (6), the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) (7), the “Revolutionary Headquarters” terrorist organization (2), the Maoist Communist Party (MKP) (1), the “Revolutionary Movement” (1) and the Odak Magazine (‘Focus’) (1).
The indictments about 19 journalists in prison have not been announced yet. They do not know the allegations put up against them while they are waiting for the day of their first hearing.
The 2011 April-May-June Media Monitoring Report of the Independent Communication Network (BİA) Media Monitoring Desk is structured under the following chapters: “Killed Journalists”, “Journalists in Prison”, “Attacks, Threats and Obstructions”, “Investigations, new/pending Trials and Decisions”, “TCK 285; 288: How many Thousand Trials?”, “The Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Minors from Harmful Publications”, “Closures and Confiscations”, “Trials related to Insult and Personal Rights”, “Regulations, Effects, Reactions, Legal Remedies”, “European Court of Human Rights – Applications and Decisions” and “RTÜK Reprimands”.
The Media Monitoring Report draws special attention to the number of journalists in prison in Turkey in the period between April-May-June 2011, to lengthy detention periods, investigations and prosecutions in the context of freedom of expression and Article 7/2 of the TMK that entails restrictions of freedom of expression and press freedom. Moreover, the report touches upon Articles 215 (Praising the offence or the offender), 220 (Forming organized groups with the intention of committing crime), 285 (Genital controls), 288 (Confiscation and destruction of an officially delivered property) and 314 (Alliance for offense) of the Turkish Criminal Law (TCK) with regard to protests, announcements, reports and meetings /demonstrations. The media monitoring report reveals that these issues were the subject of letters sent to Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and that they were also put on the agenda of journalism and human rights organisations in Turkey and abroad and of international institutions.
Journalists and journalism organizations urged for implementing the necessary regulations for the immediate release of detained journalists. They demanded to bring the correspondent articles of the TMK and TCK to a democratic level for a free debate and journalism especially related to the Kurdish question.
The internet filter system announced to be enforced on 22 August encountered mass protests in April, May and June. The Communication Foundation/bianet applied to the Council of State on 14 April for the removal of the censorship implied by the internet filter for internet users all over Turkey.
Prison terms of 44 years and eight months under TMK
In the second quarter of 2011, nine journalists were sentenced to imprisonment of 44 years and 8.5 months in total and to monetary fines summing up to TL 36,380 (€ 17,500) under charges of “propaganda for an illegal organization” according to Article 7/2 TMK.
During the first three months of the year, 13 people received prison sentences of 21 years and ten months in total. Monetary fines amounted to TL 66,946 (€ 32,000).
In the period of April, May and June, eight people were facing imprisonment of a total of 223.5 years concerning freedom of expression, among them pro-Kurdish politicians Aysel Tuğluk and Ahmet Türk.
These prosecutions are usually based on Article 7/2 TMK and Articles 220 and 215 TCK.
35 people alleged of “insult”
35 persons stand trial by reasons of alleged “insult”, attacks on “personal rights” and compensation claims. Nine people were handed down prison terms of nine years and four months in total. Five people were sentenced to monetary fines of TL 29,860 (€ 14,000) in compensation, three of whom are to pay their fines to Prime Minister Erdoğan. Subsequent to the elections in June this year, Erdoğan withdrew a number of compensation claims.
During the first quarter of the year, 44 people stood trial on the grounds of “insult”. Three people were sentenced to a total of eleven months in jail and to monetary fines of TL 10,580 (€ 5,000) in compensation.
Closures and Confiscations
The 12 June issue of Azadiya Welat was seized under allegations of “propaganda for an illegal organization”. The publication of the Kurdish newspaper was suspended for 15 days. Azadiya Welat is publishing since 2006 as the only daily newspaper in Kurdish in Turkey. Since then, the paper was exposed to eight publication bans. All copies of the second edition of the Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite magazine (‘Free People and Democratic Modernity’) were confiscated on 8 June.
On 26 June, the Day of Solidarity with Torture Victims, banners were seized according to Article 301/2 TCK on “publicly humiliating military and security structures of the State”. The posters featured the slogans “Zero tolerance for torture, indefinite tolerance for disproportionate force” and “Torture is a crime against humanity. Proportional power is the legal cover for torture in the street”.