At least 9 newspapers were banned based on the Anti-Terror Act, 23 people were sentenced to 58 years imprisonment and fines summing up to 9,740 TL; 101 people were convicted of “attacks on personal rights”, received prison sentence of 98 years in total and were sued for compensation claims of 1,408,680 TL. Journalist Cihan Hayırsevener was killed due to the state’s indifference to violence.
The process of the “Kurdish initiative” imposed a muzzle to freedom of expression. The 2009 Media Monitoring Report by the Independent Communication Network (BİA) Media Monitoring Desk revealed that 323 people, among them 123 journalists, were tried in the context of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
Three years after the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the state’s indifference to violence against journalists lead to the death of Güney Marmara Yaşam newspaper editor-in-chief Cihan Hayırsevener. Hayırsevener was writing about organized crime and corruption in tenders.
The Anti-Terror Act (TMY), which was not accounted for as “in contrary to the Constitution” by the Constitutional Court, silenced nine newspapers and magazines: Günlük, Özgür Yorum, Politika, Ayrıntı, Azadiya Welat, Özgür Mezopotamya, Demokratik Açılım and Atılım newspapers and Aydınlık magazine. One-month publication bans were imposed once or in some cases more than once.
The report tackles the struggles and cases of 978 people. Violations of freedom of expression are divided into the following sections: Attacks and Threats, Detentions and Arrests, Cases on Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression, Corrections and Seeking Justice, European Court of Human Rights, Reactions to Censorship andPunishments by RTÜK.
Heavy convictions in TMY and TCK cases
47 people, 22 of them journalists, were prosecuted in 2009 under charges of “publishing pronouncements of terror organizations”, “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization” or “revealing people struggling against terrorism as targets”. 23 people were sentenced to 58 years imprisonment and monetary fines of 9,749 Turkish Lira (TL) (€ 4,640). However, this is a small number compared to 44 convicts and thus twice as many convictions under the TMY in 2008.
The convicts: Baki Yıldırım, Cesur Yılmaz, Hüseyin Tunç, Orhan Miroğlu, Murat Polat, Aysel Tuğluk, Mehmet Altay,Ethem Açıkalın, Temel Demirer, Dinçer Ergün, Leyla Zana, Hasan Yüksel, Mehmet Bıldırcın, Hasan Mutlu, Halime Keçeli, İlhan Sarıoğlu, Emrah Eskibal, Özkan Tacar, Rüştü Demirkaya, Abdullah Demirtaş, Osman Baydemir, Nejdet Atalay and Bedri Adanır.
Increase in cases and punishments related to defamation
34 journalists among 101 Turkish citizens were sentenced to 98 years and five days imprisonment and compensation claims summing up to TL 1,408,680 (€ 670,800) under charges of “attacks on personal rights”. Local courts in 2009 decreed for a total of nine years, three months and 6 days imprisonment and monetary fines of TL 41,290 (€ 19,660). In the previous year, 74 people received prison sentences of 77 years and faced compensation claims of TL 1,885,500.
The defendants convicted at local courts were Perihan Mağden, Cemal Subaşı, Hacı Boğatekin, Leman Yurtseven,Fakir Yılmaz, Selmi Yılmaz, Şamil Tayyar, Sevda Turaçlar, Betül Öztürk, juvenile O.K, Ahmet Keskin, Hasan Özaydın,Berna Özarslan, Özgür Boğatekin, Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, Mahmut Alınak, Muzaffer Erdoğdu, Ahmet Güner andTaner Akçam.
16 years seven months imprisonment for “Incitement to hatred and hostility”
21 people, six of them journalists, stood trial for “incitement to hatred and hostility”; 13 defendants were convicted, among them three journalists. They received a total of 16 years and seven months imprisonment.
The names of the convicts are Aysel Tuğluk, Ethem Açıkalın, Tayyip Temel, Ercan Öksüz, Oktay Candemir, Mahmut Alınak, İbrahim Güçlü, Hüseyin Kalkan, Fuat Önen, Arif Sevinç, Nadir Yektaş, Eyüp Karakeçi and Mehmet Kemal Uğurlu. In 2008 on the other hand, seven defendants out of 23 were acquitted.
Writer Demirer still defendant under article 301
37 people were tried under article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) in 2009, six cases were dismissed by the Ministry of Justice. The trial of author Temel Demirer is still pending. Ten activists from Eskişehir and radio journalistSabri Ejder Öziç were acquitted. The Ministry of Justice has still not decided whether to pursue or dismiss the prosecutions of another 20 people.
The trials of 54 mayors of Democratic Society Party (DTP), which was closed down by the Constitutional Court in mid December, including four journalists, are pending under charges of “praising criminals”.
State impassive to violence; Hayırsevener killed
27 journalists and the Bizim Kocaeli newspaper were subjects of attacks in 2009. Ten people were threatened for their thoughts, among them six journalists.
Violence was mainly directed at local journalists: Cihan Hayırsevener (Balıkesir), İzzettin Oktay (Siirt), Ömer Çelik(İstanbul), Seyfullah Ayvalı (İzmir), Hacı Boğatekin (Adıyaman), Zeki Dara (Hakkari), Erhan Telli (Bursa), Diya Yarayan (Siirt), Yakup Önal (Tekirdağ), Mansur Obut (Batman), Durmuş Tuna (Aydın), Ömer Pınar (Şanlıurfa), Sedat Şahinler (Antalya), Fırat Akyol (Giresun), Rasim Ozan Kütahyalı (İstanbul), İbrahim Gündüz (Ankara), Mahmut Bozarslan (Diyarbakır), Özden Erkuş (Ankara), Ediz Alıç (Adana), Rengin Gültekin (Adana), Kadir Puslu (Adana),Meral Özdemir (Diyarbakır), Mehmet Emek (Diyarbakır), Gamze Dondurmacı (Ankara), Doğan Durak (Ankara), Neşet Öner (Bursa), Şükrü Öner (Bursa) and Orhan Kaplan (Bursa).
Five out of 25 detained journalists were released
Devrimci Demokrasi newspaper owner and editor-in-chief Erdal Güler and former editor-in-chief of the Kurdish Azadiya Welat newspaper Vedat Kurşun are in prison under charges of “publishing praise” for organisations such as the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the Maoist Communist Party (MKP).
Prison sentences were handed to at least 23 people arrested for activities related to their profession, the actual number in this respect is estimated even higher. Abdurrahman Gök, Serhat Bolluk, Nadiye Gürbüz, Mehmet Ali Varış andVedat Yenerer were tried un-detained and released throughout the year.
Journalists like Mustafa Balbay and Emcet Olcayto are still in prison in context of the Ergenekon case. Gün TV officialAhmet Birsin, Adana Radyo Dünya broadcasting director Kenan Karavil and Seyithan Akyüz from Azadiya Welat newspaper were taken into detention in the scope of an operation regarding the Union of Kurdistan Societies (KCK), the umbrella organization of the PKK.
Istanbul Özgür Radio broadcasting director Füsun Erdoğan, Atılım magazine publishing co-ordinator İbrahim Çiçekand magazine official Sedat Senoğlu are in detention since 2006 on the grounds of alleged membership of the illegal Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) organization.
Penalties of ECHR more than doubled
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) convicted Turkey to a total fine of TL 472,392 (€ 225,000) in compensation. In the previous year, this amount added up to TL 183,801 (€ 87,525). 11,100 complaint files concerned with Turkey are currently waiting to be dealt with at the ECHR.
26 employees of Ülkede Özgür Gündem, Gündem, Güncel ve Gerçek Demokrasi newspapers sought their rights at the ECHR together with Seyithan Demir, İsmail Kara, Ömer Bahçeci, Fikret Turan, Cihan Öztürk, Aziz Özer, İbrahim Güçlü, Sedat İmza, Ayhan Erdoğan, Mehmet Cevher İlhan, Rüya Kurtuluş, Erdinç Gök, Haşim Özgür Ersoy, İnci Açık,Serpil Ocak, Ayfer Çiçek, Nuri Günay and Murat Kaya.
The following new applications were made to the ECHR in 2009: the Hrant Dink murder, publication bans imposed toÖzgür Mezopotamya, Özgür Görüş, Rojev, Siyasi Alternatif and Süreç newspapers, Internet Technology Association(INETD) in regard to the ban of youtube.com, Birecik’in Sesi newspaper official Şevket Demir, Siirt Mücadelenewspaper owner Cumhur Kılıççıoğlu, Cumhuriyet newspaper journalist Alper Turgut, Cevat Düşün from Alternatifnewspaper, Vakit newspaper writer Abdurrahman Dilipak and Taraf newspaper journalist Orhan Miroğlu. (EÖ/VK)