Friday, December 29, 2006

BIA² Media Report: Army Shadow on Press

59 years imprisonment demanded for 7 reporters covering conscientious objection and the Kurdish issue during the last three months. Number of 301 victims has reached 65. 5 people are on trailed under charges of violating the Law to Protect Ataturk.

BIA News Center

20/11/2006 Erol ONDEROGLU BİA (Istanbul) - The 2006 3rd Quarterly Media Monitoring Report prepared by the BIA² Media Monitoring Desk and covering the months of July, August and September has been released.

The 14-page report discloses factual details on the situation of the media in relation to rights and freedoms showing the growing burden on the Turkish press under the new Anti-Terror Law which has expanded the scope of offenses. The media also suffers from the debate around a possible peaceful solution to Turkey's Kurdish problem.

The "normalization" and "democratization" processes under the European Union reforms are subject to about-turn with military strategies and practices being enforced.

Interviewing representatives of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), allowing a voice to opposition Kurdish politicians, defending the right of being against war and conscientious objection are all regarded as offenses punishable with prison terms. The situation in its most recent form has turned journalism into a more dangerous occupation.

The 3rd Quarterly Media Monitoring Report attracts attention not only to the destructive effects on the media of the conflict environment but also to the plight of 65 people who, in the past year alone, have been put on trial under controversial penal code article 301 just for expressing their opinions. 25 of these 301 cases were launched in the past three months.

Back to the DGM days!

With the recent amendment to Turkey's Anti-Terror Law (TMY), the punishment of journalists covering conscientious objection and/or the non-violent aspects of armed organizations has been increased.

The cases are being heard not at courts of first instance but at "Specialized High Criminal Courts" that have replaced the State Security Courts (DGM) that were abolished in 2004 under the EU reforms.

Sebati Karakurt, Hasan Kilic and Necdet Tatlican of the mass circulation "Hurriyet" newspaper, "Milliyet" newspaper reporter Namik Durukan, "Birgun" newspaper employees Gokhan Gencay and Ibrahim Cesmecioglu and "Ulkede Ozgur Gundem" newspaper reporter Birgul Ozbaris are those now facing the resurrected "DGM days". A total of 59 years imprisonment is being demanded for them.

No change in a year

The BIA² Media Monitoring Desk which had previously disclosed that as of July 1, 2006, a total of 40 people faced charges under article 301, now states that the figure has increased to 65 defendants as of October 1. An increase of 25 new suspects charged under this controversial article in 3 months alone.

According to the Desk, there is no change in the situation compared to the same period of last year and pressures on the freedom of expression still continue.

163 people appear at courts, 77 of them journalists

The report focused on the situation of 163 people of which 77 are journalists and 84 are publishers. The remaining include mayors, writers, unionists and activists under trial as well as two people who have applied to the European Court of Human Rights.

The desk's previous report contained information on 56 cases launched against 67 individuals and the increase in the number of cases is attributed to the "aiding and abetting the PKK" charges brought forth against 56 mayors. There is also an increase in the number of trials.

The 3rd Quarterly Media Monitoring Report covers current issues under the titles "attacks and threat", "detentions and arrests", "trials and attempts", "European Court of Human Rights", "RTUK practices", "regulations and seeking rights" and "reaction to censorship".

According to the report, there are attempts to exert pressure on the Turkish media through high compensation demands coming from various circles including the Koza Gold Company, OYAK, MOPAK Paper Company, politicians and local authorities.

A total of 6 million 396 thousand YTL in damages is being demanded in cases filed against 30 journalists while 4 journalists have been put on trial charged with "insult" and threatened with prison terms, one of whom has already been sentenced.

Fate of arrested unknown under TMY secrecy

* In three months a total of 12 attacks took place against journalists and media institutions out of which 3 were against the , and İnternet sites and 3 others targeted local journalists.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's unfounded allegations against the media were also referred to as attacks in the recent report. The number of attacks in this year's 3rd Quarterly Media Monitoring Report reflect a drop compared to the same period of last year where there were 23 attacks but an increase compared to the previous three months in 2006 where only 10 attacks were listed.

* While no detention incident was reported, there have been a number of arrests. "Ozgur Radyo" Broadcast Director Fusun Erdogan and "Atilim" newspaper Editor in Chief Ibrahim Cicek were among 6 journalists who were placed under arrest on charges of "having relationships with the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP) organization.

But because the Anti-Terror Law has imposed a six month secrecy on the case file, details of the allegations are not known.

* While "Isci Koylu" (Workers Peasants) magazine Editor in Chief Memik Horuz who was arrested in 2001 was the "only journalist held in prison in the capacity of press freedoms", the arrest and imprisonment of Dicle News Agency (DIHA) reporters Evrim Dengiz, Nesrin Yazar and Rustu Demirkaya has increased this figure to 4 in the past six months.

Increase in "Organization Cases"

* There is an increase in the number of cases opened against journalists and other political and civil society representatives who focus on the Kurdish issue. The increase is reflective in trials based on "aiding and abetting the PKK" charges.

"Ulkede Ozgur Gundem" newspaper Editor in Chief Huseyin Aykol is subject to a trial where a prosecutor demands 10 years imprisonment for him on allegations of "organizational membership" based on his interviews with PKK leaders on Kandil mountains. 56 mayors, on the other hand, are on trial for sending a letter to Danish Prime Minister Rassmusen urging him not to close down the Kurdish "Roj TV" under Turkish pressure.

301 targets associations

* In the past three months not only journalists but association members have also been charged under article 301. 25 new cases under this article include charges against Mersin 78's Foundation member Ethem Dincer and Ozgur Der official Burhan Kurbanoglu.

* Article 216 of the Penal Code which covers the offense of "incitement to hatred and enmity" was used in court cases launched against 6 people in the same period.

Again, in the same three months, Ankara Public Prosecutor Huseyin Boyrazoglu filed an appeal to overturned the previous acquittal decision for Professor Dr. Ibrahim Kaboglu, the former head of the Human Rights Advisory Board of the Prime Ministry and board member Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran on grounds that their views in the "minority report" subject to trial were not in the scope of freedom of expression.

"Ataturk" cases against five

* Prosecutions launched under the "Insulting the memory of Ataturk" law are targeting not only publishers and journalists but also translators.

Journalist-writer Ipek Calislar is on trial for interviews related to her bestseller book "Latife Hanim" together with "Hurriyet" newspaper editor Necdet Tatlican.

Publisher Fatih Tas, translators Lutfi Taylan Tosun and Aysel Yildirim are on trial and face 4.5 years imprisonment each for the Turkish language version of John Tirman's "Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade".

12 "Intervention in Justice" cases

* Allegations made against journalists and activists under Penal Code articles 277 and 288 as well as Press Law article 19 charging them with "intervention in justice" have increased in the past three months.

12 journalists are still on trial under this allegation including Milliyet's Lube Ayar, Yeni Asya's Faruk Cakir, Agos's Hrant Dink and Aydin Engin.

Censorship and bans

* "Legal censorship" against newspapers and magazines continued between July and October 2006. "Ulkede Ozgur Gundem" newspaper was banned from print for 15 days on grounds of "continuously giving room to PKK statements".

A court ordered the seizure of Kaos GL magazine's summer issue on the theme of pornography ruling that it was against "general public moral" and Kaos GL is now taking the verdict to the ECHR.

* Ozgur Der member Bahadir Kurbanoglu, Mersin 78's Association Chairman Ethem Dincer, "Agos" newspaper Editor in Chief Hrant Dink and Sarkis Seropyan, editor Arat Dink were subject to new charges alongside the "Birgun" newspaper for a report on Saudi businessman Yasin El Kadi and "Leman" magazine as well as its cartoonist Mehmet Cagdag.

The number of court cases which was three last year in the same period was recorded as 7 in 2006.

* Long-term pressure related to published cartoons also reached its conclusion with the "Penguen" magazine fined 5,000 YTL in damages in a suit filed against it by Culture and Tourism Minister Atilla Koc.

And now the good news...

* The Beyoglu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted "Father and Bastard" novel author Elif Safak who was put on trial for "publicly denigrating Turkishness" under article 301.

* The Bagcilar 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance dismissed charges against "Radikal" newspaper journalist Murat Yetkin for his article titled "Turkey will be on trial in the case launched against Orhan Pamuk" basing its verdict on statue of limitations.

The same court took the same decision for journalist Nese Duzel who was on trial for "propaganda" due to an interview she conducted with Democratic Society Party (DTP) founding member Orhan Dogan.

* Due to it being the summer months, the number of cases dealt with at the European Court of Human Rights was lower than usual and Turkey was sentenced to pay 7,000 YTL in damages in two cases brought before the court based on verdicts passed under penal code article 312. (EO/II/EU)


Post a Comment

<< Home