March 25, 2012 (INDYRADIO) Currently Turkey holds more than 100 journalists in prison, most of them Kurdish. Many are awaiting trial merely for the use of banned words, such as "Kurdistan". prior to their release on March 12th, Nedim Sener and Ahmet Şık were in prison for 375 days and still stand accused of participating in a plot to overthrow the Turkish Government. The existence of the plot, dubbed “Ergenekon” remains unproven, but it has kept Turkish investigators busy and they have filled the jails with opponents of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan has mocked the Turkish Journalists Union for insisting that these journalists be released, and claims he's not holding journalists in prison, only terrorists.
On Tuesday, Der Spiegel interviewed Şık:
More than 100 journalists are still awaiting trial in Turkish prisons -- more than in China or Iran. To make matters worse, the AKP government further tightened the anti-terrorism legislation in 2006. These arbitrary laws are used to target government critics on the left and the right, but especially Kurdish journalists suspected of being sympathizers with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In a large-scale operation underway for months, the government has been trying to solve the Kurdish problem in its own way.
In addition to 68 Kurdish reporters, more than 6,000 Kurdish mayors, politicians and activists are currently in Turkish prisons. In many cases, their only offence is to have used banned words like "Kurdistan." The accused are often completely ignorant of what they allegedly commited. Their attorneys say that a "climate of fear" has taken hold, and that it is no longer clear what exactly can be written and thought, or even what the AKP government likes and dislikes.
"The prime minister defines who is a journalist and who is a terrorist, and that's our biggest problem," says Sik.
International protests won the release Nedim Sener and Ahmet Şık on March 12th. Ironically, a threat to their lives from the mysterious “Ergenekon” appeared via an intermediary on Twitter on the 16th. Rather then investigate this threat, the Turkish government has opened a new investigation of the journalists. A trial has not yet been set for the original charges against them.
In the letter below, Sener mentions Armenian muckraker Hrant Dink who published his dissident newspaper in Turkey right up until he was murdered in 2007. He was murdered while under investigation for "insulting Turkishness", and complained of death threats which the government refused to investigate. So it is that we shine the light on Şener and Şık whose lives might be in less danger in prison that out.
This letter from Nedim Şener was written before the recent round of death threats:
With my thanks to those loyal friends of the truth.
All of us remain traumatized by the murder of our colleague and brother, Hrant Dink, the owner of the Agos Newspaper. The state officials who were supposed to solve the murder hid the truth with lies. The executive branch of the Turkish Republic the government as well as the legislature Parliament and the judiciary all failed in illuminating the Dink murder. Only the fourth power of democracy, the media, did its duty to highlight the Dink murder. As a result of this plot, and to pay the price, I was at Silivri Prison for 375 days.
During those hard days my staying power was my loyalty to the truth. The International Press Institute (IPI), which recognised my loyalty and supported me from the very moment I was arrested to the day I was released from prison, was my greatest power. As a member of the IPI family, honouring the values and opinions of my family is very important for me. I thank the IPI family, with members all over the world, for supporting me. Their efforts for freedom, not only mine but also the freedom of my other colleagues, will be embedded in history.
At this point, I wish to express my gratitude to IPI Executive Director Alison McKenzie, who stood by my wife as she cried when I was arrested and who was with my smiling wife when I was released. She honoured us. I thank IPI’s staff, IPI’s Executive Board and [members of IPI’s Turkish National Committee] Ferai Tınç, Haluk Şahin, Kadri Gürsel, Doğan Satmış and Yurdanur Atadan. I also thank for myself and on behalf of my wife and my daughter my colleagues who signed the petition for my release and my colleagues and brothers and sisters all over the world who pursue the truth and who work for the freedom of the world.
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