BİA report: 237 aggravated life sentences sought for 520 journalists in Turkey

A recently released quarterly report, the BİA Media Monitoring Report, has revealed that 122 journalists were in Turkish jails as of Jan.1, 2018, while 520 journalists are facing 237 aggravated life sentences and an additional 3,672 years in prison on various charges.

The 520 journalists who are standing trial without pretrial detention also face the risk of going to jail.

The journalists are accused of such crimes as “taking part in a coup attempt,” “membership in a terrorist organization,” “disseminating terrorist propaganda,” “insulting the Turkish president” and “insulting state organs.”

The report covers the October-November-December 2017 period.

Out of the 122 journalists in jail, 79 are from media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement and 24 are from Kurdish media outlets, while the remaining 19 are from various media organizations such as Cumhuriyet, Evrensel, Eylül Hapishane magazine, Sosyalist Dayanışma magazine, ETHA news agency, Emek-Adalet magazine and the German Die Welt newspaper.

The Gülen movement, whose dozens of media outlets were closed down by the Turkish government in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, is accused by the government of masterminding the putsch. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

Sixty-six of the journalists in jail are being tried, while 31 of them have not yet been indicted, according to BIA’s report. Twenty-one of the journalists in jail have been convicted, while four of them are waiting for the conclusion of their appeal against their conviction.

In the same period of 2016, there were 131 journalists in Turkey’s jails, 18 of whom had been convicted, while seven were being tried and 106 were undergoing an investigation.

Over the past three months, 17 journalists and media employees have been detained. Out of these 17 journalists, 10 were detained due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement and five were taken into custody as part of investigations into the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In the same period of 2016, 41 journalists and media employees were detained, while the total number of detained journalists in 2016 was 201.

The BIA report also showed that a total of 46 journalists were fired or lost their jobs in the last quarter of 2017. This figure reached 10,000 in 2017 due to the closure of many media organizations in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

Furthermore, a Turkish court in İstanbul on Tuesday sentenced five veteran journalists to prison sentences ranging from 18 to 45 months for symbolically becoming editor-in-chief of the now-closed pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. Journalists Ragıp Duran, Ayşe Düzkan, Hüseyin Bektai, and Mehmet Ali Çelebi received one-and-a-half-years of imprisonment while Hüseyin Akyol was handed three years and nine months over what judges deemed as propaganda for “a terror group.”

Duran called the ruling “farcical” and vowed to continue to exercise his profession.

Özgür Gündem, published since 1992 in the Turkish language, was ordered to shut down by an İstanbul penal court in August 2016, a month after a controversial military coup attempt.

Meanwhile, European Court of Human Rights  (ECtHR) has fined Turkish government 5,000 euros for closing Evrensel daily in 2001. ECtHR ruled that temporary closure of the newspaper violated freedom of expression which is guaranteed by European Convention on Human Rights.

The case was filed by Fevzi Saygılı, the owner of the Evrensel newspaper at the time and Ali Karataş, the newspaper’s editor. Turkish government closed the newspaper for publishing the names of two state security officials. Both officials were accused of killing journalist Metin Göktepe. Göktepe died on January 8, after being brutally beaten by Turkish police officers as he was covering a funeral in Istanbul.

Eleven officers were tried over Göktepe’s killing. Five were acquitted, and six received 18-year prison sentences, commuted to seven years because of “good manners at court” and because “it was impossible to determine the real assailant.” After spending one year and eight months in prison, the jailed police officers were released as part of an amnesty.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 242 journalists and media workers are in jails as of January 4, 2018, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 215 are arrested pending trial, only 27 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 138 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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