Jailed Turkish journalist Bayram Kaya: Being a prisoner is like a small death

Turkish journalist Bayram Kaya, who was sentenced to six years, three months on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, says “hope” and “longing” are the sources of life in prison.

Twenty-five Turkish journalists including Kaya were sentenced to terms ranging from two to seven years on March 8.

“You want to scream… You scream as much as you can… Your scream reaches the sky… But no one hears you,” said Kaya, who is in İstanbul’s notorious Silivri Prison for two years, in a letter published on the tr724 news website on Wednesday.

“Being a prisoner is like a small death,” Kaya added, explaining his ways of getting over it:

“The best way is not to see them [the concrete walls and barbed wire].”

Saying that “hope” and “longing” are the two magic words for him, Kaya said: “Everything is at your disposal when you have these words. You face a second death when you lose them.”

In his emotional letter Kaya also wrote about his adventure with a daisy that grew in the courtyard of his prison block.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on March 9 condemned the sentences that 25 Turkish journalists including Kaya received the day before in a political mass trial in İstanbul targeting opposition journalists.

“We condemn these sentences as an act of political despotism, not an act of justice,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “After this trial, we must conclude that no vestige of the rule of law remains in Turkey. Once again, we call for the immediate release of all journalists convicted arbitrarily.”

“Concerned by today’s decision of 25th Criminal Court in Istanbul to imprison several journalists incl. @murataksoy & @AtillaTasNet. The severe charges were never proven during the investigation. I urge #Turkey to free the journalists & drop unfounded charges against them,” OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir tweeted.

“The sentencing in Istanbul today of at least 22 journalists on anti-state charges is a disgrace to Turkey’s justice system, and we call on authorities to drop the charges on appeal,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said from New York.

“Turkish authorities must stop equating journalism with terrorism, and release the scores of press workers jailed for doing their job.”

Following a July 15, 2016 coup attempt, the Turkish government designated the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization in a development that many say was politically motivated. Working at a Gülen-linked media organization, depositing money in the Gülen-linked Bank Asya or even downloading the ByLock mobile phone application, which is the top communication tool among the Gülen followers according to Turkish authorities, are all seen as signs of membership in a terrorist organization.

Zaman, which was Turkey’s best-selling newspaper, was taken over by the government in March 2016 and then closed down in the aftermath of the failed coup. Zaman had angered the government with its critical stance and extensive coverage of a corruption scandal that erupted in late 2013.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of August 6, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 170 were under arrest pending trial while only 67 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 144 journalists who are living 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 some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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