Jailed Turkish journalist Şanlı says he wants press organizations not to forget him

Journalist Ufuk Şanlı

Turkish journalist Ufuk Şanlı, who was arrested in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016 and was handed down a prison sentence of seven years, six months in March of this year, has said he wants Turkish and international press organizations not to forget him.

Şanlı, an experienced business reporter, used to work for the Vatan and Zaman dailies. Zaman was closed down by the Turkish government due to its links to the Gülen movement in the aftermath of the coup attempt on July 15.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Şanlı was detained on July 27, 2016, and was arrested on July 31, 2016. A high criminal court in İstanbul handed down a seven-year, six-month prison sentence to the journalist on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

Dozens of journalists were jailed for simply working at media organizations linked to the Gülen movement.

Şanlı, who is incarcerated in İstanbul’s notorious Silivri Prison, in early September responded to a questionnaire prepared by the P24 Independent Journalism Platform during a visit by P24 lawyers.

The questionnaire aims at revealing the circumstances and the problems faced by jailed journalists in prison and making a contribution to their solution.

Şanlı complained that no representative from any Turkish or international press organization has come to visit him in prison so far.

“Until today, nobody came either from journalist organizations or from the non-governmental organization working on this [the press]. Many of my colleagues here feel the same as me. We would like the Turkish Journalists’ Association, Turkish Journalists’ Labor Union, Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders and the Economy Reporters Association [because it is my area of expertise] not to forget us,” Şanlı said in the questionnaire.

To a question about whether he has any health problems and whether he can easily access medical services in prison, Şanlı said a hospital in İstanbul, the Okmeydanı Teaching and Research Hospital, gave him a report that shows that he needs to have an operation. Şanlı did not mention what his problem was but said he could not have the operation due to the lack of hygiene in prison and because there is nobody to care for him after the surgery.

When asked whether he has even been visited by a member of the Turkish Parliament, Şanlı said no deputy has come to visit him in prison.

“At least, I would like to have been visited by a deputy who has a journalism background,” said the journalist.

Şanlı left a question unanswered that asked whether he has even been subjected to maltreatment or physical or verbal harassment in prison.

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 attempt. Zaman 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 September 6, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 147 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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