Jailed journalist Emre Soncan, who has been imprisoned in infamous Silivri Prison for 425 days, has complained about discrimination done by Turkey Journalists Association (TGC) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) among the jailed journalists in Turkish prisons.
Soncan, a former correspondent for Turkish Presidency of Zaman daily, which was closed down by a government decree under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, has sent a message from the prison and draw attentions to discriminatory political behavior even during solidarity visits to jailed journalists.
Journalist Soncan has stated that the TGC and the CHP delegations have only visited some jailed journalists while they have closed their eyes to some other jailed journalists and completely ignored them. Pointing out that journalists were discriminated according to their worldview or institutions that they used to worked for, Soncan has emphasized that this attitude can not be reconciled with the understanding of democracy and the freedom of the press.
The discrimination that Emre Soncan means is related to the jailed journalists who used to work for now-closed media outlets which have been affiliated with the Gülen movement. Both Turkish main opposition party and journalist organizations did not visit the jailed journalists who worked for Zaman, Bugün, Meydan dailies, Cihan news agency, Samanyolu media group and Aksiyon magazine.
Soncan’s friend and colleague Ahmet Dönmez, who worked together in the same newspaper over 10 years, has shared Soncan’s message on his Twitter account on Tuesday. The message shared by Dönmez is as follow:
“CHP deputies and Turkish Journalists Association often come to the Silivri Prison in order to visit our colleagues. But they meet only certain journalists and ignore some journalists by basing on their political view.
The opposition parties does not perform their monitoring and supervision tasks indiscriminately and the association does not fulfill the tasks of solidarity and protection promiscuously. Is this your understanding of democracy? Is this your understanding of press freedom? I am ashamed of this primitive discrimination in the name of my profession. I have been jailed for the democracy and I have paid for it! ”
According to data compiled by the Stockholm Center of Freedom (SCF), 88 out of 256 journalists who have been kept in prison in pre-trial detention are directly linked to media organisations (Zaman, Yeni Hayat, Yarına Bakış, Meydan, Today’s Zaman dailies, Aksiyon news magazine, Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, Irmak TV etc.) affiliated with the Gülen movement in the investigation documents and indictments.
22 of them have also been affiliated with the Gülen movmenent despite they used to work for different media outlets (Taraf, Yeni Şafak, Star, Habertürk dailies, and Haberdar, Aktif Haber and other national or local online news outlets etc…).
92 of jailed journalists and media workers, who used to work for state-run Anadolu news agency and state-run TRT televisions, were also affiliated with the Gülen movement. Meanwhile, 54 of jailed journalists and media workers have also been affiliated with the Gülen movement beside of other accusations directed them in their indictments despite they have worked for Cumhuriyet, Birgün, Sözcü dailies, Türksolu magazine and some other leftist news outlets.
As a total, alleged affiliations for 211 out of 256 jailed journalists, who are in pre-trial detention, have been urged to the Gülen movement were mentioned in the indictments and investigation documents of jailed journalists. Despite of the huge domination of Gülen movement affiliated jailed journalists and media workers, some of the visits paid by CHP and TGC delegations to the journalists in prisons as follow:
CHP İstanbul deputy Barış Yarkadaş visited detained journalists in Silivri and Bakırköy Prisons on September 3, 2017. The jailed journalists he visited were Cumhuriyet daily’s executives, writers, reporters and employees.
The Turkey Journalists Association held an eid al-adha visit to the Silivri Prison on August 24, 2017. TGC’s Secretary General Sibel Güneş and TGC’s Board Member Oğuz Güven interviewed with six jailed journalists from Silivri Prison. The jailed journalists visited by TGC executives were Cumhuriyet Daily’s editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and Cumhuriyet columnists Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet Şık, Sözcü daily’s reporter Gökmen Ulu, Habertürk daily’s former News Coordinator Oguz Usluer and now-closed Özgür Gündem daily’s editor İnan Kızılkaya.
Veli Ağbaba, CHP Prison Inspection Commission’s Vice-Chairperson, and Özgur Özel, CHP Parliamentary Group Deputy President visited detained journalists in Silivri and Bakırköy prisons on August 10 and August 11, 2017. They just visited Murat Sabuncu, Akın Atalay, Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet Şık and Ahmet Kemal Aydoğdu from Cumhuriyet daily; Gökmen Ulu and Mediha Olgun from Sözcü daily and Deniz Yücel, the representative of DieWelt Turkey. However, this delegation did not visit any of the jailed journalists who used to work for media outlets affiliated with the Gülen movement.
The Board of Directors of the TGC visited the executives and writers of Cumhuriyet Newspaper in Silivri Prison. TGC Chairman Turgay Olcayto, TGC Secretary General Sibel Güneş, TGC General Treasurer Gülseren Ergezer Güver and TGC Board Member Oğuz Güven met and interviewed with Cumhuriyet daily executives and writers Akın Atalay, Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel and Ahmet Şık separately.
CHP Bursa deputy Orhan Sarıbal visited the former journalist and CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu in Maltepe Prison. Then he went to Silivri Prison and interviewed the writers and administrators of the imprisoned Cumhuriyet daily Ahmet Şık, Kadri Gürsel, Akın Atalay and Murat Sabuncu. Sarıbal also visited Sözcü reporter Gökmen Ulu in Silivri Prison.
CHP Denizli deputy Kazım Arslan visit Cumhuriyet daily’s columnists and executives Kadri Gürsel, Akın Atalay, Mehmet Murat Sabuncu, Güray Tekin Oz, Turhan Gunay, Musa Kart, Önder Çelik, Bülent Utku, Hakan Karasinir, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Yusuf Emre İper and Ahmet Şık in Silivri Prison on July 13, 2017.
A CHP delegation consisting party’s deputy chairperson Veli Ağbaba, deputies Şanal Sarıhan, Necati Yılmaz and Nurettin Demir visited the Dicle News Agency’s (DİHA) jailed New Director Ömer Çelik, former editor of Diken online news outlet Tunca Öğreten and Birgün daily’s Accounting Officer Mahir Kanaat on April 30, 2017.
CHP deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Utku Çakırözer visited Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel and the writers and administrators of Cumhuriyet daily in Silivri on March 3, 2017.
CHP deputies Atila Sertel and Tuncay Özkan visited the jailed Cumhuriyet daily writers and executives in Silivri Prison on February 13, 2017.
CHP Deputy Chairperson Veli Ağbaba and CHP deputy Nurettin Demir, who are the members of the CHP Prison Inspection Commission, visited the jailed writers and executives of Cumhuriyet daily in Silivri Prison on November 14, 2016.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 281 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of September 26, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 256 are arrested pending trial, only 25 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 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 on July 15, 2016. Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) recently announced that more than 900 press cards were cancelled.