Report: Turkish gov’t systematically torture jailed journalists from state-run TRT

File photo.

Turkish journalist Cevheri Güven, who used to be the editor-in-chief of closed Nokta newsweekly in Turkey and now live in exile, has written in an article in Kronos online news outlet on Tuesday that detained Kurdish journalists and TRT (state-run Turkish Radio and Television Company) employees were systematically tortured by Turkish government.

Stressing over the insensitivity over the torture especially targeting the TRT employees, Güven has claimed that “Most of the journalists detained collectively under the rule of emergency (OHAL) were the ones employed in İstanbul and Ankara. Except for the circumstances of detention, which turned into an element of torture itself, there was no any reflection of allegations or information about the physical torture of groups of journalists taken in public.”

However, he wrote “There are two exceptions to this; Kurdish journalists and TRT employees. According to the Erdoğan regime, Kurdish journalists are terrorists who are the members of the PKK (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Erdoğan said this clearly and repeatedly. The TRT employees are also regarded as civil servants (not as journalists) by the regime. For this reason, the journalists who were detained collectively in Ankara and İstanbul were not tortured, but the TRT employees were tortured as ‘civil servant’.”

“Among the information I have personally received that in the Anti-Terrorism Branch of the Ankara Police Department, the detained TRT employees were handcuffed and kept in face down position on the ground, they were stamped on their heads with boots during their interrogations, so as they were forced to answers the questions in such a way that psychological humiliation methods besides physical pain were used, they were exposed to violence from the parts like back and groin that don’t get bruised, they were kept starved for more than 20 days by giving only two slices of bread and a jam a day, they were constantly subjected to very heavy curses and threatened by their spouses,” added he.

Journalist Güven has also drew attentions to another aspect of the problem and written that “The fact that TRT employees are called as civil servants is not only an application of the regime. There is no name of TRT employees who are journalists in the ‘list of imprisoned journalists’ which is constantly updated by professional organisations.”

“If journalists serving in the TRT are included, it will be seen that the number of detained journalists in Turkey is over 200. The point that should be emphasized is that these colleagues are being tortured,” said Güven and continued “In order to announce the torture incidents for my colleagues at TRT, I have struggled to find a relative of a prisoner who can speak with his open identity. I could not reach the mass because of distance and communication problem. The ones I reached asked permission from their spouses. However, it show that the effect on their colleagues of the threat that they faced in the custody process is ‘we will do the same with your spouse’.”

Underlined the fact that a year has passed since the TRT employees were arrested, journalist Güven stated that “In the judicial process, it is just getting nowhere fast. Moreover, it is clear that our colleagues in TRT are not related to July 15 (controversial military coup attempt in 2016), they do not support the coup. More than 400 TRT employees were fired during the OHAL period and more than 50 of them were arrested. However, there is no evidence that even a single person of these 400 people intervened in the broadcasts on the night on July 15. The only concrete claim regarding the TRT is the image of an outsider jumping off the fence to stop broadcasting. This image is actually proof of our colleagues’ innocence. Because this is an action that one of the 400 TRT employees can easily do. But none of them did.”

Journalist Güven has also complained that “The insensitivity of professional organizations and opposition parties to the TRT employees who have been detached from their families for months without guilt is unbelievable. I do not think that a single professional association or an opposition deputy met or talked to arrested TRT employees. Our colleagues from TRT have been tortured and unfairly imprisoned over a year ago. It’s just the truth.”

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Centre for Freedom (SCF) has showed that 259 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of October 17, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 235 are arrested pending trial, only 24 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 133 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.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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