The Swedish Forum for Human Rights Seminar: Jailed journalists in Turkey

SCF held a seminar on the case of jailed journalists in Turkey at Mänskliga Rättighetsdagarna (The Swedish Forum for Human Rights) that was held in Sweden’s southern city of Jönköping between the dates of November 9 and 11.

This year’s theme at Mänskliga Rättighetsdagarna was the future of the human rights.

SCF President Abdullah Bozkurt and SCF Coordinator on Freedom of Press & Expression Levent Kenez jointly delivered a presentation titled “Journalist Behind Bars in Turkey” on November 11, 2017.

Kenez, a Turkish journalist who currently lives in exile in Stockholm for more than a year, shared with the audience his own saga on how he survived the mass crackdown on the critical media in Turkey.

Kenez, the Editor-in-Chief of critical Meydan daily, was detained along with the newspaper’s managing editor Gülizar Baki when the anti-terror police unit stormed the daily’s building over a headline questioning the government’s failure to thwart the failed coup bid early on and prevent the loss of lives that stood at 249.

Both journalists were later released but Kenez’s bitter journey to escape from the government crackdown was far from over. The police raided his home three days later and a fresh detention warrant was issued against him.

Fearing for wrongful imprisonment and even death at the hands of government thugs, Kenez decided to flee Turkey to find a safe country where he can continue writing and speaking up freely without intimidation and fear.

“I remember covering and editing many news articles on migration, refugees and human smugglers. Call it as a twist of the fate and irony, but I found myself in a position of paying smugglers in order to leave my country,” Kenez said. The journalist added that he would consider himself one of the luckiest ones who got away while so many of his colleagues left behind and imprisoned on completely bogus charges.

Bozkurt displayed a poster of himself published and circulated by Turkey’s state news agency AA (Anadolu Ajansı in Turkish) which looked like a wanted poster from wild western movies. “This is how Turkish government attacks and targets critical and independent journalists,” said Bozkurt, stressing that it was all part of the intimidation campaign to muzzle exiled journalists who criticize the government actions.

These are the some main figures highlighted during seminar:

  • Of 255 arrestees and convicts, 230 are arrested on pending trial.
  • Turkey is by far the worst jailer of journalists in the world. Turkey jails more journalists than all the other countries in the world combined.
  • Turkey, a NATO and Council of Europe member and EU candidate country, ranks 151 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index 2016 published by  Reporters without Borders(RSF).
  • 91% of jailed journalist lost their freedom after the failed coup bid on July 15, 2016 which was believed to be orchestrated by the government as a false flag to justify mass persecution.
  • 187 media outlets were shut down by the government
  • 839 journalists appeared before judges in 2016 to respond allegations in politically motivated prosecutions.
  • 889 press cards were cancelled by the government.
  • 54 journalists’ assets were seized without a court conviction.
  • At least 135 journalists are still wanted by the government. Most live in exile.

“These are not just numbers. These are people. They are husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters,” Kenez told the audience, appealing them to recognize the jailed journalists with their names, faces and life stories.

SCF president listed examples of charges and evidences brought up in the indictments penned by the notorious prosecutors who act as partisans rather than as independent and impartial investigators: “What we find out in most cases when we read indictments in detail is that tweet messages, news articles, books, newspaper subscriptions and bank accounts are presented as evidences of terrorism and coup plotting which are very serious charges.”

“There are some jailed journalists who were accused of subscribing to the critical newspaper that they had worked for,” he underlined.

Participants at Mänskliga Rättighetsdagarna had the opportunity to visit the SCF info desk set up at the the exhibition hall.

“It was a great opportunity for the SCF to join MR Dagarna this year in raising the awareness on the plight of jailed Turkish journalists. We are appreciative of the organizers and sponsors of this wonderful event,” Bozkurt remarked, stressing that SCF will not rest until the last journalist gains his or her freedom.

Mänskliga Rättighetsdagarna is branded as the biggest annual forum about human rights in the Scandinavian countries for 15 years. It is held in November every year at various places in Sweden, focusing on a variety of themes concerning human rights.

The Forum is a non-profit project organized by a coalition of organizations. The Academy for Democracy, Diakonia, the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, the association Ordfront, Sensus Study Association, Ibn Rushd Study Association, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Gothenburg and the Swedish Church were this year’s organizers.

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