Turkish journalists march for jailed colleagues ahead of trial

Around 200 people marched in İstanbul on Saturday in solidarity with the many jailed journalists across Turkey, according to a report by Doğan news agency. The group gathered at the Mehmet Ayvalıtaş Park in the Kadıköy district of İstanbul and opened placards reading “Gazetecilere Özgürlük” (Freedom to Journalists).

The march saw the participation of a number of deputies. Barış Yarkadaş, Ali Şeker and Onursal Adıgüzel from the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) as well and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy group chair Filiz Kerestecioğlu joined the march, along with journalists and families of currently arrested journalists.

The group started the march in Kadıköy’s General Asım Gündüz Street, chanting slogans including “Justice right now, freedom right now,” “Don’t be afraid to shout: Free press is a right,” and “Ahmet [Şık] will come out [of prison] and write again,” referring to the jailed daily Cumhuriyet reporter.

Journalist Gülşah Karadağ read out a statement on behalf of the group after a 30-minute march to the Boğa Statue in central Kadıköy. “We are here side by side. Every step that we take is for our friends who are in jail due to their opinions, supporting their patience and their will. None of us can be free as long as dozens of journalists are jailed. The jailing of journalists conceals the truth and prevents lies from being revealed. It tramples rights, law and justice,” Karadağ said.

The march came three days before the fourth hearing into the critical Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, which will be held at İstanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse on Tuesday. In the last hearing on Sept. 25, the court ordered the release of prominent journalist Kadri Gürsel but ruled for the continued arrest of four others, including reporter Ahmet Şık and editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu.

It was also reported that German journalist Günter Wallraff will also come to Turkey to follow the hearing and meet with human rights activists as well as the lawyer for arrested Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel and his wife, Deutsche Welle has reported.

Seventeen Cumhuriyet staff members have been accused in the case on terrorism charges, with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), and the Gülen movement among the groups named in the indictments.

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 255 journalists and media workers are now in jails as of October 26, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 231 are arrested pending trial, only 24 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.

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