Turkish journalists platform calls for attendance at trials of jailed female reporters

Photo: ANF

The pro-Kurdish Mesopotamia Women Journalists Platform (MKGP) has issued a written statement in solidarity with female journalists who will appear in Turkish courts this week.

“Oppressive regimes around the world are targeting media first of all, in order to gain legitimacy in the eyes of society and to make their systems permanent,” said the Platform in the statement titled “Journalism on Trial,” according to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF) on Monday.

The statement reminded that the “free press” is in danger and is being targeted by the arrest of journalists, preventing them from carrying out their work. The platform also underlined that in Turkey there are at least 183 press workers in prison.

“There is another point that should be noted when we talk about the repression and silencing operations against journalists. This is the situation of women. This week women journalists will be tried in İstanbul and Muş provinces.”

The statement called on women’s movements and democratic circles to stand beside the female journalists and show solidarity by attending the hearings.

A group of journalists also staged a demonstration in support of jailed female reporters on Saturday. Demonstrators from the Mesopotamia Women Journalists Platform, the Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS), the Etkin News Agency, the Mesopotamia News Agency and the Evrensel, Cumhuriyet and Struggle Union papers called on people to attend the hearing of the journalists scheduled for this week.

Züleyha Gülüm and Dilşat Canbaz, deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), also lent their support. Police reportedly would not allow the use of a megaphone by the protestors. Demonstrators were holding photos of the detained journalists and unfurled a banner saying, “Journalism is not a crime, freedom for imprisoned journalists.”

Gülfem Karataş from the TGS Women’s Commission said they were underlining the problems faced by press freedom and in particular female journalists. DİSK press workers representative Aylin Kaplan also called on people to attend the upcoming hearings at the Çağlayan Courthouse.

Taylan Öztaş read a press release on behalf of the journalists and said, “We hope and we want our friends and colleagues to get back to their stories and to be writing news as soon as possible.”

Colored balloons were let into the air, and the journalists demanded the freedom of the imprisoned reporters.

The hearings of Pınar Gayıp and Semiha Şahin, jailed reporters from ETHA, and Libertarian Democratic Newspaper employees Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Ürün were held in İstanbul on Monday.

Four people including journalists Gayıp and Şahin were not released during the hearing at the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court.  The journalists demanded their acquittal. The prosecutor claimed that missing elements of the file weren’t complete and demanded the continuation of all the defendants’ detention. The court ruled for the continuation of imprisonment of all four defendants. The next hearing will be on December 5, 2018.

Mesopotamia News Agency reporter Seda Taşkın will appear in court for a hearing on September 12 in Muş province. She has been in pretrial detention for eight months.

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.

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