Turkish jurists call for immediate release of journalist Güven

Journalist Oğuz Güven.

Jurists have expressed reactions to the “unlawful detention” of Cumhuriyet’s website editor Oğuz Güven for a report that appeared on the daily’s website about the recent traffic death of Denizli Chief Prosecutor Mustafa Alper in Turkey’s western province of Denizli, calling for the immediate release of the journalist, Cumhuriyet reported on Sunday.

“To take a word in a tweet and turn this into a constitutional crime is an exercise that really stretches the law to its limits. Oğuz Güven must be released immediately,” said Ankara Bar Association Chair Hakan Canduran, who also serves on the Turkish Union of Bar Associations general committee.

Underlining that there remains not a shred of the rule of law in Turkey, former Istanbul Bar Association Chair Turgut Kazan said: “it is impossible to assess this through a jurist’s eyes. There is no shred of legality. Nobody has any legal safeguards, because there is no judiciary in Turkey.”

Describing the detention of a journalist for posting a headline as a violation of freedom of thought, attorney at law Celal Ülgen stressed that the decision to extend the detention period to one week is a method of punishment through restricting people’s freedom.

“Such instances are incompatible with the dictionary of democracy,” he said.

The European Union on Friday reacted to the detention of Güven, calling on Turkey to respect the highest democratic standards and practices.

In response to a question about the detention of Güven, Maja Kocijancic, an EU spokesperson, said the EU has been following the developments in Turkey very closely.

“As also stated in the European Commission’s most recent Turkey report, we witnessed serious backsliding with regard to fundamental  values, such as freedom of expression, independence of the judiciary and freedom of assembly over the past year, including in the context of measures taken following the coup attempt of July 15,” Kocijancic said.

“The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country as well as a member of the Council of Europe, needs to respect the highest democratic standards and practices,” Kocijancic added.

Güven was detained early Friday due to a report that appeared on the website of the daily about the recent traffic death of a public prosecutor in the western province of Denizli.

“I am being taken into custody,” Güven tweeted on Friday without elaborating on the charges directed against him.

It later emerged that Güven’s detention was related to a report about the death of Denizli Chief Public Prosecutor Mustafa Alper in a traffic accident on Wednesday. Güven is accused of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.

According to Turkish media reports, detention warrants were also issued for 32 readers who left comments under the relevant story.

Cumhuriyet’s Editor-in-Chief Murat Sabuncu was in early November arrested along with eight other Cumhuriyet columnists and executives for allegedly committing crimes on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gülen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15.

Meanwhile, former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar earlier moved to Germany after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally targeted him for a sensational report in Cumhuriyet about alleged illegal arms deliveries by Turkey to opposition groups in Syria.

Rights organizations estimate the number of jailed journalists in Turkey as between 160 and 235.

Amnesty International on Tuesday night projected the names of imprisoned Turkish journalists onto the facade of the Turkish Embassy in The Hague.

AI also launched a campaign on Twitter late in March to support jailed journalists in Turkey, calling for their release, with the hashtag #FreeTurkeyMedia.

Turkey is ranked 155th among 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 26.

If Turkey falls four more ranks, it will make it to the list of the countries on the blacklist, which has the poorest records in press freedom.

The US-based Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, has named Turkey as among the countries that have a “not free” press, in a report released on April 28.

According to Freedom of the Press 2017, the Turkish government, using enhanced powers under a state of emergency, carried out a massive purge of media outlets accused of links to the attempted military coup in July.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists in the world with one third of arrested journalists across the globe being held in Turkish jails. Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 237 journalists are now in jails, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 215 are arrested pending trial, only 22 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 100 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey. Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the coup attempt. (SCF with turkishminute.com) May 14, 2017

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