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Annual Prison Census 2011 - Turkey

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2011
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2011 - Turkey, 8 December 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f0420a6c.html [accessed 24 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2011

Turkey: 8

Vedat Kursun, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: January 30, 2009

Kursun, former editor-in-chief of Azadiya Welat, Turkey's sole Kurdish-language daily, was arrested at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport, according to the press freedom group Bia. He was charged under the country's Anti-Terror Law with spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in the paper's 2007 and 2008 coverage.

In May 2010, Kursun was sentenced to 166 years and six months in prison on 103 counts of spreading "propaganda on behalf of the terrorist organization" and "committing crimes on behalf of the organization," according to Dogan News Agency. In 2010, the Journalists Association of Turkey honored Kursun with its Press Freedom Award.

In a special supplement titled "Arrested Newspaper," written by jailed journalists and distributed by several dailies in July 2011, Kursun wrote that "my file has no other evidence in it but newspapers." He also faulted the official translation of his work, saying it was done by someone not fluent in Kurdish.

Baris Açikel, Devrim Yolunda Isçi Köylü
Imprisoned: March 29, 2009

Açikel, news editor for the now-inactive daily Devrim Yolunda Isçi Köylü (Worker Peasant on the Path to Revolution), was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of propagandizing for the Workers' and Peasants' Liberation Army of Turkey, according to Justice Ministry records. The government has labeled the organization a terrorist group because it has targeted counterterrorist operatives for attack. The paper, which focused on worker's rights and labor news, was an official organ of the group.

In a July statement, Açikel said he had actually been sentenced to a 13-year prison term and a fine of 78,000 Turkish lira (US$44,735).

In a July 2011 supplement titled "Arrested Newspaper," written by jailed journalists and distributed by several dailies, Açikel described intense official harassment prior to his sentencing. He wrote that prosecutors had opened separate criminal cases for each new issue of his newspaper, a situation that led to multiple hearings on a daily basis. CPJ research shows that Turkish authorities often file repetitive and duplicative charges against critical journalists as a means of harassment.

Ahmet Birsin, Gün TV
Imprisoned: April 14, 2009

Birsin, general manager of a regional pro-Kurdish television news station in southeastern Turkey, faced trial in late year for assisting an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), attending PKK events, possessing PKK documents, and assisting the PKK in its press work, according to Justice Ministry documents. His lawyer, Fuat Cosacak, told CPJ that the charges were retaliatory and without basis.

Birsin described his arrest in a May 2009 letter published in the daily Gündem. He said police came to his office on the night of April 13, searched the building and confiscated archival material, computer hard drives, laptops, cameras, and other broadcast equipment.

Birsin was imprisoned for 14 months before an indictment was issued against him.

Bedri Adanir, Hawar and Aram
Imprisoned: January 5, 2010

Adanir, owner of the pro-Kurdish publishing house Aram and editor-in-chief of the daily Hawar, faced trial in late year on charges of spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in books and the articles published by his company, Justice Ministry records show.

Adanir, who was being held in Diyarbakir Prison, was rebuffed in his requests to be released on bail while his case was pending. The charges could bring 50 years in prison.

Adanir already served a 15-month prison sentence, imposed in 2009, on similar propaganda charges, the state Anatolian Agency reported. Those charges stemmed from a book published by Aram and written by PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, titled Kültür-Sanat Devrimi Üzerine (On the Revolution of Culture and Art), according to Bia, a Turkish press freedom group.

Hamdiye Çiftçi, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: June 20, 2010

Çiftçi, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, which closely follows Kurdish issues in the southeastern province of Hakkari, faced trial in late year on charges of attending demonstrations organized by Koma Civakên Kurdistan, an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, according to Justice Ministry documents. Handwritten notes about the Koma Civakên Kurdistan and Kurdistan Workers Party were found in her home, the government said.

In a July 2011 newspaper supplement written by jailed journalists and distributed by several dailies, Çiftçi wrote that merely being a Kurdish journalist had made her a terrorist collaborator. Her lawyer, Fahri Timur, told CPJ that evidence brought against his client was directly linked to her work: "Her doing her job at a political rally, for example, is portrayed as an endorsement of its political content." He said the handwritten notes reflected what any journalist would compile while covering a meeting or rally.

Ozan Kilinc, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: July 22, 2010

Kilinc, editor-in-chief of the Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat, Turkey's sole Kurdish-language daily, was charged under the country's Anti-Terror Law with spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

A Criminal Court in Diyarbakir sentenced the journalist to 21 years in prison, the BBC reported. Yuksekova Haber, a local news website, said Kilinc was being held at Diyarbakir Prison. Verdat Kursun, a predecessor in the paper's top editorial post, was also in prison when CPJ conducted its annual census on December 1.

Ahmet Sik, freelance
Imprisoned: March 6, 2011

Sik, a prominent reporter who had written for the dailies Cumhuriyet and Radikal and the weekly Nokta, went on trial in late year on charges of aiding the Ergenekon conspiracy, an alleged nationalist military plot to overthrow the government.

Sik, co-author of a 2010 book on Ergenekon, had been known throughout his career for his critical writings about the "deep state," the purported secular, nationalist forces operating within the army, security agencies, and government ministries. Before being arrested, Sik was writing a new book with the working title, The Imam's Army, which was to allege the existence of a shadowy organization operating within police and other government agencies and said to be populated by members of the Sufi Muslim religious community known as Fettullah Gülen.

A draft of the new book was deleted from the computers of his publishing house and that of a colleague during police raids, Hürriyet Daily News reported. The interrogations of Sik focused almost exclusively on the unfinished book, according to the paper. The government's indictment, which appeared months after the arrest, focused on Sik's journalistic activities, especially in regard to the book, the local press freedom group Bia said.

"Criticizing the government and drawing attention to the dangerous network of people in the police and judiciary who are members of the Gülen community is enough in today's Turkey to become an Ergenekon suspect," Sik told CPJ from prison through his lawyer, Tora Pekin.


Nedim Sener, Posta
Imprisoned: March 6, 2011

Sener, a columnist for the daily Posta and author of two books detailing the 2007 assassination of journalist Hrant Dink, went on trial in late year on charges of aiding the Ergenekon conspiracy, an alleged nationalist military plot to overthrow the government.

Sener said he believes the charges were retaliation for his work on the Dink murder. Ongoing trials of defendants in the Dink murder are widely viewed as insufficient because they involve only the accused gunman and other low-level participants. Evidence presented by Sener and other journalists points to police and national intelligence officials being neglectful, if not complicit, in the murder.

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