World Press Freedom Day should bring freedom for Musa Kart and his Cumhuriyet colleagues


Musa Kart

Musa Kart

Index on Censorship joins Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) to report that the internationally acclaimed cartoonist Musa Kart is again a prisoner this World Press Freedom Day.

In November 2016 Musa Kart was one of a number of staff from the Cumhuriyet newspaper arrested without charge. He and his colleagues’ subsequent months in Silivri prison would be described as unlawful by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, “being in contravention of articles 10, 11 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 14, 15 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”.

In April 2017 he was formally indicted with “helping an armed terrorist organization while not being a member” and “abusing trust”, prosecutors stipulating a maximum sentence of twenty-nine years. His trial began in July 2017. His funny, excoriating opening statement is worth reading in full.

After twelve months of court proceedings (arduous litigation being a well-worn censorious tactic) Kart was eventually found guilty and sentenced to three years and nine months. The appeals lodged on behalf of all those who received shorter sentences during the Cumhuriyet trials failed in February this year. Kart was informed he would be required to go to prison for one year and sixteen days.

On April 25th he and five colleagues – board members Önder Çelik and M.Kemal Güngör, news director Hakan Kara, columnist Güray Öz and financial officer Emre İper – decided to hand themselves in at Kandıra prison, a typically dignified and brave gesture.

Musa’s ultimate incarceration represents the culmination of fifteen years of persecution by then prime minister, now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who twice tried and twice failed to use court action to silence the cartoonist in 2005 and 2014.

As those who have followed recent history in Turkey will be aware, the attempted coup of July 2016 and the subsequent state of emergency provided Erdoğan the pretext required to round up many of his perceived enemies in academia, local government, the military, press and media. His victory in the April 2017 referendum, granting the president greater powers, and subsequent re-election in 2018 have only entrenched his position. In survey after survey Turkey remains the world’s number one jailer of journalists.

Kart is a past winner of CRNI’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award, was given the Cartooning For Peace Swiss Foundation’s Prix International du Dessin de Presse last year and is currently the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Maison du Dessin de Presse, Morges. He formally retired from cartooning in December 2017.

The undersigned organizations join Index and CRNI in calling for the immediate release of Musa Kart and his five courageous colleagues and the dismissal of all charges against the criminalised former staff of Cumhuriyet. This World Press Freedom Day we express our solidarity with all those suffering in the protracted and unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey, and call for its end.

Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Adil Soz – International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC)
Bytes for All (B4A)
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building (CEMESP)
Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Free Media Movement
Independent Journalism Center (IJC)
Index on Censorship
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI) 
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Media Watch
Norwegian PEN
PEN America
PEN Canada
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
South East Europe Media Organisation 
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
Articolo 21
Civic Spaces Studies Association – Turkey
Danish PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
German PEN
Global Editors Network
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa
Swedish PEN[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1556869431554-27d0cab8-ff70-3″ taxonomies=”55″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Cumhuriyet: A press freedom case degenerates into a boardroom takeover


After 495 days in pre-trial detention on a trumped-up charge of terrorism, Murat Sabuncu was allowed to return to his desk as editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet in March 2018. In a country where around 90 percent of the media is slavishly pro-government, Cumhuriyet — Turkey’s oldest and arguably its most prestigious newspaper — had established a reputation for independence and as a standard-bearer for journalistic reporting.

His reinstatement lasted a mere six months. A ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals on 7 September resulted in the dismissal of several members of staff, including Sabuncu. A new board was appointed and with it came a shift in editorial policy. Those who took control of the paper were none other than the people who testified against Cumhuriyet staff in the first place. Around 30 journalists and writers — some of whom had also been in jail — resigned in protest.

Cumhuriyet had been split between competing factions for years: a group of left-wing nationalists, who saw themselves as defenders of the Atatürkist doctrine, and another group consisting of journalists and writers ranging from social democrats to socialists who are much more critical of the country’s official ideology, particularly on the Kurdish issue. That feud has only escalated in recent years as Turkey has become increasingly polarised, not just between religious and secular, but also between nationalists, including within the Islamic community, and those who demand a confrontation with the dark pages of the country’s history.

A key question is whether the latest change in management is a natural consequence of the divide or part of the government’s continued efforts to silence a powerful oppositional voice – especially at a time when the judiciary’s independence is routinely up for debate.

Ahmet Şık, a prominent and outspoken journalist, recently turned MP for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has no doubts about the answer. “Those who are claiming to have liberated Cumhuriyet are the same ones who collaborated with people who arrested us, threw us in prison by serving as false witnesses,” Şık tweeted. “They are no better than those who have looted this country.”

Şık spent time in pre-trial detention and was released in March 2018 along with Sabuncu. Both men were eventually sentenced on 25 April to seven-and-a-half years in prison on terror-related charges but were freed pending appeal.

Godsend for the government

Cumhuriyet is a unique example in Turkey. While most media organisations in the country are run by a corporation, it is administrated by a non-profit organisation called the Cumhuriyet Foundation. The chairman of the new board is Alev Coşkun, a former politician who has been a board member since the early 1990s. A lot of Şık’s anger is directed towards Coşkun, who was chairman prior to the board election held in 2013. When Coşkun lost, he sued his own newspaper. After a four-year-long legal spat, the board was invalidated by the Supreme Courts of Appeals. In his capacity of the acting chairman, Coşkun convened a new board election, which he eventually won over Akın Atalay, with the support of other discontented ex-board members. Atalay, a lawyer by profession, was the latest defendant released from pre-trial detention in the Cumhuriyet case. He was also given the longest sentence of eight years, one month and 15 days for “aiding a terrorist organisation without being a member”.

Coşkun’s role in the case against Cumhuriyet has been controversial. “He is the person responsible for the investigation,” says Ergin Cinmen, one of the lawyers who represented Cumhuriyet’s staff during the trial. “The trial was launched after Coşkun testified to the prosecutor. Coşkun was also heard during the trial as the prosecutor’s witness and repeated his accusations.”

The nature of Coşkun’s allegations proved to be a godsend for the government, according to Banu Güven, a journalist who closely followed the trial. “The arguments used against the former board in their dispute contain precisely the accusations the government desired,” she says.

The background of the case goes back to 2008 when a police operation named Ergenekon was launched against military officers accused of plotting a coup and their alleged media connections. Cumhuriyet’s Ankara office was searched and veteran Ankara bureau chief Mustafa Balbay arrested along with the revered editorialist İlhan Selçuk. The latter, who was 73 years old at the time, was released two days later, but Balbay remained in pre-trial prison for almost five years. The investigations were allegedly led by prosecutors and police officers linked to the movement around the cleric Fethullah Gülen, then an ally of the government.

In 2013 this narrative was turned upside down. After one of the prosecutors who had overseen Ergenekon instigated probes against ministers and pro-government businessmen, the split between the ruling party and the Gülen movement reached a point of no return. Gülen was now seen as the arch nemesis of the government and would be accused of orchestrating the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016. Ergenekon convicts, including Balbay and former chief-of-staff İlker Başbuğ, were set free. Verdicts against them were quashed by the Supreme Court of Appeals. To top it all, the entire Ergenekon plot to overthrow the government came to be regarded as a fiction invented by Gülen organisation members. Liberals, guilty in the eyes of staunch secularists for turning a blind eye to the Islamic roots of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), were now blamed by the government for being tools of the Gülen movement.

In the middle of all this, Coşkun lost his election to the board. The paper changed under his successor Atalay, particularly following the appointment of Can Dündar as the new editor-in-chief in 2015. Cumhuriyet’s editorial policy became a less “old school”. It was more outspoken on the Kurdish issue at a time when the government was whipping up tensions around the conflict with renewed and vicious military operations in the southeast. The newspaper began unequivocally distancing itself from the political establishment. In May 2015 Cumhuriyet ran pictures that allegedly showed weapons sent to Jihadi groups in Syria on trucks belonging to the Turkish intelligence agency. This, as far as the government was concerned, was the last straw. Accused of “treason” by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a live broadcast, Dündar was arrested and charged with espionage. His editorial policy was declared the root of all evil.

“What makes the trial against Cumhuriyet unique is that the case is entirely based on criminal charges laid out against an editorial policy,” says Cinmen. “This is something unprecedented in the world.”

“Journalism was on trial,” says Güven. “The objective was to eradicate a pluralist editorial policy backing freedoms and peace.” She stresses that while the new board members accused their predecessors of being “liberals who had supported Erdogan against the military tutelage,” they were the ones who collaborated with the government in laying the groundwork for the trial.

A “lost struggle” for editorial independence

When Coşkun testified to the prosecutor days after the raid on Cumhuriyet’s offices on 31 October 2016, he was seen carrying an edition of Cumhuriyet which featured a report on Gülen on its front page. It also emerged that Coşkun had written an anonymous letter to the president’s office. In the letter, Coşkun accused his successor of having “organic ties” with both the Gülen organisation and the pro-Kurdish HDP. His allegations echoed Balbay’s statement after he had stopped writing for Cumhuriyet a few months before. “Everything from being [pro-Gülen] to pro-Kurdish is allowed at Cumhuriyet,” Balbay tweeted.

Both Coşkun and Balbay were witnesses for the prosecution, causing a huge uproar in the court. During Coşkun’s court statements when he deplored the presence of Turhan Günay, Cumhuriyet’s literary editor who had spent nine months in prison despite his later acquittal. “Why is Günay even here in this trial?” Coşkun asked. Günay’s voice interrupted his statement: “Thanks to you, sir.”

If Coşkun’s role has rubbed salt in the defendants’ wounds during the case, Cinmen argues that the government was determined to silence Cumhuriyet no matter what. “The decision had been made,” he says. “Coşkun and his letter were merely instrumentalised.”

Academic Ceren Sözeri, one of Turkey’s most prominent media experts, also emphasises that the newspaper won’t adopt a pro-government policy just because Coşkun was re-elected as chairman. Yet the new board may also have to pay its dues to the government, Sözeri warns. “If the operation against Cumhuriyet is usually thought as two separate trials (the management case and the criminal case), it was essentially a struggle for editorial independence. I believe that this struggle was lost.”

Güven believes that the change in management was the result of direct government intervention. If there is one subject the old board and the government agreed on, Güven argues, it was the Kurdish issue. A shift of the newspaper’s tone on the Kurdish issue was to become decisive. “Though there are still opposition writers in Cumhuriyet, the newspaper is now more acceptable in the government’s eyes.”

After taking over the newspaper, the new board solemnly announced in a front-page editorial that Atatürk and his principles “had returned to the newspaper”. “Harsh accusations against the previous editorial policy and statements in the form of martial law declarations show that [the board’s] concerns go beyond merely reporting,” says Sözeri. She stresses that the way the newspaper changed hands played a “decisive role” for those journalists and writers who resigned. “It is very hard, even impossible doing real journalism on government’s terms,” she says.

In a country where shifts in the editorial policies of newspapers are only considered natural after changes in management, Sözeri warns that the handover in Cumhuriyet could be a tragic turning point. “Protecting editorial independence is key to preventing such shifts,” she says. “This is only possible through association and solidarity.”

Without that solidarity, an important press freedom case degenerated into one in which both journalists’ freedom and the very future of their newspaper were at stake.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1539616867253-70d074aa-d114-8″ taxonomies=”55″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Guilty verdicts against the Cumhuriyet journalists and executives must be overturned



Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet has a history of tangling with the country’s governments.

We, the undersigned freedom of expression and human rights organisations, strongly condemn last night’s guilty verdicts for staff and journalists of Cumhuriyet newspaper and note the harsh sentences for the defendants. The verdict further demonstrates that Turkey’s justice system and the rule of law is failing: this was a trial where the ‘crime’ was journalism and the only ‘evidence’ was journalistic activities.

While three Cumhuriyet staff were acquitted, all the remaining journalists and executives were handed sentences of between 2 years, 6 months and 8 years, 1 month. Time already served in pretrial detention will likely be taken into consideration, however all will still have jail terms to serve, and those with the harshest sentences would still have to serve approximately 5 years. Travel bans have been placed on all defendants, barring the three that were acquitted, in a further attempt to silence them in the international arena.

Several of our organisations have been present to monitor and record the proceedings since the first hearing in July 2017. The political nature of the trial was clear from the outset and continued throughout the trial. The initial indictment charged the defendants with a mixture of terrorism and employment related offenses. However, the evidence presented did not stand the test of proof beyond reasonable doubt of internationally recognizable crimes. The prosecution presented alleged changes to the editorial policy of the paper and the content of articles as ‘evidence’ of support for armed terrorist groups. Furthermore, despite 17 months of proceedings, no credible evidence was produced by the prosecution during the trial.  

The indictment, the pre-trial detention and the trial proceedings violated the human rights of the defendants, including the right to freedom of expression, the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial. Furthermore, the symbolic nature of this trial against Turkey’s most prominent opposition newspaper undoubtedly has a chilling effect on the right to free expression much more broadly in Turkey and restricts the rights of the population to access information and diverse views.  

“We observed violations of the right to a fair trial throughout the hearings. Despite the defence lawyers arguing that the basic requirements for a fair trial, such as an evidence-based indictment, were lacking these arbitrary sentences were handed down in order to attempt to intimidate one of the last remaining bastions of the independent press in Turkey,” said Turkey Advocacy Coordinator, Caroline Stockford.

The defence team repeatedly relied on the rights enshrined in the Turkish Constitution, as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, demonstrating the importance of European human rights law to Turkey’s domestic legal system.

“‘Journalism is not a crime’ was declared again and again by the defendants and their lawyers and yet, despite the accusations containing no element of crime, the defendants served a collective total of 9.5 years in pretrial detention, and were found guilty at the end of an unfair trial,” said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.

Speedy rulings on legal cases of Turkish journalists, which include the Cumhuriyet cases of Murat Sabuncu and others and staff writer Ahmet Şık cases, pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) are crucial. This is not only to redress the rights violations of the many journalists still languishing in detention, but also to defend the independence and impartiality of the judiciary itself in Turkey. The Cumhuriyet case and other prominent trials against journalists clearly demonstrate that the rule of law is totally compromised in Turkey then there is little hope for fair or speedy domestic judicial recourse for any defendant.

“The short three hours of deliberation by the judicial panel did not give the impression that the case was taken seriously. The 17 months during which there have been 7 hearings of this utterly groundless trial have damaged independent journalism in Turkey at a time when over 90% of the media is under the sway of the administration,” said Nora Wehofsits, Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF).

The guilty verdicts against the Cumhuriyet journalists and executives must be overturned and the persecution of all other journalists and others facing criminal charges merely for doing their job and peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression must be stopped. The authorities must immediately lift the state of emergency and return to the rule of law. The independence of the Turkish courts must be reinstated, enabling it to act as a check on the government, and hold it accountable for the serious human rights violations it has committed and continues to commit.

In light of the apparent breakdown of the rule of law and the fact that Turkish courts are evidently unable to deliver justice, we also call on the ECtHR to fulfil its role as the ultimate guardian of human rights in Europe, and to rule swiftly on the free expression cases currently pending before it and provide an effective remedy for the severe human rights violations taking place in Turkey.

Furthermore, we call on the institutions of the Council of Europe and its member states to remind Turkey of its international obligation to respect and protect human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial, and to give appropriate priority to these issues in their relations with Turkey, both in bilateral and multilateral forums. In addition, the Council of Europe’s member states should provide adequate support to the ECtHR.

We also call on the European and International media to continue to support their Turkish colleagues and to give space to dissenting voices who are repressed in Turkey.

Amnesty International
Article 19
Articolo 21
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
English PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Freedom House
Global Editors Network
Index on Censorship
Initiative for Freedom of Expression
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Italian Press Federation
Norwegian PEN
Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso – Transeuropa
Ossigeno per l’informazione
PEN America
PEN Belgium-Flanders
PEN Centre Germany
PEN Canada
PEN International
PEN Netherlands
Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
Reporters without Borders
Research Institute on Turkey
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

KCK press trial: “The template for all Turkey’s media trials”


Protesters against the KCK press trial marched in Istanbul in January 2012.

Protesters against the KCK press trial marched in Istanbul in January 2012. (Photo: DIHA News Agency)

Turkey can hardly claim a glorious history in terms of press freedom. But even by the standards of the country’s turbulent political past, the soaring number of trials, detentions and convictions of journalists are setting a terrifying precedent.

In 2012 a monumental case dubbed the “KCK press trial” made the headlines as the country’s biggest media trial: 46 journalists, 36 of whom remained in custody for between a few months and two-and-a-half years, were accused of being link to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), a semi-clandestine organisation that was alleged to be the “urban wing” of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Six years after it began, and with all the suspects released during successive hearings, the trial continues to drag on at a lethargic pace. The latest hearing held on 19 January 2018 hardly made the news.

However, the seeming inertia shouldn’t be interpreted as a good omen. A lawyer representing the accused journalists stressed that the KCK press trial was the model for the many trials opened against journalists and news outlets in the wake of the failed July 2016 coup. “We weren’t surprised when we read the indictment against the Cumhuriyet newspaper,” lawyer Özcan Kılıç told Mapping Media Freedom, referring to the ongoing media trial that has drawn the most public attention. “Those are the exact same allegations that were levelled against those in the KCK press trial. In fact, the KCK press trial is used as a template against all unwanted organisations. Yesterday it was the Kurds, now it’s social democrats. Tomorrow? Who knows?”  

Reports on abuse of child convicts used as evidence

The journalists on trial in the KCK case all worked for pro-Kurdish news outlets, including Dicle News Agency (DİHA), as well as the dailies Özgür Gündem and Azadiya Welat, all of which were shuttered by decree following the declaration of a state of emergency in July 2016. Because the prosecution failed to pin any concrete evidence on the accused journalists, their routine professional work was exploited to substantiate the charges.

“The trial didn’t contain any legal allegations, but from the government’s perspective, it was an operation that brought up political allegations,” said Çağdaş Kaplan, a former reporter for DİHA who was among the journalists remanded in detention pending trial. “If you looked at the evidence in the indictment, a great majority of the allegations against journalists were based on news reports, articles or interviews that had their bylines in their outlets, or were based on the communications they had with their sources,” Kaplan, who now works for the online news website Gazete Karınca, told Mapping Media Freedom.

Evrim Kepenek, another former DİHA reporter, joined Kaplan in stressing that the KCK press trial represents a grim milestone in the use of journalistic work as criminal evidence. “None of us denied that we worked at that agency or covered those news stories. Our news agency paid taxes, distributed press cards, registered with social security and had reporters who would be free to join the Turkish Journalists’ Union,” she said.

The evidence against the journalists included news reports unrelated to the KCK trials or even inoffensive articles. In a notorious twist, the coverage of a child abuse case at the Pozantı Juvenile Detention Centre was included in the indictment, which accused the journalists of reporting stories that could “damage the image of the state” and “humiliate the Turkish state in the eyes of the public”. The lead reporter on the story, Özlem Ağuş, remained in custody for two years because of her work.

Water sleeps, but the state never rests

The investigations launched into journalists were part of a wider crackdown on Kurdish politicians and political activists that began in 2009. There were two other mass trials ongoing: 205 Kurdish politicians are on trial in Istanbul, while another 175 defendants are being tried by a Diyarbakır court.

On 20 December 2011 police launched operations on the Istanbul offices of many pro-Kurdish outlets, detaining 49 people and seizing news material. Some 36 journalists were arrested after four days of interrogation on 24 December. Some 44 journalists were initially charged before two colleagues were added to the list.

Kılıç, the lawyer, said they referred to the concept of “Enemy Criminal Law” to refer to the legal cases. “It’s a reflection of the mind of the state. This is how it works: You identify your enemy and you make a terrorist out of them,” he said.

Kılıç, who also represents the Diyarbakır-based Özgür Gündem, the most influential Kurdish newspaper published in Turkey until it was shuttered by an emergency decree in August 2016, said the ongoing cases against the daily demonstrated the same mentality. Referring to a case in which the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief, İnan Kızılkaya, and intellectuals who showed solidarity with the outlet, such as acclaimed author Aslı Erdoğan and writer Necmiye Alpay, face aggravated life sentences, Kılıç said: “The exact same template as the KCK press trial was used. Water sleeps, but the state never rests.”

Lawyers are now awaiting a decision from the European Court of Human Rights, which is expected to weigh in on whether the journalists’ freedom of expression was violated. A decision in favour of the journalists could ensure they are not convicted in a Turkish court, according to the lawyers.

Police chief and judge imprisoned

However, the legal system itself has experienced seismic changes in recent years. First, the Turkish government abolished the specially authorised heavy penal courts in March 2014 as part of a “peace process” with the Kurdish political movement. The court overseeing the KCK press trial was one of them. However, the constitutional court rejected demands for a retrial by defence lawyers, even though the court agreed to rehear other important cases, such as the Ergenekon military coup case.

To rub salt into the wound, the police chief who ordered the arrests of the Kurdish journalists and the lead judge overseeing their case were subsequently accused of being members of the Gülen movement. Once a close ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party, the movement led by US-based Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen was accused of staging several plots to overthrow the government, including the July 15, 2016, coup attempt. The movement has since been declared a terrorist organisation called “FETÖ”.

The police chief, Yurt Atayün, has been in custody since the government began purging suspected Gülenists from within the state in 2014, while the head judge, Ali Alçık, was arrested a few days after the coup attempt.

But while the government quickly moved to overturn other trials that were allegedly fabricated by the Gülen movement, it has not done so in the KCK press trial.

“The trial should have already been dismissed because ordinary news reports and phone conversations – the kind that every reporter makes – were presented as evidence. On top of it, those who smeared us were found to be FETÖ members. It should have been dismissed without further ado, but it hasn’t been yet,” Kepenek said.

‘Current situation much more severe’

Even if the trial continues despite the seeming collapse of the prosecution’s case, that doesn’t mean the journalists will ultimately be acquitted, Kaplan said, noting that the Turkish government defended itself to the European Court of Human Rights by continuing to insist that the journalists were “terrorists”. “Even though the defendants are journalists, this doesn’t mean that they are not terrorists,” Turkey stated.

“The trial is not continuing as a formality but as a way to threaten. We are continuing to do our job but face several years in prison,” Kaplan said.

For her part, Kepenek expresses concern that the situation today is becoming inexorably worse. Kepenek, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish and feminist Jinnews online news outlet, notes that access to their website was blocked five times in just one week in late January. Journalist Zehra Doğan, the founder of Jinnews and the winner of the 2017 Freedom of Thought Award from the Swiss-based Freethinkers organisation, is also in jail for paintings that portrayed the Turkish army’s crackdown on Kurdish provinces in late 2014 and early 2015.

“We are experiencing a much more severe process,” Kepenek said. “The allegations in the KCK press trial may have collapsed, but now they don’t even need to present allegations. It was possible to sentence my friend Nedim Türfent to over eight years in prison for reporting on the conflict in Hakkâri. What they call proof is news stories. In other words, our reporting is way beyond the process of being declared a crime: It has legally become a ‘crime.’”

In March 2012, less than two months after an operation against Kurdish media outlets, the then-prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said those arrested were “terrorists, not journalists” for not carrying the prime minister’s “yellow press card”. Now, six years later, he repeated the exact same words during a joint press conference last month with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris. Yet in the meantime, journalists whom he described as “terrorists” have been freed while those who prosecuted them are now imprisoned on terror charges.

The KCK press trial may be a showcase example that allegations won’t stand the test of time even if politicians’ tactics remain the same – even as the journalists stressed the importance of solidarity.

“Those who remained silent back then are getting their share of the pressure today. This is why we should understand that both the pressure against the Kurdish media in 2011 and the pressure under the state of emergency are attacks against journalism,” Kaplan said.  

If anything, the pressure has even emboldened many journalists, Kepenek added. “Journalists’ pens don’t break when they arrest them; they sharpen even more. Governments fail to understand that.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Mapping Media Freedom” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_separator color=”black”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/4″][vc_icon icon_fontawesome=”fa fa-times-circle” color=”black” background_style=”rounded” size=”xl” align=”right”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]

Index on Censorship monitors press freedom in 42 European countries.

Since 24 May 2014, Mapping Media Freedom’s team of correspondents and partners have recorded and verified more than 3,850 violations against journalists and media outlets.

Index campaigns to protect journalists and media freedom. You can help us by submitting reports to Mapping Media Freedom.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Don’t lose your voice. Stay informed.” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_separator color=”black”][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Index on Censorship is a nonprofit that campaigns for and defends free expression worldwide. We publish work by censored writers and artists, promote debate, and monitor threats to free speech. We believe that everyone should be free to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution – no matter what their views.

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