Yurtcu: 'I receive this award on behalf of all journalists' Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) and the France Foundation nominated the former editor in chief Ocak Isik Yurtcu, of Ozgur Gundem, the banned pro-Kurdish daily, for the Journalist of the Year Award. Isik Yurtcu received his award in Sakarya Prison last Sunday from RSF's Turkey representative, journalist Nadire Mater. The award ceremony behind bars coincided with Yurtcu's birthday. RSF is currently campaigning to secure Yurtcu's release. The
Yurtcu: 'I receive this award on behalf of all journalists'
Reporters Without Frontiers (RSF) and the France Foundation nominated the former editor in chief Ocak Isik Yurtcu, of Ozgur Gundem, the banned pro-Kurdish daily, for the Journalist of the Year Award. Isik Yurtcu received his award in Sakarya Prison last Sunday from RSF's Turkey representative, journalist Nadire Mater. The award ceremony behind bars coincided with Yurtcu's birthday.
RSF is currently campaigning to secure Yurtcu's release. The campaign is mainly based on an "adoption system." Reputed journalists from all around Europe are expected to assume the role of so-called "godfather" for harassed journalists.
RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard says, "Already 30 harassed journalists from all around the world have been 'adopted' by one or more French 'godfathers,'" and continues, "this way we have helped secure the release of almost half of the some one hundred jailed journalists worldwide so far."
The "godfathers" keep close personal contact with the journalists in prison and continually correspond with them in order to make them feel more secure about their future, encouraging them to endure their difficult situation.
Marie Guy Baron, a French journalist from the daily Le Figaro, is one of Yurtcu's godfathers. Yurtcu's other one is Dominique Bromberger of the French-German TV channel "Arte."
"Unfortunately, Turkish journalists lag behind their Western counterparts in expressing their support for Yurtcu," says Mater. She says that Isik Yurtcu had been in prison for two years before the Turkish media finally noticed he was indeed there, and adds, "If it hadn't been for the RSF campaign, no one would be interested in his case."
Mater says that the RSF is now closer to its aim of freeing Yurtcu. The latter has also been nominated for the Journalist of the Year award this year, along with colleagues from Mexico, Palestine and India, by the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPG).Visit not Allowed
The Justice Ministry refused to give permission for journalists to visit Yurtcu, arguing that a similar application had already been made by the Press Council for the same purpose. However, the president of the Press Council, Oktay Eksi, had already stated in reply to an invitation that was sent to the press, that they would not be able to participate in the Isik Yurtcu visit because their agenda was full for the week.
Prior to the visit on Sunday, the Justice Ministry gave no indication that it might block the visit. The ministry only recommended that the RSF Representative Office consult the Press Council so that they could visit jointly, even though the president of the Press Council had already replied negatively.
Then the ministry stated it would issue permits for only two journalists, regardless of how many intended to go to Sakarya. But the award was finally presented to Yurtcu in an open visit. thanks to a permit obtained through the initiative of Republican People's Party (CHP) Izmir Deputy Sabri Ergul.
Yurtcu, expressing his pleasure at the visit, said that he was accepting the award on behalf of all journalists. Criticizing the mainstream media and noting the Susurluk incident, Yurtcu said, "The contra-guerillas existed 21 years ago. Ecevit was aware of this issue in 1973. Everyone was informed of the existence of this organization within the state. The gangs have been involved in the bombing of 'Ozgur Gundem' and in the Susurluk incident. Mehmet Agar was head of the Security Department and Necdet Menzir was the head of the Istanbul Police when our newspaper was bombed. The operation was carried out upon a secret order by Tansu Ciller. The gangs are protected by the state. As long as these gangs exist and pressure the judicial system, the oppression on the press will increase."
Yurtcu said that he does not understand the reaction of the "big" media against the current discussions of a new press law bill and added, "Which press freedom is being protected when dailies are banned and confiscated and writers are being prosecuted ? The ones who oppose censorship should look at their auto-censor first."
Isik Yurtcu also stated, "Republican People's Party (CHP) Istanbul Deputy Ercan Karakas promised to put an end to this shameful situation soon when he visited journalist Haluk Gerger, but two years have gone by and the situation continues to exist."
CHP Izmir Deputy Sabri Sengul recalled his visit to Sakarya Prison 22 years ago, when he visited the late leader of the Turkish Workers' Party (TIP), Behice Boran. "Democratic rights have moved backwards rather than forward during the last 30 years in Turkey," Sengul said.