International security organization OSCE calls on Turkey to release journalists
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) media freedom representative urged Turkish authorities to release all imprisoned journalists in the country and drop charges against them on Dec. 25, in a statement that came after a court ruling on the continued arrest of daily Cumhuriyet staff who have been tried on terror charges.
During the fifth hearing of their case on Dec. 25, the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court ordered four daily Cumhuriyet staff to remain in prison, including prominent journalist Ahmet Şık, editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, CEO Akın Atalay and accountant Emre İper.
“I repeat my call to authorities to put an end to the trial, which held Cumhuriyet staff unjustly in prison for over a year, accusing them of severe charges that have not been proven,” OSCE media freedom representative Harlem Désir stated.
He expressed his concerns on the trial as well as its negative effects, which have resulted with “significant hardship and despair for the journalists” and “the weakened public debate and democratic process in Turkey.”
Désir noted that the case amounted to “a major threat for meaningful journalism” and “critical debates in the country.”
“Ahmet Şık and his colleagues embody what professional journalism is about. Instead of depriving them of their freedom, it is time to protect their important work,” he said.
During the hearing, Şık had been removed from the courtroom after what the judge called a “political” defense statement.
“The possibility of long prison sentences for differing views remains a terrible reality for every journalist in Turkey, including those released pending trial. This renders the situation of media freedom and free expression nothing short of critical,” Désir noted.
The representative also emphasized that the daily did not have any relation with terrorism or last year’s failed coup, citing its independence. He added that the office would continue to monitor the trial of the journalists.
The Cumhuriyet journalists are charged with supporting three outlawed groups through their media coverage, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Their next hearing is scheduled for March 9, 2018.
According to the Dec. 13 annual report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Turkey was ranked as the country where the most journalists are imprisoned in the world for a second consecutive year, with 73 journalists currently in jail.