I wish I were as optimistic as Taha Akyol

I wish I were as optimistic as Taha Akyol

Taha Akyol’s column yesterday in daily Hürriyet started with “I’m expecting the release of more suspects in the Ergenekon case and other related cases.” 

Mr. Taha Akyol attributes his expectation to the possibility of the “changing of the classification of their offences,” which was also mentioned in the court verdict in the release of Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık.
Şık and Şener are being tried because they are charged with “making propaganda in line with an organization’s aims.” They were not charged with “being a member of the organization.” 

Now, the bill that is waiting to be debated in Parliament (the one that Sedat Ergin from daily Hürriyet has perfectly analyzed article by article) is on accelerating the practice of justice. One of the articles that is to be amended is Article 2 of the anti-terror law (TMY). The sentence “They will also be punished as if they were members of the organization” will be removed from the law. 

Taha Akyol attributes the recent releases to this amendment. And he said there would be more releases.

I wish I could be optimistic enough to believe that this tiny amendment in the law will provide freedom of expression in Turkey. But I am not. 

No doubt we are a society that has difficulty distinguishing between freedom of expression and violence and terror. This is not only the problem of the lawmakers; the problem belongs to the entire society. 

For this reason, in our laws (both in the Turkish Penal Code [TCK] and in the TMY) we have a very vague offense such as “being a member of a [terror] organization.”

Organizations, especially terror organizations, do not issue membership cards to their members. Well then, how do we determine whether or not a person is a member of the organization? 

The prosecutors and the police even consider anyone who has a friendly relationship with a person who has committed a crime on behalf of the organization as a “member of the organization.” Those people are categorized as “aiding and abetting” the organization. There are plenty of examples of this in the “Devrimci Karargah” (Revolutionary Headquarters) case. 

Or, our prosecutors can also make people who carry placards at a peaceful rally of the same organization into “members of the organization.” There are hundreds – thousands – of people being tried; some of them have been arrested and are in jail, some of them have been convicted and are serving their time. 

But this is not the only factor that makes the boundaries of freedom of expression vague. There is also the “making propaganda in line with the organization’s aims” offence that Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener are being accused of. 

This is an even vaguer offense because the aims of organizations are not always very specific and certain subjects are not exclusively expressed by them. In this category of offence, there may not be one person left in Turkey who cannot be accused; this category is that wide. 

Unless Turkey abandons considering these two categories – “being a member of an organization,” and “making propaganda in line with the organization’s aims” – as crimes in its laws, freedom of expression here will always remain scarred, always partial. 

Merely abandoning considering these two as crimes is not sufficient either. The offence of “aiding and abetting” should also be defined by concrete criteria. 

Otherwise, our system will continue to operate with the rain falling on the just and unjust alike. Moreover, it will “fall on the just more,” and because of the pressure of conscience created by this, the “unjust” might even go unpunished. 


Ismet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published March 16. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

AKP, erdogan, journalism, press freedom, censorship, tyranny,