IPI ignores the official figure ‘three’

IPI ignores the official figure ‘three’

The seats on one side of the hall are taken by journalists attending the meeting at the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) in Istanbul, and the empty seats on the other side of the hall are occupied with photographs of journalists under arrest.

Turkey is exactly like the days of the September 12 military coup. One delegation after the other is coming from abroad to Ankara and Istanbul, asking, “What’s happening in Turkey?” A significant portion of these visitors are concerned about restrictions on freedom of the press and arrested journalists. Most recently, a delegation from the International Press Institute (IPI) met Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and officials of other parties in Ankara.

The IPI delegation met with some journalists, some released journalists and with family and friends of journalists in jail at the Istanbul TGC building.

There are journalists from Germany, U.K., India, U.S., Nigeria, Austria and New Zealand in the IPI delegation. The head of the delegation is former editor-in-chief of The Guardian, Peter Preston. Preston conveyed his impressions at the meeting:

“We do not have any ideological approach. Our concern is that freedom of the media is operational everywhere in the world. The deputy prime minister in Ankara told us that there were only three arrested journalists. Also, he told us that the journalists in prison would be released with the fourth justice package. However, we now know that those things that look as if possible in Turkey may become impossible only a few minutes after. We are concerned about Turkey. Justice and transparency have weakened in this country ascending to the European Union.”

The head of the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), Ercan İpekçi, rejected the data provided by Preston:
“The figure three is not correct. In Turkey, since 2009, 120 journalists have been imprisoned. Currently, there are 71 arrested journalists. Journalists are treated as terrorists.”

İpekçi pointed out the released journalists who were present in the meeting; Nedim Şener, Barış Terkoğlu, Barış Pehlivan, Bedri Adanır, Fazıl Durgan, Hasan Coşar and Çağdaş Ulus; and presented them with a sarcastic expression, “Here are the terrorists.”

I’m asking Arınç, when you are saying there are three journalists in prison, do you ever consult your conscience? Also, do you believe it when you say arrested journalists will be released with the new justice package?

Past examples are there; nobody believes any of that, that’s why I’m asking.

‘Visiting my wife at the cemetery’
Bekir Zengin, the husband of Suzan Zengin from İşçi Köylü Gazetesi, took the floor during the meeting with the IPI: “In prison, health and treatment conditions were very bad. My wife Suzan was sick, but we were not able to explain this. Her sickness was finally recognized and she was released. But it was too late. She died four months after her release. Now, I visit my wife, whom I could not visit in prison, at the cemetery.”

This goes to Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin as a conscientious petition.

Nedim Şener, who took the floor at the same meeting, highlighted another truth, “In our arrests, some newspapers and columnists that are published as the prosecutor’s indictment played a role. There is no other country where media is used by the authoritarian regime like this. They say there are eight opposition papers; this is a lie. Some papers conduct extermination operations.”

At the IPI meetings, Naclıcan Özkan said in her dignified attitude, “I am the daughter of Tuncay Özkan, who has been under arrest for 1,534 days. My father has been asking what crime he committed for five years, the court has been saying, for five years, ‘you know very well.’ We have been waiting for a just trial for five years. My father has written seven books in his five years in prison. He has been in a cell for one and a half years.”

In the same meeting, the European Journalists Federation said the journalist associations in European countries have all adopted one arrested journalist in Turkey. They monitor the case, keep in touch and exert efforts for them to be freed.

In Turkey the Journalists Association of Turkey, Contemporary Journalists Association, Journalists Union of Turkey and IPI Turkey Desk continue the adaptation process with success.

Separate from that, except for those who have dedicated themselves to all kinds of provocation, I feel the need to ask, “How much have you adopted our arrested friends?”

Yalçın Doğan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Dec 7. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

YALÇIN DOĞAN - ydogan@hurriyet.com.tr