Journalists reporting leaked files risk imprisonment: Turkish Deputy PM

Journalists reporting leaked files risk imprisonment: Turkish Deputy PM

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Journalists reporting leaked files risk imprisonment: Turkish Deputy PM

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Recep Bülent Arınç speaks at Parliament's General Assembly in Ankara, Dec. 10. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

The journalist who recently reported a leaked story on a document from a 2004 National Security Council (MGK) meeting should face the consequences, and could be jailed for around five years over the story, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said.

“The title ‘journalism’ does not give one the privilege of being exempt from what’s written in the law. Someone who shows themself a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize for successful journalism should understand that they could face time because of the law, and should do the job accordingly with courage. Nobody has the right to complain,” said Arınç in a speech at Parliament’s General Assembly Dec. 11, referring to daily Taraf journalist Mehmet Baransu.

“If you say ‘I did it by choice, I am aware of the consequences, this is journalism,’ you have to stand and face the consequences if the law says so. If you say ‘I have done this for my country and I will face all charges,’ then you will do such things,” Arınç added.

Baransu wrote the leak story for Taraf about the 2004 MGK meeting, which recommended a government action plan against the movement of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

In his parliamentary speech, Arınç also touched on the prison term served by journalist and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mustafa Balbay, who was finally released a few days ago.

“Although not as long as Balbay [who served almost five years in prison], I guess nobody can take the risk of 4.5 or 5 years [in prison], which is heroism,” he said.

Arınç added that while leaking the story may be described as “successful journalism” by some, this does not mean it is not a crime.

“I am not threatening the journalist. I am just saying what is written in the law. They will not be afraid of my threats. I am a lawyer. These are not futile things,” the deputy prime minister said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the report, accusing the reporter who leaked the story of “treason.”

Prosecutors launched investigations into Baransu and daily Taraf after separate criminal complaints were filed by the Prime Ministry, the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the MGK.

Baransu has previously put his name to a number of leaked stories that have transformed Turkish politics, including documents related to the Balyoz (Sledghammer) coup plot case against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Arınç condemns ‘profiling

Another report recently published in Taraf said the Turkish government had profiled a number of groups based on religion and faith through the MİT, many of them affiliated with the Gülen movement, and monitored their activities until 2013.

Arınç condemned such profiling of citizens, amid claims that the government has blacklisted civic groups and public employees through the MİT.

“Profiling, or in other words, following people, intruding in their private life, disrespecting them without any official assignment … is extremely wrong. It’s a crime and if you look at it from a moral perspective, it is the epitome of immorality,” he said.

He added that although gathering information on civil servants before their appointment to offices was a requisite by law, which many institutions chose to do, the MİT should keep clear of profiling going beyond the limits of its duty.

“It is not possible to approve the exposition of random information and opinion about anyone’s private life, faith, tongue, religion or race. It is also a crime in the eyes of the law,” Arınç said, suggesting that the legal framework could be changed to clarify this aspect.

“The MİT should not determine, listen to, investigate and question any information other than [what’s necessary in] its assignment,” he added.