Listen to jailed journalists like Hamdiye also

Listen to jailed journalists like Hamdiye also

The voice on the other end of the phone is jovial. Many other voices are heard in the background. Neighbors and friends must have flooded at the house. 

“I was not expecting a release. It happened suddenly. I was shocked,” she said, speaking fast. She has been in prison for 23 months. She has so much to tell. 

Then she hesitates. Guests are coming and going in the background. “There is also some resentment. Experiencing all this because I have written a story is the most difficult part. It was as if it was not me being tried but freedom of press and expression in Turkey.” 

You have heard about Ahmet and Nedim. You know Soner Yalçın. Müyesser is even talked in Parliament now. Mustafa Balbay himself has been elected to Parliament. 
Well, do you know Hamdiye? 
I’m talking about my young colleague Hamdiye Çiftçi who was imprisoned for two years and released the other day. She was arrested in connection with the KCK trial, KCK being the Kurdistan Communities Union, the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

Hamdiye is the Hakkari correspondent of the active news network in the southeast, Dicle news agency (DİHA). She is a very young girl like quicksilver. She set out to be a journalist, had to persuade her father first, then she has joined Anatolia news agency and then became a reporter for DİHA. She is only 26 and until three days ago she was one of the arrested journalists in Turkey. 

I have been following her case from the beginning because the photo she took a few years ago in Hakkari during a protest was a hit. I was not able to forget that photo.

Then, I read the indictment that Hamdiye was being tried and all my blood went up to my head. While some people were telling us “They are terrorists, rapists,” they have not bothered to take a look at the indictment. I only saw in the indictment phone conversations of a young reporter with her sources, her editor and her colleagues. 

Let me explain it as such: There are standard sections at the beginning of the indictment explaining the structuring of the KCK and excerpts from PKK documents. OK, nobody can oppose these. But what does this little girl have to do with the KCK? She a member based on what? You see, that does not exist there. On the contrary, there are only transcripts of phone conversations where news is the only topic, decorated with jokes. You see a young journalist in those transcripts, where her only concern is stories; she is in a rush for news; she is cross at her manager because her story was shortened. This is so familiar… Half of the life of a reporter is spent on stories, the other half on struggles with editors for better use of the stories. It is the same everywhere in Turkey and in the world. The only difference is that the background is Hakkari, the topics are naturally detentions, stone-throwing kids, tanks, protests, press releases, etc… 

While Hamdiye was in prison, she wrote to Tutuklu Gazete (Arrested Newspaper) and Bianet. “There has always been an opposing press in Turkey. But we became a current issue when Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener were arrested. However, we also exist. When Ahmet and Nedim were released, there was an atmosphere as if the freedom of press and expression was solved. But, they were not,” she said. She was extremely irritated to be called a “terrorist;” moreover she was ashamed. 

She has many projects in her head. She will go back to university. She is telling about the women she served time with: “There are so many stories in them.” She is excited. I recommend she write a book and never give up journalism.

Because I know the chemistry of a reporter. This girl is a journalist. You may arrest a journalist, tie her up, fire her from her job, but you can never put out the fire, the quest for stories inside her.

Aslı Aydıntaşbaş is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on April 12. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

jailed journalists, press freedom,