It is journalism that is being jailed

It is journalism that is being jailed

We visited journalist Nedim Şener at the end of October at Silivri Prison near Istanbul. He has now been under arrest for more than eight months. “We,” meaning, Ferai Tınç, the chair of the Press Institute Association (BED); board members Haluk Şahin; daily Hürriyet’s foreign news chief, Emre Kızılkaya; Aynur Ganiler, the owner of daily Çanakkale Olay and me.

The board of our association is at the same time the Turkey National Committee for the International Press Institute (IPI); it represents the IPI in Turkey. And

Nedim Şener is one of a total of 60 “World Press Freedom Heroes,” recognized by IPI. Consequently, Nedim is

also our hero.

Nedim did not become a hero because he was jailed. This title was awarded to him six months before his arrest, in September 2010 at a ceremony organized in Vienna by the IPI. Nedim was a “Press Freedom Hero” when he was arrested and he will still be one when he is released.

 When he was arrested together with fellow journalist Ahmet Şık, I personally guaranteed that both of them had no other missions than journalism. Then I read the Oda TV indictment (the case they were adjoined into) and I saw with delight that it was impossible to have claimed the opposite.

Visiting Nedim was good for me. Now, I feel sorrier for his family outside instead of feeling sorry for Nedim inside. Because the Nedim I met in Silivri was optimistic, talkative and cheerful. His mind and soul were in one piece. He had lost a lot of weight, but was healthy.

I understand that Nedim has become a strong “jail-time server.” He will go in intact and come out intact.

But, on the question of whether the “investigative/research journalism” that went to prison together with Nedim will also be released on the day he is released, I am frankly not so optimistic. I assume “investigative journalism” will serve a much longer term than Nedim.

I don’t know if you are aware of it, but Nedim Şener is the last investigative journalist Turkey raised. I stand behind my argument: Have you read or watched one tiny bit of a story that is the product of real investigative journalism in the Turkish media since Nedim was arrested? Who can say “Yes” to this question with peace of mind?

No one.

Nobody ought to say a word about the works of one or two certain “official” journalists who actually serve as a “mail box” (using Ragıp Duran’s words), for those who are “appointed/elected” to each of the media legs of those two operations and their legal proceedings supported by those in political power. What they do is one kind of a corporate-interested pro-government journalism that is invalidated by publishing those documents delivered to their addresses without conducting any research.

Our problem is that the investigative journalism

that monitors those in political power and especially follows how public funds are spent cannot be practiced anymore because of the dominant authoritarianism

in Turkey.

All right, it was in the 1990s that the poisonous plaster of the structural crisis of the media today was laid. But, in those years, for example, the late Turan Yavuz was able to write about Prime Minister Tansu Çiller’s wealth in the United States for days. Again, the late Yıldırım Çavlı was able to scrutinize the Istanbul Waterworks Authority (İSKİ) scandal involving the governing Social Democratic People’s Party (SHP). Many journalists were able to delve into the Susurluk incident, which had roots in the government as well.

What about now? Is there any chance of following a story that even slightly touches those in political power?