Prosecutor lectures on rights as he turns down press probe

Prosecutor lectures on rights as he turns down press probe

An Istanbul prosecutor, Mustafa Gökay, has written an exemplary justification for his decision to turn down a request for a probe into journalists. The request was made by the former general manager of the government-controlled Halkbank, Süleyman Aslan, who had been arrested in the framework of the graft probe that started on Dec. 17, 2013.

The corruption probe had been announced by official sources, supported by video footage of $4.5 million in cash being found in Aslan’s house, packed into empty shoeboxes, which later on became a symbol of corruption allegations in Turkey. Following a series of legal changes and a change of prosecutors and judges in the case, Aslan was released from prison. He lost his position at Halkbank, but he was appointed as a board member to another public bank, Ziraat Bank, by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.

Aslan has filed legal complaints against a number of journalists, including myself, based on two articles of the penal code suggesting jail time and a fine: Article 285 regarding the violation of confidentiality of the legal investigation and Article 288 about trying to influence court verdicts.

There are four separate complaints about me from Aslan. An article in Radikal, in Turkish, published on Dec. 18, 2013, regarding the start of the operation, an article in the Hürriyet Daily News appearing on the same day with the title “The corruption probe might grow to shake the Turkish government,” and two news stories from the same day because of my position as editor-in-chief. One of these was the headline story titled “High profile names nabbed in huge corruption probe” and another story titled “49 people including high profile figures detained in major corruption operation."

There was an article in the Hürriyet Daily News on May 1, 2014, about these four complaints.

However, yesterday, on May 7, our company lawyers gave us the good news. Prosecutor Gökay has turned down all of them with a rather long justification text.

In summary, Gökay said the following:

* All the stories were within the framework of letting people use their right to know and freedom of expression.

* The stories are regarded within the context of freedom of expression, freedom of having an opinion, freedom of access to information and opinions and freedom to express them as stated in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

* There is no content in the stories aimed at trying to influence the ongoing court case or violating the confidentiality of the investigation.

In addition to this, Prosecutor Gökay says it would be a demonstration of mistrust in courts to think that any judge would change his decision with only news stories and opinions. “That would be impossible to accept on professional terms” he concludes.

It is good to know that there are men and women of the law in Turkey who care for freedom and understand the importance of media freedom for a properly operating democratic life.