Arrested journalists and the rapist debate

Arrested journalists and the rapist debate

When EU Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış was pressed on the topic of arrested journalists on the BBC’s renowned news program “Hard Talk,” he said there were no journalists arrested due to their professional activities. 

He added, word by word, “But there are some people who carried journalist identification cards who have been caught while raping another person.” Minister for EU Affairs Bağış’s interview, which was broadcast on March 1 on the BBC, can easily be seen on YouTube. 

It is indeed thought-provoking for the chief negotiator to form this sentence starting with the subject “some people.” Any foreigner who watches this statement from Bağış on the BBC will involuntarily associate the debate on arrested journalists in Turkey with this “rape” incident. 

At least, with this statement, an impression has been created that there exists some journalists who are rapists in Turkey. 

When I looked into the matter of how this “rapist journalist” issue emerged, I came across these facts: 

There are two main lists announced publicly on the subject of arrested journalists. The first one of these is the 102-person list prepared by the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS). The second one is the 100-person list of the Solidarity with Imprisoned Journalists Platform (TGDP). 

There is a serious dispute going on between the government and media organizations. The government claims the majority of the names on the list have been arrested because of crimes that are unrelated to journalism. 

Is there a rapist on the lists? 

However, our topic today is not the number of journalists under arrest; it is the question of whether or not there really is a rapist on these lists. I spoke to both TGS president Ercan İpekçi and the spokesman for the TGDP, Necati Abay. According to the information I gathered from them, there is no journalist on either of the lists who has been arrested because of the crime of rape. 

“We do not monitor journalists who have been involved in judicial crimes; we merely focus on those colleagues of ours who are prisoners of thought and who have been arrested because of their journalistic activities,” İpekçi said.

Interestingly, in the fact sheet that was issued by the Justice Ministry last month about the TGDP’s list, I have not come across the charge of “rape” in any of them even though a series of crimes unrelated to journalism have been attributed to the names on the list. 

Well, then, where does this rapist issue come from? 

A person answering this description 

“This is a highly grievous accusation; our arrested colleagues have been incriminated. We have called Egemen Bağış and the government to announce who the rapist journalists are. But they have not been able to do that up until now. We think that because they were in a difficult situation against the world because of journalists under arrest, they have adopted this dishonest method to cover up the case,” Abay said.

Meanwhile, Abay added: “Actually there is one journalist who has been sentenced because of this crime, but he is not in our list. His name is Hüseyin Üzmez.”

Interestingly, this name also came up during the meeting between the Freedom for Journalists Platform and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç last year on March 18. It was on the official list of journalists under arrest that was supplied by Arınç at the meeting. On this official list that İpekçi had taken from his consultants with Arınç’s approval, there are the names of 26 “journalists.” 

On the second page of the list I had the opportunity to review yesterday, I came across Hüseyin Üzmez’s name in 17th place. Right across from the name it was written, “Daily Vakit writer.” 

Indeed, I am not in a position to know who Egemen Bağış referred to when he said, “who have been caught while raping another person.” 

But it is obvious that the EU Chief Negotiator owes an apology to our colleagues whose names are included in the lists issued by both organs, who are behind bars and in a position where they cannot defend themselves. 

Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on March 21. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.