Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Third Quarterly Media Monitoring Report: Full Text

Bıa news centre
Erol Önderoglu

The third quarterly report of the Bia Media Monitoring Desk has appeared, detailing violations of press freedom and the freedom of expression in the months of July, August and September 2007.

According to the quarterly report of the Bia Media Monitoring Desk, relating to events in July, August and September 2007, 125 people, most of them journalists, and six media institutions have been tried for expressing their thoughts freely.

This report lists the violations of the freedom of expression under seven headings:

- Murder, attacks and threats
- Detentions and arrests
- Trials and investigations
- Corrections and seeking legal redress
- European Court of Human Rights
- Reactions to censorship
- RTÜK [Radio and Television Supreme Council] practices
- Murder, Attacks and Threats

Two security officers who were involved in the taking of photos of O.S., the murder suspect of Agos editor Hrant Dink, together with gendarmerie and police in the tea room of the Samsun Department for Terrorism, are now on trial. At the first hearing at the fourth penal court in Samsun on 28 September, the defendants Metin Balta, the acting director of the Terrorism Department, and Ibrahim Firat, police officer at the department, did not attend. The hearing has been postponed until 2 November in order to take their statements and evaluate demands. [...]

[...] In the Objektif programme on Fox TV, broadcast on 20 September, Sirin continued to threaten journalist Ali Bayramoglu of the Yeni Safak newspaper, [...]. He said: “I was surprised at Ali Bayramoglu’s approach in this matter. What is such a writer doing in such a climate? This community needs to examine this writer carefully.” Bayramoglu had previously been threatened after publishing an article entitled “Our Life is in Danger” on 4 July, in which he pointed out the importance of solving the Hrant Dink murder. He received an email message saying, “If you continue to write like that, you will end like Hrant Dink”. The matter has been taken to the prosecution.

Lawyers of the Dink family have appealed against the decision of the Trabzon Governor’s Office not to allow the investigation of Ramazan Akyürek, the head of the Intelligence Unit at the Police Department, Resat Altay, former police chief in Trabzon, and police officers Engin Dinc, Faruk Sari, Ercan Demir, Özkan Mumcu, Muhittin Zenit and Mehmet Ayhan. The governor’s office is basing its refusal on a report by investigators of the Ministry of the Interior who had prepared a report.


Aris Nalci, the news editor of the weekly Turkish-Armenian “Agos” newspaper has said that although there has been a decrease in email threats, they do continue. High school student R.D. was arrested on 2 August for sending the newspaper a threatening email one day after editor-in-chief Hrant Dink’s murder. In his first statement R.D. said, “I sent that message in a moment of ignorance.” He was then sent to Bayrampasa prison in Istanbul.


On 13 July, lawyers of the Dink family appealed against the decision of the Samsun Public Prosecution to dismiss proceedings against police and gendarmerie officers who formed close relationships with Hrant Dink’s murder suspect O.S. after his arrest.

In the Hrant Dink murder trial, joint attorneys appealed against the decision of the court to release four of the eighteen detained suspects, Salih Hacisalihoglu, Osman Alpay, Irfan Özkan and Veysel Toprak, from detention at the first hearing of the case on 2 July. In the appeal to the 9th Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul, it said: “Basic and critical issues which are needed to shed light on this case are to be found in the actions of the released suspects.”

The international Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reacted to a report by the Police Department, which said that the murder of journalist Hrant Dink was organised by “a group based on friendship”. RSF said, “This report is attempting to clear the security forces. The question that really needs to be answered is why the warnings of Erhan Tuncel were ignored. The police said that ties with Tuncel were cut in November 2006, but he said at the hearing, ‘I told the police that an attack against Hrant Dink would be organised.’”

In a press briefing on 3 July, one day after the first hearing in the Hrant Dink murder trial, lawyer Fethiye Cetin called for the trial of all the gendarmerie and police officers whose relations with the murder suspects have emerged, and who did not prevent the murder despite knowing about it. Cetin cited Article 83 of the Penal Code, which deals with “related crimes”, and demanded that these officers be tried as part of the murder case.

At the first hearing of the Hrant Dink murder trial at the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court, the release of detained defendants Salih Hacisalihoglu, Osman Altay, Irfan Özkan and Veysel Toprak was decided. Defendant O.S., tried for being the suspected gunman, used his right to silence. Erhan Tuncel, tried for incitement to murder, said: “I served the state. I do not know why I am here.” Defendant Yasin Hayal said: “Tuncel deceived us. He planned the murder. It was him who built the bomb that was thrown at Mc Donald’s [in an earlier incident in Trabzon].” The first hearing lasted all day. All eighteen defendants were questioned and the demands of the defense and the joint attorneys were listened to. Requests of both sides to widen the investigation were accepted. The court case was to continue on 1 October.


Trials and Investigations


The case against the Belge Publications for translating and publishing Prof. Dr. Dora Sakayan’s “An Armenian in Turkey” (The Memoirs of Garabet Haceryan) and George Jerjian’s “The Truth Will Set Us Free” will continue on 3 October. Because the court cannot reach Jerjian, publisher Ragip Zarakolu is on trial instead. For Sakayan’s book, both Zarakolu and translator Atilla Tuygan are on trial. Zarakolu faces up to 7.5 years imprisonment demanded for “degrading and ridiculing the State and the Republic” and “insulting the memory of Atatürk”. Tuygan faces six years imprisonment for “degrading and ridiculing the army”.


Dink family lawyer Erdal Dogan is on trial for saying that "Hrant was particularly worried about Veli Kücük getting involved in his trial". Veli Kücük, a retired brigadier general who is infamous in Turkey for his involvement in the "deep state", is said to have threatened Dink. There is no investigation against Veli Kücük. Kücük is demanding 10,000 YTL compensation for being portrayed as a “murderer” and for being accused without justification. At the hearing on 18 September, the Beyoglu 4th Penal Court requested more evidence from both sides. The trial will continue on 22 November.


A Recep Akkus and an Asim Demir have filed a criminal complaint against the “Radikal” newspaper for translating two articles into Turkish and publishing them. The articles in question are “New Evidence of Armenian Genocide” by the experienced Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk from the “Independent” newspaper and “How Sincere is the ‘Never Again’ Slogan?” by Jeff Jacoby from the “Boston Globe”. Radikal’s responsible editor Hasan Cakkalkurt may face a trial under Article 301 for “degrading Turkishness”. The complaint is still being investigated.

Fuat Turgut, the defense lawyer of Yasin Hayal, a suspect in the Hrant Dink murder trial, is demanding a total of 20,000 YTL compensation from “Radikal” columnist Perihan Magden, “Birgün” journalist Ahmet Tulgar and Dink family lawyer Erdal Dogan. The trial was opened on 12 September. In an article published on 5 July 2007, Magden had described Turgut as a “freak showman”. On the same day, Tulgar wrote of him as “mad and showy”.


Yücel Sayman, former president of the Istanbul Bar Association, who accused Kemal Kerincsiz’s lawyers of influencing the judiciary at the first hearing in the trial against journalists from the “Agos” newspaper, is being tried for insulting those same lawyers. The hearing in question was on 10 May 2006, when editor-in-chief Hrant Dink, editor Arat Dink and licence holder Serkis Seropyan were being tried. Following a complaint by Kerincsiz, Sayman will have to appear at the Sisli Penal Court in February 2008. Article 125 of the Penal Code is being cited, and up to two years imprisonment are being demanded.


On 3 August it was reported that the Supreme Court of Appeals ratified the decision of the Sisli Penal Court to drop its case against writer Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk had been on trial under Article 159 of the old Penal Code after saying in an interview with weekly Swiss magazine “Das Magazin” that “One million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds have been killed on this soil”. Up to three years imprisonment had been demanded, but when the Ministry of Justice had refused permission for trial, the Sisli court had dropped the case.

On demand of the Ministry of the Interior, Mayor Abdullah Demirbas of the Sur municipality in Diyarbakir lost his post in June and the municipal council was dissolved. The Sur municipality had offered its services in Kurdish and Arabic as well as Turkish. Now the 8th Chamber of the State Council has opened a case against Demirbas and council members for “abusing their position” and “violating the law on insurgency”. In the indictment, prison sentences ranging between one and three and a half years are demanded for the council members deciding on the multilingual services and Osman Baydemir, the mayor of Greater Diyarbakir. A total of 21 persons will be tried at the Diyarbakir 2nd Penal Court on 7 November for “abusing their position” and “violating the law on Turkish letters”. Demirbas has been acquitted in another case concerning an article entitled “Local Government in Light of Multilingual Municipal Services” which he had presented to the European Social Forum.

At the end of July, the Ankara 13th Civil Court of First Instance partially accepted the complaint of a Sükrü Elekdag against “Agos” writer and historian Taner Akcam and decreed that Akcam should pay compensation. Akcam had written an article entitled “Gündüz Aktan and the Saik Issue in the Genocide” and it was published in the weekly newspaper on 6, 20 and 27 January and 3, 10, 17 February 2006. Elekdag, an MP, had claimed that his personal rights were attacked and he was insulted. He had demanded 20,000 YTL compensation. It was decided that Akcam and the newspaper should pay 10,000 YTL and legal interest. Lawyers have appealed against the decision, arguing that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights.


In the case against Diyarbakir mayor Osman Baydemir, the expert report has been questioned. Baydemir is said to have told the “Tempo” magazine in an interview that “Turks and Kurds cannot live together”. On 24 July the Bagcilar 2nd Penal Court (Istanbul) accepted Baydemir’s lawyer Özcan Intas’s claim that the expert had confused the utterances of Baydemir and DTP Siirt province chair Murat Avci and the lawyer’s demand for correction. The court has ordered the correction, and, if recordings of Baydemir exist, their analysis. Baydemir has been on trial under Article 216 of the old Penal Code for “inciting the public to hatred and hostility”. The case will continue on 6 December.

Eren Keskin, lawyer and former president of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), will not be tried for “inciting to hatred and hostility” after a speech she made in the Bulanik district of Mus, in which she used the term “Kurdistan”. The Bulanik prosecution decreed that “however unacceptable it was, it consisted of expressing an opinion” and dropped proceedings. In the justification it said that the suspect had used the term Kurdistan to refer to the area mostly inhabited by Kurds. However, she will be tried for the use of the same term used at a panel entitled “Woman, Society and Family” at the Viransehir Culture and Arts Festival two and a half years ago. Keskin has said that there are 15 trials open against her under Articles 159 and 301.


The case against Arat Dink and Serkis Seropyan, editor and licence holder of the Agos newspaper respectively, continued on 17 July. The two journalists are being tried for an interview which murdered Hrant Dink gave the Reuters News Agency and for an article entitled “A Vote against 301”. The trial was opened after Recep Akkus of the nationalist Great Lawyers’ Union filed a complaint. The trial, brought under Article 301/1 continues on 11 October. Up to three years imprisonment are being demanded.


The Ankara 14th Civil Court of First Instance has rejected the complaint of Prime Minister Erdogan against “Sabah” columnist Hincal Uluc. After the murder of Hrant Dink, he had written an article entitled “Sects and Presidential Candidacy”, which was published on 7 February. Erdogan had demanded 20,000 YTL compensation for “serious atttack and slander”, but on 12 July the court rejected the complaint. Uluc had claimed that the positions of Istanbul Police Chief Celalettin Cerrah and Minister of the Interior Abdülkadir Aksu were being protected after the murders of priest Andrea Santoro and journalist Hrant Dink because of their connections with religious sects and that the Prime Minister was closely linked to sects.


Prime Minister Erdogan has opened a 10,000 YTL compensation trial against journalist Cüneyt Arcayürek for attacking his personal rights. Arcayürek had appeared on the “Politika Duragi” programme of the Kanaltürk channel and is said to have said, “Their insides and their outsides are lies. They are liars.”


Reactions to censorship and monopolisation

At the end of September, 114 lecturers at the prestigious Bosphorus University (Istanbul) condemned the trial of Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran and Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Kaboglu, the authors of the Minority Rights Report. Among them were Prof. Dr. Nükhet Sirman, Prof. Dr. Ayse Bugra, Prof. Dr. Edhem Eldem, Prof. Dr. Fatma Gök, Prof. Dr. Caglar Keyder and Assistant Prof. Dr. Koray Caliskan. The academics emphasised that the report "does not contain any elements of violence", as was claimed in the justification for the trial. They also demanded the abolition of Articles 301 and 216 and similar articles in the Turkish Penal Code and said, "We view Kaboglu and Oran's trial under Articles 301 and 216 as a restriction of academic freedom."


The judiciary in Turkey allows for the closure of a whole website if one item contained in it has become the subject of a complaint. After the alternative dictionary Eksi Sözlük and the Antoloji.com websites, the WorldPress.com website was closed in August. Cause for the closure was a complaint by Adnan Oktar. The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organisation has previously stated that it finds this wholesale closure of a website “radical and disproportionate.”

A Regional Administrative Court has decreed that a park in Diyarbakir cannot be named after human rights activist and publisher Ayse Nur Zarakolu who died five years ago, arguing that she was a person who "supported separatist ideas and spread terrorist propaganda both in her own books and in the books she published". The widower of Ayse Nur Zarakolu, Ragip Zarakolu, journalist at the "Ülkede Özgür Gündem" and publisher, said: "Ayse Nur Zarakolu, like Hrant Dink, was a person who tried to build bridges between our peoples on the basis of mutual respect , and she is one of the people who paid for this with her life."


On 24 July, the Turkey Journalists' Society (TGC) awarded its Freedom of Press Prizes to Rakel Dink, widow of murdered journalist Hrant Dink, publisher Ragip Zarakolu and lawyer Gülcin Cayligil as representatives of "all those journalists and writers who have suffered and been tried under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.". TGC president Orhan Erinc presented the awards at the ceremony at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul. In his opening speech, he said, "Today censorship is not the direct inspection of newspapers, but the limiting clauses placed in laws." In her acceptance speech, Rakel Dink criticised Cemil Cicek, Minister of Justice when her husband was still alive. He had said, "Let them be happy, they get prizes because of us". Hrant Dink had replied, "Our greatest prize would be the abolishment of Article 301."


Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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