Press Freedom

90th day messages from journalists arrested in Diyarbakır

As of September 6th, 16 journalists who were taken into custody on June 8th in citywide house and office raids and who were subsequently arrested on June 16th have left 90 days behind in prison.

There is still no indictment against the journalists who are suspected of “being members of a terrorist organization” because of their news articles and their phone conversations with their news sources. According to the arrested journalists, the fact that there is still no indictment against them shows that the efforts of the judiciary “to manufacture evidence” still continue. Most of the arrested journalists think that the claim of “membership in a terrorist organization” which has been cited as ground for their arrests will eventually evolve into “terror propaganda” accusations.

The Co-Director of Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) Veysel Ok and lawyer Erselan Aktan visited the arrested journalists in Diyarbakır no. 1 and no. 2 High Security Prisons. Emphasizing that any concrete charges are yet to be brought against them, the journalists stated that this is “the record of those in power.”

‘This accusation will collapse!’

The arrested Co-Chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association Serdar Altan shared his thoughts about the process during the visit: “They are accusing us of ‘membership.’ They are doing this by citing our news articles. In vain! This accusation will collapse. We  are all journalists and they know it. Would they have asked us about our interviews, news stories and articles if they did not know it? They will probably turn this case into a ‘propaganda’ case. They think that speaking the truth is making propaganda.”

Pointing out that the government is trying to remove journalists from the field, Altan emphasized that socialist and Kurdish journalists are resisting this effort: “The more they attacked us, the more we have grown. History also shows it. They will not be able to achieve what they want to do. We will continue to be journalists.”

‘The record of those in power’

Emphasizing that he has been a journalist for 10 years, Aziz Oruç stated that the government reacts with lawsuits against all those news reports which it does not like and from which it cannot get any political gains: “These lawsuits show their record. And all the publications, interviews and news articles we put out there show our record. We left 90 days in prison behind. We will get out of here. We will continue with our news report once we are out of here.”

‘They are trying to manufacture evidence’

Underlining the fact that there is still no indictment against them, even though it has been more than 90 days since they were taken into custody, Altan stated that this shows that the judiciary is still trying to manufacture against the arrested journalists: “Let them manufacture! Let them watch from the beginning to the end all of our public broadcasts. Let’s see what they will find in them? ” Reminding the upcoming elections, Altan further stated that the government does not want journalists on the streets in Diyarbakır who can take the pulse of the society, who can inform the society and who can relay information from the field.

“This is such a dangerous manipulation! This is precisely why our continued detention also concerns the public, the public’s right to information. We will get out, we will continue. We will do everything in our power to keep the society from being exposed to ‘news’ which is nothing but manipulation.”

‘I am not leaving. I will continue to be a journalist’

Commenting on the accusations, arrested journalist Ömer Çelik said, “They have been trying for years to make me an organization’s member. Some time ago, Gülenists tried it. The judge who desperately tried to prove my membership, who put a different article of mine into the case file, ended up being convicted of membership in Fethullan Gülen’s organization.”

Reminding that at one point he had what is today called “turquoise card” but what is widely known as “yellow press card”, a card that is usually given to journalists who are approved by the state organs, Çelik stated that “I was facing the same charge when I had a yellow press card and when I was in the courthouse every day as a courthouse reporter. I don’t remember how many cases I have against me. They do not sentence me, they cannot sentence me. Because there is no legal basis, no legal reason. But I know what they are telling me. They are telling me ‘You have this many cases, just leave.’ No, I am not leaving. With these SLAPPs, with this legal burden, they are telling me to leave. I am not leaving. I will continue to be a journalist.”

‘Journalism is a threat to them’

Arrested journalist Lezgin Akdeniz stated that “They are going through our news reports, they are looking at the language, concepts, words we used in news reports so that they can find something criminal. Journalism is like a threat to them. That is why they are trying to suppress it.” Reminding that Diyarbakır has seen four different governors ever since he started working as a journalist, Akdeniz shared that each one of these governors filed a criminal complaint against him because of his news reports and that all these criminal complaints resulted in non persecution decisions. Commenting on the current accusations, Akdeniz stated that “My news reports, interviews and works are once again targeted. Being insistent upon truth is indispensable in terms of journalism ethics. We will be insistent. We will continue to be journalists.”

Arrested journalist Mehmet Ali Ertaş stated that the decision to arrest them is an attempt to prevent the public from accessing information and truth: “We have been deprived of our freedom for 90 days. We have been deprived of the opportunity to do our jobs for 90 days.” Ertaş also shared his hope that their colleagues outside will fill this gap wholeheartedly.

Arrested journalists

JinNews Director Safiye Alagaş, the Co-Chair of Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Assocation Serdar Altan, Xwebûn daily Editor-in-Chief Mehmet Ali Ertaş, Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) editor Aziz Oruç, journalists Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Ömer Çelik, Mazlum Doğan Güler, İbrahim Koyuncu, Neşe Toprak, Elif Üngür, Abdurrahman Öncü, Suat Doğuhan, Remziye Temel, Ramazan Geciken, Lezgin Akdeniz and Mehmet Şahin were taken into custody on June 8th and were subsequently arrested on June 16th. Journalists who are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” are being held in Diyarbakır no. 1 and 2 High Security Prisons. Their news reports, television programs and phone conversations with their news sources are cited for the accusations. 

The journalists are yet to be charged. You can read the chronological and fact-based report about how and why 16 journalists were arrested here. (EBA)