The Media and Law Studies Association’s Legal Unit visited journalists Nedim Türfent and Ziya Ataman in Van High Security Prison, where they are detained.
Türfent, who has been in prison for nearly five years, said that his state of health is good while emphasizing that the measures taken against the Covid-19 pandemic remain insufficient.
Noting that a significant portion of the rights of the detainees and convicts have been suspended through the pandemic restrictions, Türfent said: “The pandemic has locked those who are outside in their homes. However, we, who are already imprisoned, have been jailed once again. Our rights to open visits, to engage in sports and social activities have been severely affected. These measures have dimensions which are aimed at protecting us from the pandemic for sure. However, the measures should have been designed while taking those who are already living with restrictions into consideration. We try to follow-up through the television; yes, the pandemic is becoming more and more devastating every day. The way to deal with this should be through medical and scientific methods, not through further disabling human rights, which have already been rendered ineffective.”
Türfent: “Inside or outside, I will continue to practice journalism”
Türfent, who continues his journalistic activities behind bars, conducted an interview through letters with the former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who is imprisoned in the Edirne F-Type High Security Prison. Explaining that his conditions cannot prevent him from continuing his profession, Türfent said: “Inside or outside, I will continue to practice journalism. Of course it is impossible to keep up with the dynamics of the ever-changing news cycle from here. Turkey is dominated by a new agenda every day and the news from the previous day can become worn-out and insignificant in an instant. Keeping up with the pace of an instant set of breaking news and developments must be difficult even for the journalists who are outside. Yet, in any case there are problems and agendas in this country and in this world that are not progressing at all. These issues are the reason why we are here. Of course, these agendas will also change. They have to change, to advance.”
Ataman: “The pandemic has rendered the right to access health facilities obsolete”
Ziya Ataman, another journalist jailed in the same prison, stated that the pandemic has rendered the right to access health facilities obsolete. Ataman suffers from many health conditions and chronic diseases, in particular cardiac arrhythmia. The journalist said that referrals to a general hospital have either been postponed or not conducted at all due to the pandemic. He continued with the following words: “If you go to a full-fledged hospital, a quarantine period whose end is unpredictable awaits you here. This period can be two weeks or four or five… Due to this unpredictability, many prisoners with health issues are in a state where they have to endure aches and pain. On the other hand, it is uncertain whether a possible referral will take place or not. The prison infirmary considers referrals as a way of protection from the pandemic and does not refer unless there is an “emergency”. Therefore, the urgency of the disease is entrusted to the evaluation and mercy of the infirmary.”
“We cannot follow the news but every single condition here is a news item in itself”
Ataman explained that he faces difficulties in continuing his journalistic activities: “Our access to newspapers and magazines is limited. We only learn about the fate of the letters sent to us or by us weeks later. It is nearly impossible to follow the news actively. However, every single of the conditions that we experience here is a news topic for itself. Every stage of our case files and every phase that we are going through here is news…We were brought here illegally and we will continue to report from here, too.”
Journalists Türfent and Ataman stated that the letters they receive continue to elevate their spirits and to strengthen their connection with the outside world.