03 July 2017 00:08

Solidarity with Cumhuriyet, freedom for Journalists! 

In the relation to the growing calls for justice, the operation against the Cumhuriyet newspaper was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

İhsan Çaralan

The demand for justice has always played a crucial role in the struggle of the oppressed and exploited in Turkey, where there are social tensions resulting from numerous coups, the junta and the conflicts between the various cliques amongst the dominant classes; as well as conflicts arising from the clashes between counter-revolutionary and revolutionary forces. 
In the relation to the growing calls for justice, the operation against the Cumhuriyet newspaper was the last straw that broke the camel’s back, in parallel with Kilicdaroglu’s “walk for justice” and the Government’s policies removing the protections provided by the rule of law. 
The scale of dominance over the judicial process and the threat that this poses to freedom (particularly media freedom) is evident from the accusations of links to the Gulen movement made against the Cumhuriyet newspaper, and the urgent investigations resulting in the arrest of 12 writers, journalists and its executive team.  


Indeed, as has been seen in the media (including at Cumhuriyet), the charges brought against the newspaper’s writers, journalists and executive in the indictment have no grounds and are without basis. 

Despite attempts by prosecutors to frame the discussions about media freedom around the Gulen movement and the 15 July attempted coup, the process has shown that the charges are devised to punish journalism. The evidence relating to “finances” are in fact simply “journalistic activities” and the accused are none other than those journalists who refuse to pledge allegiance to the AKP government.   
The first trial of the Cumhuriyet writers and executives will take place on the 109th anniversary of the “lifting of censorship”, on 24 July 2017. 
The Free Journalists Initiative has launched a social media campaign in support of the arrested Cumhuriyet journalists, writers and executives. 
#HaberinVarMi and #GazetecilereOzgurluk hashtags are being used to promote four videos in which the President Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag make the case for defending trial without detention. 
Journalists are saying “this is what we think too, freedom for journalists!”
The linking of this campaign with the “Walk for Justice” and the reactions to both of these campaigns, will of course increase the effectiveness of this effort, and will be important for calls for justice in other areas too.



Within the remit of this campaign, the Free Journalists Initiative are making it clear that they “agree” with the three videos in which President Erdogan and one video in which the justice minister Bozdag make speeches relating to the need to protect trial without detention and are referring to these speeches to service their campaign. In one of the videos, President Erdogan says “this is a journalist, what sort of politician is this? Whoever it may be, when it is possible for people to be tried without detention, why is it necessary to impose trial with detention!?” 
In another video, the President is talking on a TV channel saying “I have said before that for those who for whom absconding cannot even be a matter for discussion, using the mechanism of trial without detention will be beneficial. My thoughts on this issue remain the same”. In relation to the recall of Ahmet Sik’s (at the time unfinished) book on Gulen in the context of the Ergenekon case and his subsequent arrest, the President is seen in the third video addressing the AKP Parliamentary Group. In that video, the President is reminded of when he said “Everyday journalists are having to address prosecutors because they are writing about the Pennsylvania gang. Because they are preparing to write about the Pennsylvania gang, not because they have written a book. People are being detained because they are preparing to write a book”. Thus the link is made to the “Freedom to Ahmet Sik” campaign. 
The “freedom for journalists” campaign’s fourth video shows the Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag saying “God willing in all of the trials, exceptions notwithstanding, the default is to apply trial without detention. Trial without detention could enable a better trial”.


The demands of the Free Journalists Initiative are highlighted through the trial of the Cumhuriyet journalists, writers and executives on 24 July. 

But it is clear that, in our country where over 170 journalists are imprisoned, where it has become routine in trials for journalism to be associated with involvement in “terrorist organisations” or the “attempted coup”, and where attempts are made to oppress and censor journalists that refuse to pledge allegiance by attacking their reputation using propaganda claiming that their journalism is unpatriotic – the “freedom for journalist” campaign with their demands for a fair trial share joint values with the “Walk for Justice” campaign. 

In this respect, the campaign joins up the millions of people from different sections of society who are seeking justice with campaigns to defend journalists seeking the truth and media freedom. 
For this reason, the campaign launched by our colleagues deserves to be supported in every way possible.