DESPITE ALL OPPRESSION, VIOLENCE AND THREATS
A handful of journalists continue to write the truth and do their jobs bravely despite all the pressures and threats. Even if they end up in prison or have to flee abroad, they remind us of democracy, equality and the law with their pens. In this file, you will read the prices paid by the journalists who did not sell the honor of their pen but wrote only the truth.
There is this famous story, “The King of Germany II. Friedrich wanted to build a palace on a land he liked in Potsdam, near Berlin. However, the miller who
was living in the land refused to sell his field. When the king couldn’t change the miller’s mind, he tried to persuade by summoning him to his palace, this time he got angry and tried to threaten, “Remember! There is a king here.” Upon these words, the confident, brave and wise miller replied, “You are right, there is a king here; but don’t forget that there are also judges in Berlin!”
Shocked, King Friedrich could not say anything and had his palace built at another place without touching the mill. Now, these two historical buildings make the whole world think that justice is necessary for everyone. This is why I told this story: Turkey has been going through challenging times where fundamental freedoms are restricted, tens of thousands of dissenters are put in prison, business people’s properties are destroyed, billions of dollars of corruption are scattered around, and the economy has been collapsed due to these ongoing crimes, especially in the last 10 years. And in such an atmosphere of fear, despite the danger of ending up in prison and death threats, “There are journalists in Turkey.” There are a handful of brave pens
The media in general, and the journalists in particular, have suffered the most from this negative course of events in Turkey, especially in the last decade. Since 2016, 34 TV channels, 53 newspapers, 37 radio stations, 6 news agencies, 20 magazines and 29 publishing houses have been closed. More than 200 journalists fled abroad(!). 34 foreign journalists were deported, 3,804 journalists’ press cards were cancelled. Furthermore, more than 400 journalists
were arrested and put on trial. Currently, there are more than 60 journalists in prisons. There has been a lot of pain in this case and it is likely to continue. Here is one of them: journalist Mevlüt Öztaş. Journalist Öztaş was arrested for the news he wrote. He had to undergo two surgeries in the prison. His kidneys failed and he got cancer. Courts denied eviction requests. His treatment was deliberately delayed. Sadly, it was too late when he was released after 874 days of ongoing public protests. Just after 57 days of his discharge, he passed away.
On the other hand, daily newspaper circulation, which was about 4 million before the July 15 coup attempt, dropped by 65 percent to 1.5 million today. The Erdogan government (although it’s illegal) shut down many newspapers. He made sure that the biggest newspapers of Turkey were bought by businessmen who were his supporters. He controlled 95% of the media. The media has lost its reliability. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) provides details in their World Press Freedom Index that Turkey was ranked 99th among 180 countries in 2002, while today it ranks 154th. Obviously, since the government turned its back on democracy, everything has been suffering in the country.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave up his favor for democracy in the first years of his presidency. Winning the elections as the sole leading party caused power poisoning in his personality.He started to hate dissident journalists. Because the thing he fears most in this life is honest words! A handful of journalists
continue to write the truth and do their job bravely despite all the pressures and threats.
Even if they end up in prison or have to flee abroad, they remind us of democracy, equality and the law with their pens. Some write about mafia relations and corruption while others tell us about violations of rights. Here in this file, you will read the prices paid by the journalists who did not sell the honor of their pen but wrote the truth. You will have a better understanding of what they have gone through and what difficulties they have faced. As if slamming the lies of those who say ‘There is no oppression and torture in Turkey’…
ROJDA AYDIN / JINNEWS
I AM THE VICTIM OF THE NAKED STRIP SEARCH BY POLICE
Istarted working at Jin News (JINHA) in 2016. When JINHA was closed by the government , I was transferred to Newspaper Shujin. Then this place was shut down by force. Currently, I continue my profession at JINNEWS Agency. Being a journalist here, especially being a Kurdish journalist, is very demanding. If you are a Kurdish journalist, you are seen as a “potential terrorist”. You are likely to be the target of a bullet after the news shoot. I was detained 4-5 times because of the content of my news. In 2020, while I was shooting some news, I was detained with two other female colleagues by the police. There we were subjected to the naked strip search against all our refusals. The government denies naked searches in Turkey. However I am the very victim of this inhumane action. The investigations opened by the district attorney on charges of “ me being a member of a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” were dismissed. This time another lawsuit was filed with the allegation of “not dispersing despite warnings and participating in illegal meetings and marches unarmed”. This case is still ongoing though.
TUNCER ÇETİNKAYA / JOURNALIST
I WAS LEFT TO DIE AFTER MY SURGERY
After the July 15 coup attempt, the police raided my house and I was arrested without the need for a statement from the prosecutor’s office, even without a trial, and I spent 2 years in jail. Only after 9 months, I was able to learn why I was detained in the first place. My fault was, “Making news in the media organs of the Hizmet movement and criticizing injustice.” My computer, my camera and my press card were all taken from me as evidence of crime. I was released soon after because they couldn’t find anything unlawful. But the next day, I was arrested again under political pressure. I was subjected to different kinds of torture, such as hunger, thirst, insults and exposed to death threats. They took my medicines away and didn’t let me have any medical treatment at all. As a result of not being able to take my daily medicines for a long time, my kidneys lost their healthy functions. I had to undergo a surgery in prison. After the operation, I was left to die naked for 10 hours in a custody cell with open windows on a winter day. What I endured that day was just another episode of ongoing brutality that has been experienced in Turkish prisons for a long time.
RUŞEN TAKVA / JOURNALIST
IT IS A CRIME TO FOLLOW NEWS IN TURKEY
I was put on trial in Van 2nd High Criminal Court and sentenced to 20 months in prison for the news I made for İMÇ TV which then was shut down in 2016 In 2018, I was detained after a night raid on my house. I had to argue in the court that this accusation was the same as in the previous case, only then the file was dismissed. The night I was detained, they also confiscated my mobile phone and the hard disk containing all my news archives. None of them have been delivered yet. Since 2018, almost every month, different kinds of investigations have been opened against me because of the news I have made. They even
forced my interviewers to testify against me. In January 2021, a lawsuit was filed against me due to a photo of me standing in front of an audience holding a camera. A prison sentence of 18 years was requested because of this press image. The prosecutor filed a lawsuit on the charge of “being a leader of an organization” with the allegation that “I am leading and managing the crowd”. Oddly enough, the judge approved this nonsensical accusation. But in fact, by standing there, I was just doing my job as a journalist!
NUR ENER KILINÇ / JOURNALIST
I WILL BE ALRIGHT WHEN THE IMPRISONED JOURNALISTS ARE FREE AGAIN
My imprisonment, which started on March 1, 2017, ended on February 21, 2018. This was just a small cost of investigating Erdogan’s theater of the July 15th coup attempt. The judges of the Erdogan regime had decided that I had to spend 7 years in prison. The lawsuit filed with the allegation of being a member of a terrorist organization was followed by the trial of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”. My book “Three Daisy Branches”, which consists of letters from people in prison, was the subject of this case. The wounds of the handcuffs on my wrists had healed, but the agony of the suffering and tortures could not be erased from my mind easily. Having decided to leave the country while under house arrest, we challenged living under these circumstances
with my wife. During our journey from Turkey to Greece, I thought of imprisoned journalists, babies and innocent women. When I got out of the prison, I said the following: “I am here, but there is a 30-day-old baby and 6 children in the ward I left. I will only be happy when those babies come out as well.” I meant every word I said. I repeat the same wish from the bottom of my heart; I will be happy when those babies, journalists and innocent women are free too!
OMER CELIK / EDITOR OF MESOPOTAMIA AGENCY
I MADE NEWS ABOUT ALBAYRAK THEN I WAS IMPRISONED FOR 10 MONTHS
I started my career as a journalist at Dicle News Agency (DİHA) in 2009. In 2011, I was arrested along with 32 other journalists during the operation against the Kurdish press agencies and had to spend 18 months behind the bars. The accusation against me was that I was allegedly chasing some news that could embarrass the image of the state and humiliate it in the eyes of the public. Another file I am on trial is about reporting the contents of emails which belong
to Berat Albayrak, Former Minister of Treasury and Finance. I was tortured during the police raid on my house on December 25, 2016. I had to endure 24
days of detention, then I was finally able to get my freedom after 10 months of confinement.The penalty demanded for this news was 11 years. I guess I was
lucky to get out of that cell soon enough. Although I suffered the physical tortute, they destroyed the evidence of this crime which was reported in my file
before! Similarly, a lawsuit was filed against me due to a news report about the Deputy General Commander of the Gendarmerie, Musa Çitil, who carried out a military operation that resulted in the removal of Sur district of Diyarbakır from the official map of Turkey. Although the court recently found me innocent, they haven’t dropped the charges yet.
BERITAN CANOZER / JİNNEWS CORRESPONDENT
A WOMAN, A JOURNALIST AND A KURD
When I was reporting in 2015, I was detained for being “overly sensational”. After 4 days of detention, I was sentenced to 4 months in jail as a result of some news I made before and my social media posts. I witnessed and was exposed to many violations of human rights during my locking up. Since 2015, 11 investigations have been launched against me. In one case, I was tried with a 15-year prison sentence. Some of the cases were acquitted, and some are still pending. In addition, I have judicial control measures and a ban on going abroad. In the last 6 months, I was detained twice and spent 8 days there. The accusations were aroused regarding my news and social media posts. Frankly, working as a Kurdish journalist in the Kurdish press, and being a woman on top of these mean that the oppression you might feel will be tremendous. Despite all the pressures, we are still pushing our luck to create reliable news content under any conditions. We believe that journalism is not a crime. We have dozens of imprisoned colleagues in Turkey. It shouldn’t be a crime to be able to make news, and to be able to give accurate information to the public, and most importantly to be able to criticize wrongdoers in any place in the world.
NURULLAH KAYA / JOURNALIST
I EXPERIENCED TORTURE AT A LEVEL THAT NO HUMAN WITH A DIGNITY COULD BEAR
The AKP regime first destroyed the media before the genocide it wanted to commit in Turkey. Before July 15, all newspapers and TV channels which were against the Erdogan regime were closed down. Back then, I was working in Zaman Newspaper, which was also closed. I was following a case of great news and working on the news about the AKP Government’s shipping guns illegally on the Syrian border and its support to many illegal organizations, such as ISIS and Al Nusra. I was detained and threatened at the border. I’ve been targeted and followed many times since then. Two of my colleagues were killed at the border. A week after the attempted coup on July 15, the police raided my house with long-barreled guns and threatened my family. I experienced
torture that befits human dignity at the police station. I was arrested without any evidence against me and I struggled to survive under very difficult
conditions in prison for 19 months. I was released on parole because I was not guilty of anything. If you are a journalist in Turkey, life is intolerable in many ways. That’s why many of my friends had to leave Turkey.
CEMIL UGUR / JOURNALIST
I SPENT MONTHS IN PRISON FOR THE NEWS I MADE
I have been working as a journalist since 2014. In 2016, while I was following some news, I was detained and arrested. I had to spend 3 months in jail. I was sentenced to 15 months in prison for my news and some contents I posted on social media. There was even nothing related to the criminal offense in them. In 2020, I learned that 2 villagers in the Çatak district of Van were being treated in the intensive care unit of a hospital. When I investigated the incident, I proved with documents that those two villagers were thrown from the helicopter by the soldiers. I was detained together with 3 of my colleagues because of the news I made. The court detained us by considering the social news we made as a crime and I was imprisoned for 6 months because of this very news. We were left without any basic rights in prisons. The detainees were in complete isolation. It’s getting only harder each day for us -as journalists- to survive under these horrible working conditions in Turkey. But I look up to legendary journalist figures such as Metin Göktepe, Hrant Dink, Uğur Mumcu and Apê Musa. They give me strength and courage to stand firm as a journalist. No matter how hard it might get, I’m willing to continue following their steps and do this job.
MEHMET ÖZDEMİR / JOURNALIST
I WAS IMPRISONED FOR 22 MONTHS WITHOUT A SINGLE OFFENCE
After the coup attempt on 15 July 2016, upon learning that there was a detention order for me, I rushed and voluntarily surrendered to police. After 8 days of oppressive detention, I was arrested and then sent to Silivri Closed Prison. My indictment came exactly 9 months later. “Three aggravated life sentences” were demanded for me on charges of “attempted coup d’etat” and “being a member of a terrorist organization”. However, in the 65-page indictment, there wasn’t a single evidence of crime that could be shown against me. They deliberately avoided mentioning my job in real life. I was working as ‘Chief Page Editor’ and ‘Responsible Editor’ in a newspaper but they didn’ even put these facts in the indictment. I asked the court committee what my crime was, but I did not get a sensible answer. The prosecutor of the trial first reduced the 3 life sentence demands to 1 at the hearing stage, then demanded a punishment only for ‘directing a terrorist organization’ for me. After 22 months, I was released and the court acquitted me. However, the prosecutor objected to the verdict and the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and demanded that I be tried again and punished.
MELIKE AYDIN JINNEWS / IZMIR CORRESPONDENT
THE GOAL IS TO DIVIDE PEOPLE INTO CLASHING GROUPS
For those who hold the power in Turkey, separating people from each other is a cunning way of ruling the masses in Turkey. As a Kurdish woman journalist, I can say that this is the main reason for the violence I experienced. In April 2018, I was detained while returning from a news follow-up in Aydın. In 2016, I was sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in jail because of a social media post I shared. Then I was released on the condition that I serve double that sentence. On November 11, 2019, the police raided my house at 5 am accusing me with one of the news I made. This incident traumatized my family. I was offered spying in custody, I was threatened not to do my job. I am still being followed and harassed. I was forcibly naked strip searched in prison. I was away from my job for three months, my books were confiscated and, despite my acquittal, they were not returned. I was discharged from the jail, but I became a journalist who was “terrorized” against my news sources, and some, especially nationalist-conservative Turks, broke off relations with me.
AZİZ ORUÇ / JOURNALIST
I WAS THREATENED TO BE IMPRISONED FOR 28 YEARS FOR THE NEWS I MADE
I started to work as a journalist at Dicle News Agency in 2013. When this place was shut down by the government, I continued my career at DIHABER. I had to go to Iraq in 2017 when many lawsuits were filed against me because of the news I made. In Iraq, I was an editor at RojNews and I used to write articles for Yeni Yaşam Newspaper. After 3 years, in December 2019, I went to Armenia from Iran to go to Europe. But I was caught there and brought back to Turkey via Iran. I got out of jail after 11 months. My trial still continues and I’m due to face 28 years of imprisonment. I was sentenced to 2 years and a month in
prison for other news I made. Furthermore, I’m expected to spend 2 years in prison for my article titled “23 Years Ago Lice, and Now Cizre’’. My wife was detained for a tweet she posted while I was in prison. My children were left unattended for days while my wife was in custody. We actually do our best as Turkish journalists by working relentlessly in a very severe environment. I am trying to convey the truth to the public and I want the whole world to know what has happened and is still happening here.
ZAFER ÖZSOY / JOURNALIST
I AM A JOURNALIST WHOSE 22 MONTHS WERE STOLEN
I am also one of the journalists whose path ends up in Silivri. First, a trustee was appointed to Cihan News Agency, where I worked, and then I was fired. I became a partner in a media company. However, a trustee was appointed there because it was affiliated with Cihan. I was unemployed twice in a year. I started to serve to foreign media organizations. Until 26 July, 10 days after the coup. At 06:00 in the morning, the police raided my house with automatic weapons. afterwords detention and court, I was put in Silivri prison. Exactly 22 months spent in a 30 square meter cell. Then, without even saying pardon, my
acquittal was decided as there was no evidence other than working as a journalist. Well, who will account for the 22 months stolen from my life? No one. While they did not find the 22 months I spent in Jail enough, an arrest warrant was issued 9 months after I was released. “Either prison or Evros,” the justice of my country was saying. I chose Evros. One morning, I left my country by crossing the Evros river. My country issued an arrest warrant with a ‘red notice’ after my departure.
ZEMO AĞGÖZ / MESOPOTAMIA AGENCY ANKARA CORRESPONDENT
I WAS REPEATEDLY HARASSED BY THE POLICE
After I started working at the Mezopotamya Agency in 2018, I realized that being a journalist in Ankara, especially working in the Kurdish press agency, has nothing to do with the “journalism” we were taught back when we were students. When we wanted to follow the news, the police wouldn’t recognize the card of the agency we were the reporters of, and they would also threaten us. Personally, I was repeatedly insulted and harassed by many police officers during my career as a member of Kurdish journalism.Especially if the incident is somehow related to police brutality, and if you report it, you can rest assured that it will eventually put you in danger of police assault as well. That’s why we always have to carry our computers, cameras with us. Because if we leave them at the office, the police officers can raid our workplaces and confiscate them. Despite all these difficulties, free media has become the most reliable medium for most people. For this reason, people reach us under any circumstances when they suffer from violence or torture of any kind. No matter where they are, they find us and speak to us freely. I’m in search of only the truth and I’m totally satisfied with my job.
HASAN BOZKURT / JOURNALIST
I’M JUST A JOURNALIST
On May 17, 2017, I was detained by the police who came to my house, and 6 days later, I was arrested for my editorial phone calls and having an account in a bank. One night, They sent me to Denizli Prison, 471 km from Ankara, without even informing my family about my location. I could only talk to my family on the phone after a month of my imprisonment. I had to stay with 30 other people in an 8-person ward. I slept on the floor for months because there was no bed in the cell. Using toilets and bathrooms became a mere torment. Especially the way doctors treated us was an utter shame. When they needed to examine us, they would do it from 10 meters away, as if we were lowly creatures!
ABDURRAHMAN GÖK / EDITOR OF MESOPOTAMIA AGENCY
JOURNALISTS SUFFER FROM CONSTANT FEAR OF BEING KIDNAPPED
The difficulties which Turkish journalists have been undergoing for years have become unbearable with the current presidential regime. There has
always been a price to pay for writing about the incidents where the government was involved in injustice and crime. However, nowadays, talking about
these crimes is almost impossible, let alone making news about them. Journalists are afraid of being kidnapped. Ending up in prison, or being arrested is now preferred to getting lost all of a sudden! In the last 5-6 years, we have had hundreds of journalist colleagues who had to leave the country because they
were no longer able to work as a journalist under this pressure or they couldn’t continue to practice this job because they were afraid. Turkey is now at the top of the list of risky countries for journalists. I’ve been a journalist since 2004 and more than 20 lawsuits have been filed against me. I spent 9 months in prison in 2009. I was detained during the news follow-up. Wherever I go, I was constantly questioned by the police, especially if I had a camera with me. I am now facing a 20-year prison sentence for taking photos of Kemal Kurkut, a university student killed by the police at the Nevroz celebrations in Diyarbakır in 2017.
HABİBE EREN / JINNEWS
BEING WOMAN, KURD, AND JOURNALIST…
Journalism was my dream job as a kid. I started journalism at DİHA in 2015 when I was at university and continued at JINHA and Şujin. I am currently working at Jinnews. Our agency is a media organization, based on women-oriented journalism, with the slogan of ‘ By the woman’s pen, on the trail of the truth’.
Besides the traditional main stream media in which the masculine and male-dominated system came to life, we try to realize the phrase “We exist too” both intellectually and practically. However, at this point we also face pressure a lot. In 2017, with 5 of my friends, I took into custody by the of our house, as a result of citing a notice about us. Throughout my career, I was detained 3 times there is an ongoing lawsuit about me. Confiscation of materials with home operations stands before us as a policy against journalists trying to prevent our profession, as well as detention, arrest and repression. Being a woman, a Kurd and a journalist brings difficulties.
DINDAR KARATAS / JOURNALIST
FREE JOURNALISTS ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE TARGET
On November 24, 2020, I was detained after a raid on my house in Van by the Police Special Operations Unit. I was arrested on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” due to the phone calls I had with my news sources and the news I made. My first hearing was held 3 months later, only then I was released. But my trial has been still ongoing. My journalist friends, Adnan Bilen, Nazan Sala, Cemil Uğur and Şehirban Abi were arrested. As journalists, we have been and will continue to be the voice of violations of fundamental human rights in the region, of murders, of citizens killed while doing border trade, and of female refugees raped in the refugee campsites. It is quite a tragicomic fact that President Erdogan criticizes France for the lack of freedom of the press, but when it comes to reality, he actually ignores to see the same injustice in Turkey. As a journalist on trial, I have come to the realization that the AKP government and Erdogan do not want the dissidents to even breathe freely. As still being the free journalists in Turkey, we are the target.