Füsun Erdoğan and five other Turkish journalists get life sentences

PRESS RELEASE

Norwegian PEN ask members of the Norwegian delegation currently on a state visit to Turkey, to react sharply and raise this issue with its host.

A court in Istanbul yesterday issued a ruling in the so called MLCP case where journalists Fusun Erdoğan, Bayram Namaz, Sedat Senoglu, Ibrahim Cicek, Ziya Ulusoy and Arif Çelebi was sentenced to life imprisonment . According to local media journalists were accused of being members of a Marxist organization ( MLCP ) prohibited acc. the Turkish anti – terrorist legislation. Erdoğan was accused of being the leader of MLCP because she is the founder of the radio station Özgür Radyo who are critical of the government.

«Journalists are not terrorists» ! This is the clear message European Federation of Journalists ( EFJ ) submitted to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on  «Stand Up for Journalism Day», after the judgment was announced yesterday.

International Federation of Journalists ( IFJ ) has joined the EFJ and now requires that the life sentences given to Fusun Erdoğan and five other journalists be appealed.

Norwegian PEN believes these recent rulings are particularly grave examples of the Turkish government’s attempt to gag journalists, and yet another illustration of the regime’s brutal use of anti-terror laws to stop free speech .

Norwegian PEN ask the Norwegian delegation , who are still in Turkey , to react sharply and raise this issue with its host.

Additional background information follows this press release .

For more information:
Norwegian PEN’s Vice President, Elisabeth Eide, 9953 838
PEN International’s vice president , Eugene Schoulgin , 4803 1212

Background
In a letter she passed from Gebze women’s prison outside Istanbul, Fusün Erdoğan, founder and director of the leftist broadcaster Özgür Radyo, details circumstances of her arrest, imprisonment, and politicized criminal charges.  Erdoğan founded the broadcaster in 1995, and worked as its director until September 8, 2006–the day when plainclothes police agents detained her in the city of Izmir, she writes in the letter. She has been locked up ever since.

«From the moment I was pushed into that vehicle, I lost sense of time and place because I was sandwiched between the front and rear seats, and my eyes were covered. I did not know where they were taking me,» Erdoğan wrote. After they brought her to an unknown building, the agents told Erdoğan «to lie down the same way next to other people who were on the floor face down.» When she refused, they forced her to do so. Next, she was videotaped, humiliated, and thrown into jail.

Authorities in Turkey–the world’s worst jailer of journalists, according to CPJ’s prison census–would not tell Erdoğan or her lawyers the reasons for her arrest for two years. In 2008, prosecutors finally disclosed her indictment–she was accused of leading an illegal organization and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by force–and asked the court to jail her for life without parole. Erdoğan and her lawyers dispute the allegations and the procedure leading to her imprisonment and say there is no concrete evidence against her. The journalist describes how her health has deteriorated and asks for solidarity.

Press freedom in Turkey
Turkish authorities have mounted one of the world’s most widespread crackdowns on press freedom in recent history. At least 76 journalists were imprisoned, nearly all on anti-state charges, when Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) conducted an extensive survey in August 2012. More than three-quarters had not been convicted of a crime but had been held for many months or even years as they awaited trial or a court verdict.

Scores of other journalists have faced criminal charges, many of them multiple counts, for critical coverage seen as “denigrating Turkishness” or influencing the outcome of a trial. Between 3,000 and 5,000 criminal cases were pending against journalists nationwide at the end of 2011, according to the estimates of Turkish press groups. Erdoğan has led this anti-press campaign, personally filing several defamation lawsuits against journalists, while he and his government have pressured news organizations to rein in critical staffers. These actions have sown widespread self-censorship as news outlets and their journalists, fearful of financial, professional, or legal reprisals, shy from sensitive topics such as the Kurdish issue and the crackdown on free expression itself.

Of the 76 journalists imprisoned on August 1, 2012, at least 61 were being jailed in direct reprisal for their journalism, according to CPJ’s analysis, which was based on a review of court documents and Justice Ministry records, along with interviews with defendants and lawyers involved in the cases. The evidence against the other 15 journalists was less clear, and CPJ continues to investigate the basis for their detentions.

The imprisonments constitute one of the largest crackdowns CPJ has documented in the 27 years it has been compiling records on journalists in prison.

6. November 2013