Remembering Hrant Dink – A Landmark in History

hrant dink

Hrant, as a landmark in history | Ece Temelkuran

This country doesn’t know how to deal with the shame that will come out of honesty. This country doesn’t know how to deal with shame.

There is a history of oblivion, weird as it is. We never forget what we have forgotten. Or what we should be forgetting. There is a history of forgetting as a deed. This is not the linear past of the concept of “oblivion”.  It is more like layer after layer of shame, layer after layer of ignoring the shame, then layers of remembering it, blaming those who remember, wiping off those who remind it from the face of the earth, to make them vanish in the history of oblivion… The History of Oblivion is such a voluminous, convoluted subject.

Hrant Dink, oh Hrant Dink, he stands in this layered history, right at the spot where the circle is completed. Trying to remind us of a scar of 100 years ago, he became a target to become a scar himself buried deep in the history of oblivion. And we are trying not to let this happen.

I sometimes think of us as people who try to prevent the burial of the deceased. How strange… Yet other times we are trying to hold an honourable funeral for our dead, struggling to bury them properly in spite of the vicious king. This is even weirder. Even more Antigone.

Hrant was killed because he was trying to remind us of a history of oddness without shaming us. He was trying to speak without blaming. His was an act of “revolutionary embarrassment”*. Had he shouted aloud, blaming us, finger pointing us out as “murderers”, he wouldn’t have been killed. For our history is one where those who try to mediate are shot. No danger for those who wait on both sides, in trenches of the battleground. Whoever dares to stand in the middle, saying, “Listen for a minute!” is shot in the back of the head. A horrifying signature of murder.

History doesn’t bring to account the deeds that people have done. It is us who do that. If people don’t question, history forgets. Nobody accounts for their deeds in the face of history. If they are asked to do that, it will be the people they will have to face. For that reason, I don’t believe Hrant’s murderers will ever be interrogated in front of history. Who cares if they accounted for what they have done after everybody, especially the murderers, are dead anyway? I, for one, don’t care.

Hrant will make history with his courage, most probably. I would like history to remember him this way. He was a compassionate reminder.

A person who hangs on to the joys of life in spite of the cruel tyrants.

A man who can think in fairness.

A “minority” member who tears his own flesh to be just and fair.

An elegant, yes, mostly this, graceful memory.

This is a country which kills out of shame. Not itself, though. The culture of this country doesn’t know self-punishment. It punishes others. Kills women. Kills children. Kills animals. Kills people. Kills all who don’t cooperate. The enemy is always considered an outside an outsider. This country thinks it’s standing strong on its feet by acting like this. It assumes this can go on. It considers standing as survival and survival as life itself. In this world of struggle for survival, there is no place for elegance or compassion. They invite us to be humans and stay as humans. They make things harder because they don’t want anything in return, their only demand is truly, sincerely, only humanity. They disturb the system because they don’t accept the laws of antagonism and their only claim is for humanity. If they had asked for something else, anything else, the results would have been different, for there is a way of “handling” every other requirement. However, they insist on demanding honesty, the most impossible of all. An unsolvable situation for this country as this country doesn’t know how to deal with the shame that will come out of honesty. This country doesn’t know how to deal with shame. It doesn’t know how to apologize just like it doesn’t know how to be thankful.

Still, Hrant is a sign. A sign that the circle of forgetfulness has come to an end, that there is no place left for those who want to forget. The circle is closing on a logic that is based on forgetfulness, the history of oblivion. Hrant is the point where remembering starts, where there is nowhere else to go.  His life was just that, so is his death.  Hrant is a sign to remember, a sign to look back for guidance for those who want to remember in the name of honour. For he proposed a way of reminding. He did it in a graceful, affectionate way. He told us all about how to carry the burden of shame, how that burden would feel lighter shouldering it with the likes of us. Actually, this is a very terrifying fact for those who insist that burden is unmoveable. Hrant told us that it was not all about shame but also about the future. This is the end of the history of oblivion. A breaking point. A possibility. A fissure.

He is right there. Not where he was  murdered. In the part of history where he used to live. Where he had his voice. It is a landmark. A place to turn back and look for guidance. A place to step on before a jump towards the future. Without  burden. First shouldering that burden then getting rid of it.

*: An expression used by the poet Haydar Ergülen for his fellow poet Gülten Akın.

Translated by Kader Cekerek.

2007: Turkey: Hrant Dink

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik
06573 Ankara
Turkey

Fax: +90 312 417 0476

23 January 2007

Your Excellency,

As Chair of Norwegian PEN Centre, Writers in Prison Committee, I express my deep shock at the murder of Hrant Dink, the editor of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish magazine, Agos who was shot dead outside his offices in Istanbul, and I urge you, Your Excellency, to see to it that the investigation into his murder be impartial and transparent, and that all those responsible for the crime are brought to justice.

I am seriously concerned that the existence and the use of laws that criminalise “insult to freedom Turkishness” are not only in violation of international standards protecting the right to freedom of expression, but that these laws also endanger the lives of those charged.

I call for your urgent reconsideration of insult laws, in particular the repeal of Article 3001 of the Penal Code. Around twenty “301 trials” are still before the courts. In a recent comment on Article 301, The Minister of Foreign Affairs dismissed concerns about the law saying that no-one had been imprisoned under it. This, to date, has indeed been the case, yet, as shown so appallingly by Dink’s murder, the effect of this law is to tar those accused as enemies of the state and to turn them into targets of fanatics

I also call for an end to all prosecutions of writers, editors, publishers and journalists solely for the peaceful practice of their professions.

Confident that you, Your Excellency, will do all in your power to investigate the murder of Hrant Dink, and that you will see to it that those responsible for this crime are brought to justice, I remain,

Yours faithfully,

Elisabet W. Middelthon, Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN

Copies to:
The Turkish Embassy, Oslo, Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo, Norway
The Norwegian Embassy, Ankara, Turkey

Hrant Dink skutt og drept i Istanbul

Hrant Dink,

in memoriam

Hrant Dink, den 52-årige redaktøren for den armensk-tyrkiske ukeavisen «Agos», ble skutt ned og drept på fortauet utenfor avisens redaksjon i sentrum av Istanbul fredag 19. januar 2007 ved 13-tiden norsk tid.

Hrant Dink var sist i Norge for å motta Bjørnsonakademiets ytringsfrihetspris høsten 2006. Han var en av de mildeste, elskverdigste personene jeg har truffet, og han stilte alltid opp når han kunne gjøre en innsats for ytringsfriheten, som da Norsk PEN i samarbeid med IPA, den internasjonale forleggerforeningen, arrangerte en rundebordskonferanse om ytringsfriheten i Tyrkia i FN i Genève våren 2004.

Hrant Dink visste hva han ville, men han var ingen provokatør. Likevel ble han stadig trukket for retten i Tyrkia, hele tiden anklaget for brudd på straffelovens § 301, som omhandler krenkelse av det tyrkiske militære, den tyrkiske stat, Atatürks minne eller «tyrkiskheten» – en paragraf både ytringsfrihetsorganisasjoner og EU har krevet fjernet, hittil forgjeves. (Dette er en av hovedgrunnene til at EU har lagt forhandlingene med Tyrkia på is.) En gang jeg traff Hrant på kontoret hans, hadde han f.eks. kort tid i forveien skrevet i «Agos» at Mustafa Kemal Atatürks adoptivdatter var armensk. Ethvert normalt menneske ville formodentlig synes at dette talte til Atatürks fordel – at han tok til seg en liten armensk pike som hadde mistet foreldrene sine i massakrene. Dessuten var det et historisk faktum. Men i Istanbul ble redaksjonslokalene til «Agos» beleiret av en mobb som ville lynsje Hrant, og han ble trukket for retten, beskyldt for å ha krenket Atatürks minne. Straffelovens § 301.

Hrant Dinks hovedanliggende var å bygge broer mellom armenere og tyrkere, 90 år etter massakrene under første verdenskrig. En gang skrev han således: «Jeg er armener, men jeg er også tyrker.» For dette ble han dømt til seks måneders ubetinget fengsel, for krenkelse av «tyrkiskheten». Straffelovens § 301. Hrant anket dommen, men ankesaken var ennå ikke kommet for retten da han ble myrdet.

Det eneste lyspunktet i denne situasjonen er at fredag ettermiddag 19. januar, bare noen timer etter mordet, gikk flere tusen demonstranter (noen sier 2000, noen 5000, andre 10 000) fra Taksim-plassen i Istanbul til «Agos»‘ redaksjonslokaler. Underveis ropte de slagord som «Vi er alle armenere» og «Vi er alle Hrant». Utenfor redaksjonen, på mordstedet, la de ned et hav av blomster. Og mordet er blitt slått stort opp i verdens medier, som forhåpentlig ikke vil slippe saken.

Hrant Dink blir begravet i Istanbul tirsdag 23. januar. På alle kransene – fra Norsk PEN, International PEN, den internasjonale forleggerforeningen IPA og den tyrkiske ytringsfrihetsorganisasjonen Freedom of Expression – vil det stå «Vi er alle armenere». Dermed bør vi alle trekkes for retten, tiltalt for krenkelse av «tyrkiskheten». Straffelovens § 301.

Nok en gang har ytringsfriheten mistet en av sine fremste forkjempere; nok en gang kan vi ikke si annet enn: Det må ikke ha skjedd forgjeves, dette mordet må ikke få bli glemt, det må gjøres til et viktig trinn i kampen for ytringsfrihet i Tyrkia. Uansett hvem som har begått det.

Fotografier av morderen, tatt av overvåkningskameraene utenfor butikker i nærheten, er offentliggjort. Kanskje morderen vil bli tatt. Kanskje han har handlet på egne vegne, skjønt det er lite trolig. Og uansett om det står andre bak, og uansett hvem disse «andre» måtte være, er det de tyrkiske myndigheter – politiske, militære og rettslige – som står ansvarlige for å ha pisket opp stemningen mot ytringsfrihetsforkjemperne i landet, bl.a. ved hjelp av straffelovens § 301. Den har skaffet forfattere, oversettere, journalister og forleggere rettssak på rettssak; enkelte forleggere har over 20 rettssaker mot seg for sin høyst normale bruk av retten til ytringsfrihet. Og nå har den tatt livet av Hrant Dink.

2006 ble det året da flest journalister ble drept rundt i verden. 7. oktober ble Anna Politkovskaja myrdet i Moskva, uten at noe tyder på at de russiske myndighetene har foretatt seg noe som helst for å finne morderen, som kanskje er dem selv. 19. januar åpnet det nye året med at Hrant Dink ble myrdet i Istanbul. Det går ikke an å akseptere at de beste blant oss blir myrdet, fordi de kjemper for vår felles rett til ytringsfrihet.

Det er derfor Norsk PEN eksisterer: Vi aksepterer det ikke. Vi trenger din hjelp og din støtte.

Kjell Olaf Jensen
leder, Norsk PEN

Se også artikkel på hjemmesiden til Norsk Journalistlag:
Drapet på Hrant Dink et angrep på tyrkisk pressefrihet

1-2007: Kjell Olaf Jensen: Hrant Dink in memoriam

Hrant Dink, in memoriam

Hrant Dink, den 52-årige redaktøren for den armensk-tyrkiske ukeavisen «Agos», ble skutt ned og drept på fortauet utenfor avisens redaksjon i sentrum av Istanbul fredag 19. januar 2007 ved 13-tiden norsk tid.

Hrant Dink var sist i Norge for å motta Bjørnsonakademiets ytringsfrihetspris høsten 2006. Han var en av de mildeste, elskverdigste personene jeg har truffet, og han stilte alltid opp når han kunne gjøre en innsats for ytringsfriheten, som da Norsk PEN i samarbeid med IPA, den internasjonale forleggerforeningen, arrangerte en rundebordskonferanse om ytringsfriheten i Tyrkia i FN i Genève våren 2004.

Hrant Dink visste hva han ville, men han var ingen provokatør. Likevel ble han stadig trukket for retten i Tyrkia, hele tiden anklaget for brudd på straffelovens § 301, som omhandler krenkelse av det tyrkiske militære, den tyrkiske stat, Atatürks minne eller «tyrkiskheten» – en paragraf både ytringsfrihetsorganisasjoner og EU har krevet fjernet, hittil forgjeves. (Dette er en av hovedgrunnene til at EU har lagt forhandlingene med Tyrkia på is.) En gang jeg traff Hrant på kontoret hans, hadde han f.eks. kort tid i forveien skrevet i «Agos» at Mustafa Kemal Atatürks adoptivdatter var armensk. Ethvert normalt menneske ville formodentlig synes at dette talte til Atatürks fordel – at han tok til seg en liten armensk pike som hadde mistet foreldrene sine i massakrene. Dessuten var det et historisk faktum. Men i Istanbul ble redaksjonslokalene til «Agos» beleiret av en mobb som ville lynsje Hrant, og han ble trukket for retten, beskyldt for å ha krenket Atatürks minne. Straffelovens § 301.

Hrant Dinks hovedanliggende var å bygge broer mellom armenere og tyrkere, 90 år etter massakrene under første verdenskrig. En gang skrev han således: «Jeg er armener, men jeg er også tyrker.» For dette ble han dømt til seks måneders ubetinget fengsel, for krenkelse av «tyrkiskheten». Straffelovens § 301. Hrant anket dommen, men ankesaken var ennå ikke kommet for retten da han ble myrdet.

Det eneste lyspunktet i denne situasjonen er at fredag ettermiddag 19. januar, bare noen timer etter mordet, gikk flere tusen demonstranter (noen sier 2000, noen 5000, andre 10 000) fra Taksim-plassen i Istanbul til «Agos»‘ redaksjonslokaler. Underveis ropte de slagord som «Vi er alle armenere» og «Vi er alle Hrant». Utenfor redaksjonen, på mordstedet, la de ned et hav av blomster. Og mordet er blitt slått stort opp i verdens medier, som forhåpentlig ikke vil slippe saken.

Hrant Dink blir begravet i Istanbul tirsdag 23. januar. På alle kransene – fra Norsk PEN, International PEN, den internasjonale forleggerforeningen IPA og den tyrkiske ytringsfrihetsorganisasjonen Freedom of Expression – vil det stå «Vi er alle armenere». Dermed bør vi alle trekkes for retten, tiltalt for krenkelse av «tyrkiskheten». Straffelovens § 301.

Nok en gang har ytringsfriheten mistet en av sine fremste forkjempere; nok en gang kan vi ikke si annet enn: Det må ikke ha skjedd forgjeves, dette mordet må ikke få bli glemt, det må gjøres til et viktig trinn i kampen for ytringsfrihet i Tyrkia. Uansett hvem som har begått det.

Fotografier av morderen, tatt av overvåkningskameraene utenfor butikker i nærheten, er offentliggjort. Kanskje morderen vil bli tatt. Kanskje han har handlet på egne vegne, skjønt det er lite trolig. Og uansett om det står andre bak, og uansett hvem disse «andre» måtte være, er det de tyrkiske myndigheter – politiske, militære og rettslige – som står ansvarlige for å ha pisket opp stemningen mot ytringsfrihetsforkjemperne i landet, bl.a. ved hjelp av straffelovens § 301. Den har skaffet forfattere, oversettere, journalister og forleggere rettssak på rettssak; enkelte forleggere har over 20 rettssaker mot seg for sin høyst normale bruk av retten til ytringsfrihet. Og nå har den tatt livet av Hrant Dink.

2006 ble det året da flest journalister ble drept rundt i verden. 7. oktober ble Anna Politkovskaja myrdet i Moskva, uten at noe tyder på at de russiske myndighetene har foretatt seg noe som helst for å finne morderen, som kanskje er dem selv. 19. januar åpnet det nye året med at Hrant Dink ble myrdet i Istanbul. Det går ikke an å akseptere at de beste blant oss blir myrdet, fordi de kjemper for vår felles rett til ytringsfrihet.

Det er derfor Norsk PEN eksisterer: Vi aksepterer det ikke. Vi trenger din hjelp og din støtte.

Kjell Olaf Jensen
leder, Norsk PEN

DAY OF THE IMPRISONED WRITER 2006

INTERNATIONAL PEN
WRITERS IN PRISON COMMITTEE
DAY OF THE IMPRISONED WRITER
15 NOVEMBER 2006

 

Summary
«Criminal defamation laws and laws proscribing ‘insult’ are providing heavy-duty ammunition to governments wishing to deny citizens their right to freedom of expression.  Today over a quarter of all PEN’s cases of imprisoned and prosecuted writers around the world have been charged under such repressive legislation.  We urgently call for an end to this pernicious form of censorship.»

– Harold Pinter,
Nobel Laureate & Vice-President of English PEN

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN is marking the 26th Writers in Prison Day 2006 (November 15) with a campaign in defence of nearly a hundred writers and journalists around the world who are in prison or facing custodial sentences for alleged defamation or «insult».   It calls for the repeal of laws that treat defamation as a criminal, rather than a civil, offence, and argues that the term «insult» is too vague to have any legal standing as a charge and should thus be scrapped from penal codes entirely.

In order to demonstrate how such laws are being employed to curtail freedom of expression, the Writers in Prison Committee highlights five cases of writers currently in prison or being prosecuted in China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mexico and Turkey and calls for the charges against these five, and all writers similarly threatened, to be quashed.  On 15 November, and the days surrounding, PEN members will be sending letters, raising publicity and staging events in support of these and their other colleagues under attacks in other points of the globe. The five focus cases on 15 November will be:
Turkey – Hrant Dink:  editor of an Armenian language newspaper sentenced to a six month suspended term and two other cases still pending on charges of insult
Ethiopia – Wesenseged Gebrekidan: journalist serving a total of two years in prison on defamation charges, and facing further trials.
Mexico – Lydia Cacho: writer on trial for defamation and under attack for her book on child pornography and prostitution
China – Yang Xiaoqing: internet journalist serving a one year sentence on extortion charges that are believed to be in retaliation for posting ‘defamatory’ articles on local corruption
Egypt – two journalists: each sentenced to one year in prison for articles “insulting” the Egyptian President.

In the six months following, PEN members will continue to focus on the issue of the use of insult and defamation laws in some countries as a means of undermining freedom of expression with a series of monthly actions focusing on different regions and aspects of this problem.

PEN Centres and members wishing to join the action on 15 November as well as the six-month campaign against insult and defamation laws should contact the International PEN headquarters below. Similarly any individual who is not a PEN member but who is interested in knowing more can refer to our web-site for updates and contact details for their local PEN Centre.

Turkey:
Hrant Dink, Magazine Editor
Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian-Turkish language weekly Agos magazine and a well-known commentator on Armenian affairs, has been convicted to a six-month suspended sentence on charges of ‘insult to the Turkish state’ for an article on the Armenian diaspora published in his newspaper. This is just one of a number of cases brought out against him in recent months in an apparent campaign of harassment against him. Some of the trial hearings have been marred by violent scenes inside and outside the courtrooms, instigated by nationalist activists calling for Dink to be punished.

On 7 October 2005, Hrant Dink was convicted to a six-months suspended sentence by the Sisli Court of Second Instance in Istanbul. He had been charged for an article published in Agos in which he discussed the impact on present day Armenian diaspora of the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by the Ottoman army in 1915-17. Almost a century later, the issue remains a fraught one, with several countries calling on Turkey to recognise the events as a genocide. Turkey rejects this, saying that the deaths occurred during a civil war during which Turks were also killed.

The court accused Dink of “insulting Turkish identity” in articles which, Dink explains, were part of a series that focussed on Armenian identity and were “a special call to the Armenians in Diaspora who are poisoned by their anger towards  the Turks”. He says that his aim is to alleviate the tensions between Turkey and Armenia. Dink appealed the conviction but it was upheld upheld on appeal on 12 July 2006. Dink is taking the case to the European Court on Human Rights. The decision led to hundreds of people signing a petition in his defence.

Still underway is another case against Hrant Dink, who is being tried alongside Serkis SEROPYAN co-editor of Agos and journalist and author Aydin ENGIN. They were charged on 23 December 2005 under Article 288 of the Penal Code (attempt to influence the Judiciary) for an article commenting on Hrant Dink’s October 2005 trial. Dink is accused for an article entitled “Is Democracy to be established with this penal code?” and Engin for his article “One should touch the justice system”. A hearing before the Sisli Penal Court on 16 May 2006 was disrupted by lawyers supporting the prosecution who heckled journalists and other observers. Some reportedly spat on the defendants. Spectators inside the courtroom shouted and threw coins at the defendant’s lawyers after the prosecuting lawyers called for the withdrawal of the judge. Journalists and lawyers were prevented from leaving the court room and required police protection on leaving, describing the events as being an attempted lynching. A hearing on 4 July 2006 saw right wing protests again demonstrating outside the court room. Defence lawyer Deniz Ceylan was punched by one of them and the hearing was disrupted by verbal abuse. The hearing was adjourned to 12 December 2006.

Yet another court case was initiated against Hrant Dink in September 2006 on charges of “insulting Turkish identity” in an interview he gave to the Reuters newsagency on 14 July. He is said to have told interviewers Daren Butler and Osman Senkul that he had no doubt that an Armenian genocide had taken place, that he would not remain silent on this issue, and had no plans to leave Turkey.

Dink, 50, is the editor of Agos, an Armenian-Turkish language weekly, established in 1996, with a circulation of around 6,000. Agos means ‘ploughed furrow’, and was chosen by its founders for its association with growth and fertility. In 2001, Agos was suspended. He is a well-known commentator on Turkish-Armenian affairs who is often invited abroad to speak on how relations can be improved.

Appeals to:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik
06573 Ankara
Turkey
Fax: +90 312 417 0476

Foreign Minister and State Minister for Human Rights
Mr Abdullah Gül
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik
06573 Ankara
Turkey
Fax: +90 312 287 8811

From Hrant Dink’s presentation to the International Publisher’s Association/International PEN panel discussion  on Freedom of Expression in Turkey held at the UN Commission on Human Rights April 2004

“….Turkey is making special efforts within the framework of the “Struggle Against Unfounded Armenian Claims” against the discourse and studies presented by Armenian diaspora about “Armenian Genocide”. An important part of these efforts is devoted to works in schools. For this purpose, a new curriculum has been prepared focusing on the unfoundedness of Armenian claims. Text books prepared about this issue will be distributed in our schools starting at the next school year [2004]. Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Education has sent to all schools, including Armenian ones, a circular letter … demanding that schools organise conferences and composition competitions dealing with the struggle against “unfounded Armenian Genocide claims”. Human rights associations … have brought suits at the Supreme Council stating that this circular letter is contrary to international agreements and that it can lead to feelings of hostility among children, and demanded that it be annulled and not be executed. But the Ministry did not take back the circular letter.

This is the wrong attitude. It leads generations to be raised as enemies to each other by dictating to children one-sided information about a subject about which even adults have not agreed among themselves. In fact, school should be the place where information is questioned, not dictated. “

Ethiopia:
Wesenseged Gebrekidan
Journalist
In Ethiopia, you don’t even have to be the author of allegedly defamatory  comments to find yourself in prison. Wesenseged Gebrekidan was arrested in November 2005 and convicted of “criminal defamation” a month later even though he was merely the editor of the issue of the newspaper that contained an apparently defamatory article.

Gebrekidan’s eight-month sentence stemmed from an opinion piece that appeared in Ethiop in 2002 regarding former diplomat Habtemariam Seyoum. In the column Seyoum was censured for comments he had made in praise of the diplomatic strategy Ethiopia had adopted towards their neighbours Eritrea. Such criticism was deemed sufficiently compelling evidence to find the editor guilty under Ethiopia’s catch-all defamation laws.

Of course, had this been the only charge against Gebrekidan, he would have been freed in July having served his sentence. However, he remains in prison in Addis Ababa because he has since been condemned to sixteen months’ imprisonment after being found guilty of a further charge of “criminal defamation”. The sentence, handed down in April 2006, stemmed from a 2002 Ethiop article in which the editor of Abyotawi Democracy, a publication owned by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), was deemed to have been defamed.

Gebrekidan’s troubles do not end there. Unlike in many other countries where defamation laws are limited to individuals, in Ethiopia, the presidency, government departments and state institutions can all be defamed. As a result, Gebrekidan faces no fewer than five further “criminal defamation” charges for articles criticising the Ministry of Justice and the Ethiopian armed forces.

Gebrekidan, who by the time of his imprisonment had moved from the editorship of Ethiop to that of the weekly Addis Zena, also faces a charge of “treason” for allegedly inciting genocide. This is in connection with the reporting of the November 2005 clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting against supposed irregularities in the parliamentary elections earlier in the year. The spurious grounds for the charge of “genocide” include “allegations of causing fear and harm to an ethnic group, and harming members of the Tigrayan-led ruling party by excluding them from social events and funerals”. The trial opened on 23 February 2006.

The publisher of Addis Zena, Fassil Yenealem – who is also in prison facing a charge of “treason” – stated earlier this year: “We’re not against this government. It is through this government that we began to write. But when the government sees people starting to demand more democracy, freedom of expression, and development, they think it’s the fault of the press.”

Appeal address

H.E. Ato Meles Zenawi
Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
Office of the Prime Minister
P.O. Box 1031
Addis Ababa
Ethiopia
E-mail: national.parliament@telecom.net.et

Please also send a copy of your letter to the Ethiopian representative in your country.

Writing (Opinion piece without byline in Addis Zena – cited as one of the reasons why Gebrekidan is facing a charge of “treason”)

Addis Zena, Sept. 19, 2005: “The people of Ethiopia have clearly been robbed of their voices. A party or a government that conspired to rob the voice of its own people should never be given legitimacy. Even if it wants to stay in power, the people would only chant ‘Thief! Thief!’ and would not let it happen. And because the electoral board has been the main organizer and accomplice of such robbery, it should be denounced and should lose its credibility…

“Opposition parties must provide wise leadership in recovering the voice of the people from the party that has stolen it in order to stay in power.”

Mexico:
Lydia Cacho
author, poet, novelist, newspaper columnist
A charge of “defamation” was brought against Lydia Cacho in October 2005 by José Camel Nacif Borge, a textile businessman. Nacif is cited in Cacho’s book Los Demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía (The Demons of Eden: the power behind pornography) as having connections with Jean Succar Kuri, then detained in the United States and accused of heading up a child pornography and prostitution network (he has since been extradited to Mexico to stand trial).

Although she lives in the state of Quintana Roo, the legal action against Cacho (43) was taken in the state of Puebla. On 16 December 2005, Cacho was detained by Puebla state judicial officers in Cancún, Quintana Roo. The officers apparently arrested her in her office, bundled her into a vehicle at gunpoint and drove her to Puebla, a journey of approximately twenty hours. She was released from San Miguel State Prison the following day on bail of 106,000 pesos (US$9,900), pending trial. Cacho has questioned the legality of officials from Puebla making an arrest in Quintana Roo before steps had been taken to ensure that she was aware of the charges brought against her.

Nacif does not deny knowing Succar Kuri but claims that his reputation has suffered as a result of Cacho’s book making his relationship with him common knowledge. Succar Kuri has since publicly declared that Nacif has paid US$300,000 towards his legal costs.

Over the few months since the publication of the book, Cacho has received the protection of bodyguards provided by the General Procurator’s Office on account of the repeated death threats she has received. A lawyer she was employing also reportedly received death threats from the governor of Puebla, Mario Marín and dropped the case.

In February 2006, two investigative `journalists revealed the contents of a tape recording of an apparent telephone conversation between José Camel Nacif Borge, Mario Marín, and the governor of Chiapas, Pablo Salazar Mendiguchía, in which the businessman thanks the governors for their role in having Lydia Cacho arrested. Nacif is also apparently heard voicing the desire that Cacho might be sexually abused whilst in detention. On 21 February, the Chamber of Deputies asked the Supreme Court to investigate the matter. The case is apparently only the third in Mexican history in which the Supreme Court has investigated state violence against a member of the general public.

In the meantime, Lydia Cacho is in the invidious position of facing mounting legal costs and a possible four-year sentence if convicted of telling the truth.

Defamation laws in Mexico
Absurdly, under Mexican law, a person can be found guilty of “defamation” even if they can prove that what they have written is true. However, this year, a federal law was passed decriminalising “defamation”. Although this has come into effect in the Federal District of Mexico City, the bill has yet to be approved by congresses in the other 32 states. Indeed, in 2004, the state of Chiapas actually raised penalties for “defamation” and “libel” from between two and five years to between three and nine years.

Appeal addresses
President
Lic. Vicente Fox Quesada
Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos,
Palacio Nacional Patio de Honor
Col. Centro
06067, Distrito Federal
México
Fax : +52 55 5277 2376
E-mail: vicente.fox.quesada@presidencia.gob.mx

Internal Affairs Minister
Carlos María Abascal Carranza
Secretario de Gobernación,
Secretaría de Gobernación,
Bucareli No. 99
Col. Juárez
Delegación Cuahtémoc
06600 Distrito Federal
México

Sample of Writing by Lydia Cacho

Excerpt from:
Los demonios del edén – El poder que protege a la pornografía infantil
(The Demons of Eden – The power that protects the child pornography [industry])
Published by Grijalbo in 2005

The Demons of Eden
Writing or reading a book on the abuse and trade of children is neither easy nor enjoyable. Nevertheless, it is more dangerous for society to remain silent about this phenomenon. Whilst society and the State looks on, thousands of children are victims of dealers who turn them into sexual objects to be traded and enjoyed by millions of men who find in child pornography and the sexual abuse of children a thing of delight which has no ethical repercussions.

This is not a story of a dirty old man who discovers he likes to have sex with little girls of five years of age or younger. Although some passages, in which the victims speak, are deeply painful, the courage and the clarity of the witnesses and specialists allow us to see the light at the end of the tunnel and understand better the implications of this complicity of silence with regard to violence and sexual exploitation.

The challenge of journalism is to tell human stories in order to understand better the world around us. In this sense The Demons of Eden fulfils this purpose: to reveal the twilight world that hundreds of mothers, fathers and children – who never dreamt that they could fall victim to a pederast, a pornographist or a rapist – face every day without even knowing it.

 

China:
Yang Xiaoqing
Journalist
Journalist Yang Xiaoqing was sentenced on 15 June 2006 on extortion charges for his reporting on official corruption. He was accused of posting ‘defamatory’ articles on ‘illegal’ websites as part of an alleged attempt to blackmail local officials. Yang is known for his writings in support of minorities and his strong sense of social justice. Hundreds of local residents gathered at the Longhui County Court on the day of the trial to support thirty-seven-old Yang and protest his sentence.

Yang Xiaoqing, a reporter with the Zhongguo Chanjing Xinwenbao (China Industrial Economy News), was arrested by the Public Security Bureau of Longhui County, Hunan Province, on 22 January 2006 after investigating and reporting the alleged corruption of Longhui County officials. According to Yang’s wife Gong Jie, Yang received threats and intimidation by local officials prior to his arrest, and had been in hiding for several months.

Yang was accused of posting defamatory articles on the Internet after failing to extort up to 800,000 Yuan (US$100,000) from Longhui County officials. His detention is thought to be linked to two articles written in May 2005 alleging corruption in the sale of a state-owned company by county officials. According to his lawyer, the authorities have failed to produce any evidence to support the charges against him, which he believes are fabricated.

Yang Xiaoqing is held at the Longhui County Detention Centre, Hunan Province, where his health is said to have deteriorated significantly since his detention. He is said to have been diagnosed with Hepatitis B, and there are also reports that he is denied treatment for an undiagnosed growth that could be malignant.

Yang’s wife, Gong Jie, explained during an interview with The Epoch Times, “…Mr. Yang is an innocent and honest reporter who is being retaliated against for exposing the corruption of Longhui County officials of Hunan Province. We are determined to file an appeal to the higher court. And if that doesn’t work, we will continue on to the Central court.»

The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN protests the one-year prison sentence handed down to journalist Yang Xiaoqing on 15 June 2006 on extortion charges for his reporting on official corruption. International PEN considers journalist Yang Xiaoqing to be detained in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which China became a signatory in 1998, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Appeals to:
His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032
P.R.China

Egypt:
Ibrahim Issa and
Editor and Journalist
Ibrahim Issa and Sahar Zaki, editor and journalist respectively of the opposition weekly Al-Dustur, were each sentenced to one year in prison on 26 June 2006 by a court in the village of Al-Warrack, Sahar Zakinear Cairo, for ‘insulting the President’ and ‘spreading false or tendentious rumours’. They were charged after they reported on a legal case against President Mubarek. The charges were brought by the so-called ‘ordinary people of al-Warrak’, who were reportedly offended by an article published in Al-Dustur on 25 April 2005. The article in question reported on a lawsuit brought by a man from Al-Warrak who accused President Mubarak of unconstitutional conduct and ‘wasting foreign aid’ during the privatisation of state-owned companies. The journalists remain free on bail pending appeal.

Al Dustur is well known for its outspoken criticism of the government, and Ibrahim Issa has been banned from publishing many times. Al Dustur was banned in February 1998 after it published a letter allegedly from the armed Islamist group the Gama’a Islamiyya. Issa tried unsuccessfully to register a new newspaper nine times over the next seven years, until the ban on Al Dustur was finally lifted in 2005 after Issa was approached to edit the newspaper of the opposition party Al-Ghad. Issa is also a novelist, and his novel Maqtal Al-Rajul Al-Kabir (The Assassination of the Big Man) was banned in 1999.

Article 179 of Egypt’s Penal Code criminalises “insulting the president”, and Article 102 (bis) allows for the detention of ‘whoever deliberately diffuses news, information/data, or false or tendatious rumouors, or propogates exciting publicity, if this is liable to disturb public security, spread horror among the people, or cause harm or damage to the public interest’. In February 2004 President Hosni Mubarak pledged to amend the 1996 Press Law and abolish prison sentences for press offenses, but to date no action has been taken to this effect and there are currently at least seven cases known to PEN of journalists facing prison sentences in Egypt for their reporting.

International PEN Writers in Prison Committee protests the prison sentence handed down to to journalists Ibrahim Issa and Sahar Zaki, and reminds President Mubarak of his pledge to end the imprisonment of journalists for press offenses in February 2004. PEN urges that immediate action is taken to repeal the laws that criminalise defamation in Egypt.
Appeals to:
His Excellency Mohammad Hosni Mubarak
President of the Republic of Egypt
Heliopolis
Egypt.
Fax: +202 390 199