The third hearing of the “Özgür Gündem” trial involving Necmiye Alpay, Aslı Erdoğan, Ragıp Zarakolu, Filiz Koçali, Eren Keskin, Zana Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya, Kemal Sancılıve Bilge Oykut Contepe was held on March 14 (2017), at Istanbul Court No. 23.
We are now familiar with the decision reached at another hearing in June. But this morning’s trial was not merely a new session designed to get on everyone’s nerves. There are legal reasons for this postponement, just as it is important to make known the defense of accused hitherto prevented from presenting it. Especially since it is strong and questions the whole of the press and journalism as a whole.
At the stand this morning were the authors, editors, and members of the Council of Consultants of the newspaper Özgür Gündem, shut down by Decree No. 668 issued under the state of emergency.
Bilge Oykut Contepe was acquitted at the previous hearing on January 2 (2017). Ragıp Zarakolu, Filiz Koçali are abroad.
İnan Kızılkaya, editor of the Özgür Gündem newspaper currently in prison, was present for the first time. Kemal Sancılı, manager of the newspaper, also in custody, was presented by audiovisual communication. For them, it was the first time that it was possible to present a defense to the Court.
Zana Kaya, who was released in December, was not present.
Necmiye Alpay, Aslı Erdoğan released at the first hearing on 29 December 29 (2016) and lawyer Eren Keskin, were appearing on probation. Their numerous lawyers were present.
The hearing began with İnan Kızılkaya’s very first defense, extracts of which you will find below.
Then Aslı Erdoğan spoke. After her appeal, she filed a motion requesting the lifting of her ban on leaving the country. Eren Keskin, in turn asked for the lifting of the ban on leaving the country, as well as the weekly sign-in requirement in the judicial review. As for Kemal Sancılı, he pointed out in his defense that declaring Özgür Gündem illegal, is « illegal ». Kemal Sancılı also challenged the fact that elements from a trial to which he was subjected 24 years ago came were used for the current trial, and described this as amoral.
New arguments were also brought to the attention of the tribunal, including the recent report of the UN Commission on Human Rights, which deals with the veracity of the facts described in indictments at this trial. This report has legal bearing since its rapporteurs are magistrates.
At 1:00 pm, after a suspension of approximately one hour, the Tribunal announced its deliberations and decisions.
All requests were denied. Kemal Sancılı and İnan Kızılkaya will also remain in prison. The judicial controls are not lifted.
The hearing is postponed until 22 June, pending examination of the evidence provided by the defense.
İnan Kızılkaya, leaving the court chanted: “Justice can not be contained in palaces. The truth will win! ”
İnan, who has been detained for 204 days, presented his defense for the first time.
At the two previous hearings, on 29 December 2016 and 2 January 2017, he had not been brought to court for lack of a vehicle and had not been able to benefit from an audiovisual communication either.
Here are some significant extracts from this defense, relayed by Bianet.
Journalism means publishing what others do not want to broadcast.
The rest is public relations.
I bow in respect to the memory of Rohat Aktaş, editor of the newspaper Azadiya Welat, killed in 2015 in Cizre in a basement where he had taken refuge, while working, from that of Şafak Canbaz , Journalist of the Yeni Şafak newspaper, massacred during the illegitimate coup on July 15, 2016, and the 4 Syrian colleagues killed in Turkey in 2016 by unknown people.
We were tortured
On July 16 (2016), masked policemen, some of them heavily armed, raided the offices of the newspaper Özgür Gündem. After climbing the stairs to the editorial offices shouting the slogan, “You’re going to see the power of the State !” they started molesting our colleagues. Then, under insults and abuse, we were dragged down the stairs, as if we were being lynched, and we were taken into custody.
Bilir Zana Kaya and I, were pulled out of the van and put in a minibus. The beatings continued in the vehicle of the special forces where we were, both colleagues and visitors. In the minibus, handcuffed and placed on the floor, we were periodically beaten by the policemen over a six or seven hour period. They were telling us “We’re gonna bust you like Musa Anter *!”, “We’re going to throw you in acid pits!”
[* Musa Anter: Author, Kurdish poet, killed by four bullets to the legs, the heart and the head in Diyarbakır.]
In the Esenler police station where we were taken in the night, we were held for a week in a place that looked like a refuge for animals. I was arrested in the court before which I appeared together with Bilir Zana Kaya on 22 August.
At the F‑type prison in Silivri, where we were transferred on August 26, to the detainees’ intake service, I underwent forced naked body searches. During these body searches, which I refused, I was assaulted and this turned into torture. Since that day, I am held in isolation, in a cell for 2 people.
For the last 7 months, I have only been able to send a limited number of letters. The letters I wrote to the associations of journalists (TGC, ÇGD) were considered reprehensible, and were not sent. I have only been able to borrow books from the libraries for the past two months, but books and other publications sent from outside to my name are not accepted. In addition, the newspapers Birgün, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, Aydınlık and Sözcü are not given. Until December, I could communicate with the world only with a newspaper, the channel TRT1 [state channel] and a pre-set radio.
Prior to visits from my family or lawyers, I underwent body searches and aggressions by the guards. And for two months, morning and evening, during the calls, we were forced to stand a military attention. In case of refusal we underwent pressures and threats. Conversations between prisoners in the same prison, and sports activities are forbidden to us today ‚under the pretext of the state of emergency.
During transportation to the trials for which I appear “free”, I undergo the verbal aggressions of certain members of the prison staff : “You are not a journalist but a terrorist!”
Curiously, the administration of the prison, which can have vehicles and staff for these hearings, was not able to obtain them for trials in which I was detained, and I could not use my right of defense twice .
The accusations concern my journalistic activities
All these practices occur in the aftermath of a bloody coup attempt. These practices of today are those the putschists would have used if they had succeeded. Media who criticize the government were shut down, journalists, writers, intellectuals and elected politicians were arrested on the eve of a period proclaimed as a celebration of democracy. How this contradiction could be explained is a question in its own right.
In addition, the premises, legal files and archives of the newspaper Özgür Gündem were confiscated. The premises being sealed, I cannot access the legal files that concern me, nor the materials and documents to prepare my defense. My arrest, then the unfair and illegitimate indictment, are based on journalistic activities. Despite the fact that I am being tried for my activities in the framework of the freedoms of information, opinion and expression, as a journalist, the communication I benefit from is extremely limited. I am thus speaking here, in court, in these conditions of isolation.
With the decrees promulgated since the attempted coup, more than 100 thousand people were placed in custody. Passports of more than 80 thousand people have been suppressed. Close to 100,000 civil servants were dismissed. During this period, 25 people, arrested or detained for political reasons, committed suicide. By decrees, 16 television channels, 23 radios, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines, and thus 177 media outlets were closed. The licenses of 29 printers were withdrawn. Unfortunately, we head the world list, with 150 journalists in prison. All of these data raise questions, how the environment in which we find ourselves could be described as normal and democratic?
A journalist can not be judged for the information he/she gives
The newspaper Özgür Gündem where I work adopts an editorial line centered on the open society, based on rights and law. And a critical outlook. The information we gather from agencies we subscribe to, among others AA, DHA, DIHA, JINHA, and other sources, are cross-checked, confirmed and then edited. Journalists build their articles, decide on titles, visuals. Therefore, the content of the information, its confirmation from different sources, ie the material identity of the information, are fundamental for a journalist. Under the rule of “editorial independence” there can be no intervention on the information that the journalist works on. Defining whether information is information can only occur through thematic analysis, in its textual and concrete version. The question, “Who will do what reading of this information, and come to what conclusion or withraw, what expectation or profit from it ?” Is an open question. A journalist cannot be judged for this, nor held responsible for this.
As a society, we have found ourselves facing a heavy social and human destruction, with the Kurdish problem entering a vicious circle, with the breakdown of the negotiation-resolution process after the results of the legislative elections of June 7, 2015. We have produced a great deal of information about burnt and destroyed cities, on citizens whose corpses have been left on the ground, on curfews and the cries of civilians who have suffered the consequences. As journalists and human beings, it was not possible not to see all of this, while the smoke of violence called “disproportionate” was in the air of our country and of nearby regions. A journalist cannot remain blind to reality and tragedy, for fear of provoking reactions or offending some people. The journalist brings everything that happens to the light and before the eyes of the people. His work is evaluated by history and society, not by bans, pressures or sentences. If a journalist considers himself a censor and behaves like one, his/her work will not be journalism.
We are the voices of those to whom the media do not make room
All the socio-political problems, beginning with the Kurdish question, one of the gangrenous problems of the Middle East, must be treated with a democratic journalistic approach and positioning itself on the side of a civil resolution.
All strata of society and public opinion have the right to know the visions and analyzes that may also be contrary to the dominant and/or extreme points of view. The fact that different parties are involved in a given issue, without differentiating their political positions and even their legal situation, is an essential quality for a pluralistic society.
A journalist tries to make visible and audible the voices of those who do not find enough room in the public space. He/she is opposed to the monopoly on information, with a language and an anti-violence approach, it refuses the destruction of nature.
He/she denounces macho and sexist language and culture, distinguishes opinion from violence, and critique from verbal abuse. And by criticizing all sources of power, beginning with the structure of the state, he/she submits the Law, to its universal form. He/she gives importance to violations of rights and to torture. He/she shows sensitivity towards all disadvantaged groups, the Alevis, the workers, the unemployed, the Kurds, the young people, the children, the women, the refugees, the LGBTI people, the people of color. He/she gives considers it a duty to reveal what the mainstream media do not show. He/she provides information, with an opposing and questioning look, by collecting data on events and facts that other media ignore, in order to avoid the thunder of the various sources of power.
A reporter can not play the three monkeys, and say, I did not see, I did not hear, I did not know …
Thus, all the charges served as grounds for my arrest are unfounded.
One has to wonder about accusations that are not based on any evidence nor any logical background , but on information, reporting, interpretations and analysis. These are clear journalistic activities aimed at informing readers and the public about issues of concern to society. The accusations, based on assumptions, show no causal link with an [illegal] organization.
I sweated blood and water, at different times, in different media, such as the newspaper Evrensel, the news agency Dicle, the magazine Esmer Dergisi of which I was Editor in Chief, and other press and publishing ventures such as the literary supplement Radikal which published my articles. I consider as a personal insult the allegations that I would have practiced ‘under orders’ professional journalism, a job I know from the inside out.
92 investigations and trials against me
In the context of freedom of opinion and expression placed under constitutional protection, the press, with its duty of control and questioning, fulfills a social role. According to this principle, I am in line with the tradition of independent journalism and investigative journalism, as assassinated journalists such as Musa Anter, Ferhat Tepe, Hüseyin Deniz, Hrant Dink, Metin Göktepe, Ahmet Taner Kışlalı and Uğur Mumcu.
Since 27 March 2016, when I started my work [at Özgür Gündem], and during the period of the almost three-month “Editor-in-Chief on Watch” campaign, 92 Trials and investigations were opened against me. I am still being heard freely for all of these trials. While appearing freely is a principle and being judged while imprisoned is exceptional, is it not contradictory that I should appear freely for those trials, but not for this one, where I am charged under the same indictments ? As for the Press Code, the chief Editor is the one who is legally responsible. For a daily newspaper of 16 pages, ranging from economy to art, from environment to politics, from international information to sport, it is not possible to look at more than a hundred of news, articles and photographs published every day, and I cannot be held responsible for them.
Assuming that an institution with known financial resources, which lives on resources from the distribution of the newspaper, subscriptions, advertisements and announcements, whose finances are controlled, pays taxes, can be considered illegal, is unacceptable and incomprehensible. The fact that names of people who are not journalists but who are personalities in their field, such as literature, culture, linguistics, politics, economics, ecology, history and sociology, be included in a list of a “consultant council”, with no official function, is completely symbolic. At best, these people can provide their advice in their area of expertise.
Finally, I would like to say that, confronted by conflicts, tensions, blood and powder in Turkey and beyond its borders, experiences to which it is impossible to remain insensitive as human beings and as journalists, those who remain silent, whether in uniform or in civilian clothes, are … hypocrites. And I end with the verses of one of the greatest poets of the Turkish language, Yahya Kemal Beyatlı : “If mountains, humans and even death are tired, then peace is the most beautiful poem.”
Long live justice, freedom and peace!
Journalism is not a crime!
Freedom for journalists!
Headline photo : İnan Kızılkaya, at a previous trial
Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges.
French version > Procès “Özgür Gündem”, et défense d’İnan Kızılkaya