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.

No newspapers!

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

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