It is extremely important to support imprisoned journalists who safeguard the public’s right to access information, asserted Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) co-chair Serdar Altan in a letter penned from behind bars, calling on the public to attend the first hearing of the trial of journalists, which he described as a “fabrication” scheduled for 11 July.
Altan highlighted the persistent hostility exhibited by the government towards the freedom of thought, expression and the press. Pointing to the recent detention of the respected journalist Merdan Yanardağ, who has been remanded in custody and faces a potential prison sentence for criticising the Turkish government’s policy of absolute isolation in İmrali Island Prison, Altan underlined the impending challenges in the foreseeable future in terms of freedom of expression.
“We need to intensify our struggle to combat this negative trend. Journalists can safeguard press freedom and the right to express themselves by joining forces and fostering a collective fight rooted in solidarity,” he said.
Altan remarked that he and his colleagues had been arrested for their journalistic activities, and described the indictment as “forced”. “I have been accused on the basis of a programme I hosted on an overseas television network, statements I made as co-chair of the DFG and interviews I conducted with the press and agencies.”
Altan further revealed that even guests appearing on the programme had been unjustly depicted as “criminals”, based on testimonies from undisclosed witnesses. Altan said that as journalists, hosting guests was an integral part of journalistic practice.
Eighteen journalists, 15 of whom have been remanded in custody for 13 months, are charged with “membership of an illegal organisation” in the case, which starts on Tuesday.
Dicle Müftüoğlu, another journalist and co-chair of the DFG, arrested during operations conducted as part of a separate investigation and remanded in custody on 3 May, has called on all journalists, professional press organisations and the democratic public to attend the trial of her colleagues.
Müftüoğlu drew attention to the persistent attacks on press freedom in Turkey, which have taken various forms and manifested themselves over the course of three decades. “Governments and political parties may have changed, but journalists who chronicle the struggles of the people and expose the pressures they face continue to be targeted,” Müftüoğlu said, adding, “Nevertheless, it is imperative to reiterate that no form of oppression can quell our unwavering determination to convey the truth.”