Journalist Nedim Türfent, who was arrested in May 2016 and has been in prison ever since, wrote from prison to Bianet:
First of all, I have to remind you of their names, which have almost been forgotten.
Journalist Nazan Sala, JinNews reporter Şehriban Abi, Mesopotamia Agency (MA) reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur. All four were arrested on 9 October because of their reporting on the allegation that law enforcement agents threw Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban from a helicopter in Van (Wan), Turkey.
The decision of the Van 3rd Criminal Judge of Peace stated that the journalists reported on social events against the state, and that “the suspects report on continuity and diversity”.
It should be noted that the prosecutor conducting this investigation is also the person who carried out the investigation against the law enforcement officers regarding the helicopter incident. When the four journalists were arrested, the officers under investigation were probably delighted. This is legal malpractice.
Before I write on journalism, I would like to make a brief detour. Whenever law enforcement officers violate human rights – including the right to live – they are taken under the umbrella of impunity and protection. As a matter of fact, we all know that as long as the regimes that flourished among authoritarianism feed themselves, criminals are immune from punishment. Here, too, the regime winked at the “good people”.
Impunity is prevalent in Turkey. When it comes to the “survival and security” of the state/regime, the crimes of the police are left behind. So much so that even if it is publicly known, it is deemed to be an “individual” problem, with minor penalties. But we can see that the so-called individual cases emerged gradually and became systematic. This approach turns so-called individual cases into rules, not exceptions.
An investigation is initiated in the name of “satisfying the public”, in the common phrase. Inspired by Sait Faik, I say: I will go crazy if I don’t remind you. “You will see the power of the Turks!” After the news, both the governor’s office and the ministry launched an immediate investigation into the police in question.
As a result, the journalist who made this report was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison for “making disturbing news”. Police officers were likely to be promoted.
That’s why I had déja vu when I learned that my journalist friends were arrested. Is it unfair to say the script for this investigation is plagiarised? Do you worry about the future of journalism in the country? Aside from so many imprisoned journalists, how can judges and prosecutors constantly intervene in journalism? What right do they have to do this?
If this continues, wouldn’t even basic critical news be a crime tomorrow? You don’t need to be a prophet to know this! Unless an effective stand is taken against the imposition of “reasonable news” and “acceptable journalism”, we will only have “deceased journalism”.
The point is that journalism in Turkey reminds me increasingly of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel “Red Monday”. The majority of us are sitting and blindly watching a murder, perhaps in denial that our turn is coming. However, as long as the audience remains, the evil and the darkness will continue.
The extraordinary became ordinary
The exceptional, the extraordinary, became ordinary. We are like the frog in the slowly heating bowl of water. With each scandal, fear is inflicted on thousands of people. The government shows its teeth to journalists in particular, but also to society in general. Thus, they trap the masses in a spiral of silence, in echo chambers.
As the number of imprisoned journalists increases, more journalists are forced to re-think their words. Censorship and self-censorship are cheap. Regardless of the strength of the oppression, there are, of course, journalists who do not even think of staying on the right side of their rulers, do not thank them, do not kneel, and therefore protect the honour of journalism.
These four journalists, who were arrested arbitrarily, are among them. These journalists, of course, reported the witness statements and hospital reports. As Kurdish journalists break down the dungeon door, solidarity campaigns with imprisoned journalists are limited to those working in metropolitan areas. Shouldn’t the dead soil sprinkled on journalism be shaken off in Van this time at least?
In my opinion, to say “stop” to this persecution in solidarity with these journalists is as much a moral responsibility as it is vital for the future of journalism. Because these journalists were arrested for protecting the public’s right to information. The public should fulfill its duty in turn. No other words are needed.