Unions monitor criminal trial of journalists in Turkey
20 June 2017
The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) sent an observer to Istanbul to monitor the first trial of journalists accused of participating in the failed coup last year.
The trial, which may shed light on how the courts will approach numerous cases concerning the right to freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial under the state of emergency, has amplified international concerns about press freedom in Turkey.
Raffaele Lorusso, general secretary of Federazione Nazionale della Stampa Italiana (FNSI) and IFJ executive committee member, attended the trial of six journalists:
Mehmet and Ahmet Altan, Nazli Ilicak, Fevzi Yazıcı, Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül and Yakup Şimşek.
They are among 17 people who appeared before the court yesterday on charges of links to the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish authorities say orchestrated the coup attempt.
All of them are held in pre-trial detention while journalist Tibet Murad Şanlı is free but subjected to judicial control.
The Altan brothers and Nazli Ilicak have been detained since September 2016 and face charges which carry a life sentence, including "attempting to overthrow the Turkish Grand National Assembly", "attempting to overthrow the government of Turkey", "attempting to abolish the constitutional order" and "committing crimes on behalf of an armed terrorist organisation without being a member".
"Expressing your own opinion, informing citizens, disagreeing with the government aren’t subversive activities. The journalists defend their innocence and the right to freely express their thoughts and criticism which is the basis of any mature democracy, as they reminded the court. This is not a normal process but an attempt to pass journalism off as a crime."
Representatives of the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) also attended the court hearing.
Gökhan Durmus, TGS president, said:
"Unionism is about defending professional journalists’ rights no matter what their opinions are.
"TGS was together with the FNSI general secretary attending the press trials of Altan brothers, Nazli Ilicak and 15 other journalists and we are calling together with IFJ and EFJ for the release of all of them."
Journalists’ lawyers fear that the trial is going to be long and could take at least 10 more months during which they will be held in prison.
Philippe Leruth, IFJ president, said:
"We call on all the international organisations to join our efforts and do their utmost in lobbying the Turkish authorities for our colleagues to be released as a matter of urgency,
"Otherwise injustice would win and Erdogan’s government would be responsible for a definitive rift between his government and the European Union and our non-negotiable values of freedom of expression, justice and tolerance."
On Wednesday 14 June, the European Court of Human Rights wrote to the Turkish government requesting its response to a number of questions to determine whether the human rights of seven detained journalists, including the Altans and Nazli Ilicak, have been violated due to the long-pretrial detention.
In Turkey 165 journalists remain behind bars.