Editor of Turkish newspaper Evrensel: We know bad times will pass as long as we keep our persistence, as long as we are in solidarity and united.
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Translation: Fairpress
Last week in Turkey a hearing was held of editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Evrensel, Çağrı Sarıkoja, who faced a prison sentence of a duration of five months based on an article from the Penal Code related to “crime of denigration of the Turkish nation, the Turkish state, the Turkish Parliament, the government of the Republic of Turkey and the legal institutions of the state.”. All of this was due to a headline about crimes that were committed in the Kurdish city Nusaybin which was published in Evrensel. It’s a newspaper that’s a frequent target of the state authorities, as are most other independent media there that publish information which is not in favour of the government.

For Fairpress, journalist and editor of Evrensel, Çağrı Sarı, talked about the problems she has encountered and the background of this latest charge.

Our newspaper has encountered many problems so far. The latest case is that we have been sentenced to five-month imprisonment due to article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The execution of this sentence has been reprieved. The reprieve will be cancelled if the same offense is repeated. It’s not surprising for us to be judged based on that article since other journalists and newspapers like us in Turkey have already been sued based on the same article.

Last year, during the curfew in Kurdish cities, people were killed and their houses were wiped off the map. They were forced to leave their homes. What happened was terrible, in terms of humanity with has certain values. In fact, there were scenes of a war. Nusaybin city was one of the headquarters od that operation. The 134-day curfew was imposed there. According to the report of the United Nations, two thousand people lost their lives in a year during the operations in Kurdish cities. So, we reported that two people were shot as a result of the fire opened by the police and because of this we were punished with imprisonment for 5 months.

She emphasised that the current situation in Turkey is far worse than it seems and that the number of arrested journalists, whose fate is uncertain, is increasing day by day.

The situation is actually worse than it seems. 170 journalists have been put into jail only because they published a headline, reported the news or posed questions in Turkey. It is unknown how most of them ended up in jail. The accusations against journalists, who have been staying in jail for six months, are not completed yet. There are some journalists who have been taken to court after one year of being in prison. In Hakkari, for example, Nedim Tüfenç was arrested because reported about what was happening in Kurdish

cities. After a year, Nedim Tüfenç will finally be brought before a court for trail and he is tried with 22,5-years of imprisonment. He awaits trial in solitary confinement. The imprisoned journalists of Cumhuriyet are not allowed to receive letters and it’s very difficult for them to see their loved ones in jail. Journalism in Turkey is almost killed. By keeping many journalists in prison, a message is being sent to all other journalists. The government states that they are ‘terrorists’ and not journalists.

To the question on what the situation is like regarding journalistic motivation; whether journalists are slowly giving up on reporting about the truth which lies behind incidences because of the omnipresent fear or whether they still stand firmly regarding their principles and the fight for true and objective information, Çağrı Sarı expressed her hopes that the situation can still change for the better, thanks to those who don’t want to stay silent.

At one pole, we have journalists who will not give up their fight pursuing the truth and will continue their investigations at the cost of risking their own freedom and facing imprisonment. There are some newspapers which won’t stop even though there is a great deal of oppression. Evrensel is one of them like many others such as Cumhuriyet, Bir Gün, and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi. Everything might change if the readers lay their claims for the newspapers. We know bad times will pass as long as we keep our persistence, as long as we are in solidarity and united. Everything could get worse if we retreat or keep quiet. We are aware of this, said Çağrı Sarı for Fairpress.

Last year was the worst year for journalists, mostly because of purges that took place and still are in Turkey after the failed military coup attempt. Such little space given to the media regarding topics of violation of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression is astonishing. In Turkey those rights are violated every day. However, it seems that such topics don’t have too much space in the Croatian media. On the other hand, last week’s news that famous Turkish football player chocked a Turkish journalist in an airplane was transferred by a large number of media outlets, along with a bombastic headline “scandal in Turkey”. So, when a famous football player is involved in chocking a journalist, that’s news worth the attention of readers, however, the daily “chocking” of journalists in Turkey by the regime isn’t of public interest. It seems that the number of clicks on given news has become more important than the content behind the headline and the message that should be sent to the public by the article. If Turkish journalists who are being threatened of being deprived of their freedom aren’t silent, why are those who have nothing to lose silent?

This article has been created with the help of the Fund for Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity in Electronic media within the project “Media reality– Development and promotion of the programme of media literacy

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