Reporters Without Borders is deeply shocked by an Istanbul court’s decision yesterday to detain two journalists arrested on 3 March, Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, on a charge of belonging to an alleged “terrorist” conspiracy known as Ergenekon, like the four Oda TV journalists arrested previously. A charge of inciting hate was dropped.
“We are stunned by the insistence on persecuting these journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The judicial system seems bent on controlling information about the Ergenekon case at all costs. The grounds for jailing them seem very weak. The prosecutor claims it is nothing to do with their journalistic work but says he cannot reveal his ‘proof’ for reasons of confidentiality. The judicial authorities ought to release the evidence they claim to have against these journalists.”
More than 2,000 people, including hundreds of journalists, staged a demonstration in Istanbul on 4 March in protests against last week’s wave of searches and arrests of journalists (see pictures below). Another demonstration was held in Ankara to demand the immediate release of the detained journalists.
Around 200 people staged a sit-in yesterday evening outside the Istanbul court where Sik and Sener were being questioned. Cameras and video cameras were placed on the road to block access.
Reporters Without Borders voices its support for the Freedom For Journalists Platform (GÖP), which issued a statement condemning the “climate of intimidation and oppression” and inviting the government to “carry out the necessary democratic steps” including reform of the criminal code.
04/03/2011- Wave of searches and arrests of investigative journalists
Reporters Without Borders is appalled by yesterday’s wave of searches and arrests of investigative journalists in Istanbul and Ankara in connection with a probe into an alleged anti-government plot. Journalists who have helped to shed light on this case are being made to pay for the tension between the government and the secularist and ultra-nationalist opposition.
“We deplore the repeated use of the charge of ‘membership of a terrorist organization’ to go after reporters who are just doing their work at a difficult time of political and ideological rivalry,” Reporters Without Borders said. “After a period of reduced tension, we are disturbed to see renewed heavy-handed treatment of journalists who reported facts that do not suit the government.”
Members of the Istanbul anti-terrorist police searched the homes of at least 11 people yesterday morning on a warrant issued by Zekeriya Oz, the prosecutor handling the investigation into the alleged “Ergenekon” conspiracy by retired military officers and other senior figures who suspect the AKP government of harbouring Islamist tendencies.
During yesterday’s raids, computers, notebooks and papers were seized and computer hard-disks were copied in flagrant violation of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.
One of the journalists arrested in yesterday’s raids, which also targeted opposition writers and university academics, was Sait Kilic of Oda TV, a news website that is critical of the government. Three of the site’s most senior journalists have been detained since 18 February in connection with the Ergenekon investigation.
Journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener were also among yesterday’s detainees. A teacher at Istanbul’s Bilgi university and contributor to newspapers such as Milliyet, Cumhuriyet and Bianet, Sik has written several books about the Ergenekon case and is currently working on a report about alleged infiltration of the police by the Islamist sect Gülen.
Sener, who reports for the liberal daily Milliyet, has been threatened and prosecuted over a book he wrote about the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink. The International Press Institute named him World Press Freedom Hero last year.
The latest raids have caused an outcry in Turkey and abroad. In an unprecedented development that underlines the gravity of the case, a demonstration is being organized today in Istanbul’s Taksim Square by the Freedom for Journalists Platform (GÖP), which groups 24 Turkish journalists’ organizations.
Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained journalists in accordance with international law.
Pictures : demonstration at Taksim, Istanbul on 4 march.