RELEASE DATE: 19 April 2010
Institute protests at jailing of Kurdish editors
The Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) has sent a protest at the way Turkey continues to ignore the European Convention of Human Rights, of which it is a signatory, and to imprison senior journalists for writing about the activities of the PKK, the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party. It also calls for the immediate release of journalists now in prison for writing and publishing articles about the PKK.
Verdat Kursun, former editor of the Kurdish daily newspaper, Azadiya Welat, had already served 13 months in prison since his arrest in Istanbul when he was jailed on 7th April for publishing articles about the PKK. The total sentence for 32 other charges against him “for helping and abetting the PKK organisation by spreading propaganda” and “glorifying crimes and criminals” in articles in the newspaper would be 525 years in prison.
At the same time the newspaper that Kursun used to edit has been banned from publication for one month for “spreading propaganda for an illegal organization”. The Institute has also protested at this ban, which is in direct contradiction of the freedom of the press.
Writing to the Turkish Ambassador in London, John Szemerey, chairman of the International Division of the CIoJ, points out that “it is the function of the media to inform its readers of news, without fear or favour.” The Turkish Government must know, he writes, that the PKK is seen by many in the Kurdish part of the country as a freedom movement, and that no Kurdish newspaper, magazine or radio or TV station would be credible if it did not report on the activities and policies of the PKK.
Szemerey, who is also the CIoJ’s representative in Brussels, warns the ambassador that Turkey’s failure to have a free press and its jailing of journalists who report the activities and policies of the PKK will “make it impossible for the countries of the EU to admit Turkey to membership”. Freedom of the media and freedom of speech are basic principles laid down in the European Convention of Human Rights.
“All EU countries have to respect and enforce the freedom of the media and freedom of speech. All EU countries have to live within the law.”
Within the last four years six chief editors of Azadiya Welat have either been jailed for publishing news about the PKK or have had to flee the country to avoid arrest. Ozan Kilinc, Mr.Kursun’s successor as editor of Azadiya Welat, was sentenced to 21 years in prison in February for publishing articles and pictures about the PKK and its jailed leader.
“This is an absolute disgrace, and it reflects badly on Turkey,” says Szemerey.
“It is the duty of the media to report what is happening., to report the truth,” he continues. “Honest and credible media cannot turn a blind eye to the activities of organisations the government does not like.”
Turkey must ensure that is media is free to report the truth, and that its judiciary applies the European Convention of Human Rights in its judgements and decisions. It certainly must do so if it wishes to enter the European Union. All EU countries have to respect and enforce the freedom of the media and freedom of speech. All EU countries have to live within the law.
“Many of us would like to see Turkey in the EU,” concludes Szemerey, “but it has no chance of being admitted to the EU while it does not respect and enforce the freedom of the media.”
Note to Editors
Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.