The International Observatory of Human Rights collaborated with the Sorbonne Human Rights Association in Paris to organise a panel discussion on ‘Freedom of Expression in Turkey – Cumhuriyet Case’ on February 12, 2018.
The panel of experts and family members of detained journalists drew attention to the plight of the 17 Cumhuriyet employees accused by the Turkish state of ‘aiding and abetting a terrorist movement’ ahead of the scheduled hearing on March 9th 2018. IOHR’s event focused on the experiences of Ahmet Şik, Murat Sabuncu and Akin Atalay, the only Cumhuriyet employees who remain unjustly imprisoned.
IOHR web TV correspondent Trish Lynch moderated the panel discussion, which featured Muratcan Sabuncu, son of imprisoned Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, and Yonca Şik, wife of incarcerated Cumhuriyet journalist Ahmet Şik to discuss trial observations and the conditions their loved ones are facing in prison. They were joined by Ernest Sagaga, from the International Federation of Journalists and Johann Bihr, head of Reporters Without Borders central Asia and eastern Europe desk to discuss Turkey’s ongoing attack against press freedom.
After a rousing introductory speech by IOHR director, Valerie Peay, Johann Bihr spoke first on the progressive assault against press freedom in Turkey.
“Since the coup attempt in 2016, a state of emergency has been in place and it allows the authorities to shut down any media outlet without court decisions, without much reasoning. At least 150 media outlets have been shut down since the start of the state of emergency. So pluralism has been crushed and has been reduced to virtually nothing,” Bihr said to a room of academics, journalists, and university students.
Ernest Sagaga previously led the International Federation of Journalist’s campaign against the first wave of the crackdown on media in Turkey in 2009. “Not only journalists are targeted, but their families are too, and entire communities are as well,” he said.
Ernest called on Turkish authorities to ensure fair trials for all detained journalists.
Yonca Şik concentrated on the conditions her husband Ahmet was facing in Silivri prison, Europe’s largest prison complex. “He was isolated as Murat [Sabuncu] was in the first 7 months. Isolation is a human crime and has negative long-term physical and psychological effects”, she declared. Yonca maintained that the charges her husband and his colleagues faced were beyond absurd.
Muratcan Sabuncu, a student of law at the Sorbonne and President of the Sorbonne Human Rights Association, focused on the legalities of the trial against the Cumhuriyet employees. He said, “ When we think about the refusal from the lower courts to execute the Constitutional Courts decision to release Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, we see that the judicial system is not independent anymore. And as Yonca said, there is no rule of law in Turkey.”
The panelists called for increased advocacy by NGOs to pressure the Turkish government to release all imprisoned journalists, as well as solidarity among all opposition media in Turkey. The effectiveness of the European Court of Human Rights in addressing violations of the freedom of expression in Turkey was also discussed in depth.
“Our mission at IOHR is to focus on the breach of the basic human rights, and those unjustly incarcerated, and since Turkey is now listed as the worst jailer of journalists, then we will definitely keep the spotlight on the plight of those behind bars for simply doing their job,” commented Valerie Peay.
In the run up to the 9th March Cumhuriyet hearings in Turkey, join IOHR in showing support by using #FreeTurkeyMedia, #FreeTurkeyJournalists, #FreeThemAll and following the handles shown in the photo above.