Evrensel newspaper’s ex-editor in chief Vural Nasuhbeyoglu and ex-publisher Mehmet Arif Kosar were each served with 7 thousand Turkish Liras.
Journalists have been swamped with imprisonment and fines just 2 days after President Tayyip Erdogan’s announcement that they fully defend freedom of expression. Evrensel newspaper’s ex-editor in chief Vural Nasuhbeyoglu and ex-publisher Mehmet Arif Kosar were each served with 7 thousand Turkish Liras (roughly £2,000 each) penalties because of an article that is claimed to ‘insult the president.’
It was demanded that Kosar and Nasuhbeyoglu be individually charged for an article titled “Bayik: expression of a kind of a mind-set” that was published in Evrensel on 20 March 2015, the contents of which allegedly ‘insulted the President’.
The quoted name, Bayik, is the co-chair of the executive council for the Association of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK); an organisation that represents various Kurdish groups in different countries.
Despite the reminder by Devrim Avci, the defence lawyer, that the mentioned article was quoted from another newspaper and that the original interview was not subjected to any investigation; therefore, there is no criminal offence. The attorney initially asked for an 11 month and 20 day imprisonment for Kosar and Nasuhbeyoglu. The commission later changed this charge to that of 7 thousand Turkish liras for each defendant.
‘A COURT THAT FEELS THE BREATH OF THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ON ITS NECK CANNOT BE INDEPENDENT’
Devrim Avci stated that Kosar and Nasuhbeyoglu receiving these charges for publishing a short quote taken from an interview with Cemil Bayik in the now closed Azadiya Welat newspaper. Avci further commented that “the court requested information about the original interview and received confirmation that was no investigation carried out.”
Avci pointed out that “It is impossible to think of an independent court feeling the breath of the Justice Department on its neck”, as after each hearing the Justice Department submitted written requests enquiring ‘the stage’ at which the hearing was. “This is against the right for a fair trial. We will appeal the decision” was the comment by Avci.
THE CASES OF CUMHURIYET AND OZGUR GUNDEM
The journalists’ overtime at the justice department was not limited to Evrensel. Canan Coskun, reporter for Cumhuriyet newspaper, was condemned to a 10-month imprisonment. The prosecuting officer had called for the imprisonment of 5 journalists to a total of 46 years for joining a campaign in support of the closed Ozgur Gundem newspaper.
ERDOGAN HAD SAID ‘WE DEFEND THE PRESS FREEDOM’
President Erdogan had said that they fully defend the freedom of press. Erdogan said “violence takes over where opinions are not spoken and discussed easily” and “for this reason we have no issue what so ever with pluralism and freedoms.” As much as Erdogan may say that he fully defends freedom of expression, according to the Journalists Union of Turkey, 162 journalists are under arrest/imprisoned in Turkey.
Again, according to the ‘Press Freedom 2017 report’ by Freedom House Turkey ranks in 163 out of 199 countries. Oppression intensified following the attempted coup of 15 July. 47 newspapers, 17 magazines, 16 TV stations, 3 news agencies, 23 radio stations, and 29 publishing houses closed under the declared state of emergency. Additionally, hundreds of journalists press passes have been nulled.