Tolga Şardan Library

Turkey: International groups condemn arrest of journalist Tolga Şardan

Turkey: International groups condemn arrest of journalist Tolga Şardan

The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression, human rights and journalists’ organizsations strongly condemn the arrest of seasoned journalist Tolga Şardan in Ankara.

 

Turkish translation available here

On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI), the undersigned groups demand that instead of punishing journalists for informing the public, Turkey’s judiciary should hold accountable those violating press freedom in the country.

On November 1, Tolga Şardan, a journalist for the independent T24 news website, was detained in connection with his October 31, T24 article titled “What is in the ‘judicial report’ submitted by the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) to the Presidency?” which discusses a report on corruption in the justice system allegedly commissioned from Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) by the President’s office. The Center for Combating Disinformation under the Presidency’s Communications Directorate refuted the existence of the MİT report on November 1 in a post on the X platform. Şardan’s article was blocked on November 2.

Şardan’s news article was the latest in a series of investigative reports of hard-hitting allegations of corruption in Turkey’s justice system which fall squarely within the frame of legitimate public concern. All of these reports were blocked online by court orders.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement stating that Şardan was under investigation on the charge of “publicly disseminating misleading information” under Article 217/A of Law No. 5237. This article is regulated under the so-called “disinformation law” introduced in October 2022 and those convicted face a prison sentence of up to three years for the offense.

After being detained, Şardan was brought to the Ankara courthouse where he testified before a prosecutor. “My article constitutes journalistic work carried out with the sole purpose of informing the public”, said Şardan, denying the allegations and demanded his immediate release. Şardan’s legal counsel added that the prosecutor should have started an investigation into the allegations raised in Şardan’s article instead of arresting his client.

Following his statement, the prosecutor transferred Şardan to the court on duty, with a request for his arrest. The court arrested Şardan and transferred the journalist to a prison in Ankara’s Sincan district. As the basis for its arrest decision, the court incorrectly cited Şardan’s alleged offense as one falling under the category of so-called “catalogue crimes” provided in Article 100/3 of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code, which includes a list of offenses that call for immediate arrest of the suspect. However, Article 217/A of Law No. 5237 does not fall under the scope of this article.

Since its passing, the Disinformation Law has been used at least 12 times to target journalists for their news reporting. On the day of the passing of the law, Hakan Çavuşoğlu, the governing party’s representative and former head of the Parliament’s Human Rights Investigative Committee told a visiting international press freedom delegation to Turkey that  the law would not be used against journalists but had been passed only to deter people from sharing false information in times of upheaval and during emergency situations such as acute disasters. Earlier this year, journalist Sinan Aygül became the first journalist to be convicted under the Disinformation Law. Şardan’s arrest marks the 13th alert on Mapping Media Freedom concerning Disinformation Law cases reported in Turkey over the past year.

We therefore call on the Turkish authorities to immediately release Tolga Şardan from pretrial detention, and drop all charges against him. Authorities must end the systematic judicial harassment against him and other journalists, including the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in the country. We reiterate our solidarity with  all the  journalists arbitrarily detained in Turkey. Journalism is not a crime and every minute a journalist spends behind bars for their legitimate reporting and journalistic work is a violation of freedom of expression and media freedom. This must stop.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • Amnesty International
  • Association of Journalists (GC)
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Foreign Media Association (FMA)
  • Freedom House
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • KulturForum TürkeiDeutschland
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBC Transeuropa)
  • PEN Norway
  • Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
  • Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Türkiye: Uluslararası kuruluşlar gazeteci Tolga Şardan’ın tutuklanmasını kınadı

 

Yetkilileri Tolga Şardan’ı derhal serbest bırakmaya çağırıyoruz

Aşağıda imzası bulunan basın özgürlüğü, ifade hürriyeti, insan hakları ve gazeteci örgütleri, deneyimli gazeteci Tolga Şardan’ın Ankara’da tutuklanmasını şiddetle kınamaktadır. 2 Kasım Uluslararası Gazetecilere Karşı İşlenen Suçlarda Cezasızlıkla Mücadele Günü vesilesiyle aşağıda imzası bulunan gruplar, Türkiye’de yargının, kamuoyunu bilgilendirdikleri için gazetecileri cezalandırmak yerine, ülkede basın özgürlüğünü ihlal edenlerden hesap sormasını talep etmektedir.

Bağımsız T24 haber sitesi muhabiri Tolga Şardan, 31 Ekim tarihli “MİT’in Cumhurbaşkanlığı’na sunduğu ‘yargı raporunda ne var?başlıklı yazısında, Cumhurbaşkanlığı tarafından MİT’e hazırlatıldığı iddia edilen yargıdaki yolsuzluklara ilişkin raporu ele aldığı gerekçesiyle 1 Kasım’da gözaltına alındı. Cumhurbaşkanlığı İletişim Başkanlığı’na bağlı Dezenformasyonla Mücadele Merkezi ayrıca 1 Kasım tarihinde paylaşım ile MİT raporunun varlığını yalanladı.  2 Kasım’da Şardan’ın yazısına erişim engeli getirildi. 

Şardan’ın haberi, Türkiye’nin adalet sistemindeki yolsuzluk iddialarını içeren ve kamuoyunun meşru kaygıları çerçevesine giren bir dizi araştırma raporunun sonuncusuydu. Bu haberlerin tamamına mahkeme kararıyla erişim engellendi.

İstanbul Cumhuriyet Başsavcılığı tarafından yapılan açıklamada, Şardan hakkında 5237 sayılı Kanunun 217/A maddesi uyarınca “kamuoyunu yanıltıcı bilgi yaymak” suçundan soruşturma yürütüldüğü belirtildi. Bu madde, Ekim 2022′de yürürlüğe giren ve “dezenformasyon yasası” olarak adlandırılan yasa kapsamında düzenleniyor.  Suçlu bulunanlar üç yıla kadar hapis cezasına çarptırılabiliyor.

 

Gözaltına alındıktan sonra Ankara Adliyesi’ne getirilen Şardan, burada savcıya ifade verdi. “Altını çizerek söylüyorum sadece halkı bilgilendirmek çerçevesinde gazetecilik yaptım” diyen Şardan suçlamaları reddetti ve derhal serbest bırakılmayı talep etti. Şardan’ın avukatı, savcının müvekkilini tutuklamak yerine Şardan’ın yazısında yer alan iddialarla ilgili soruşturma başlatması gerektiğini de sözlerine ekledi.

İfadesinin ardından savcı, Şardan’ı tutuklanması talebiyle nöbetçi mahkemeye sevk etti. Mahkeme Şardan’ı tutukladı ve gazeteciyi Ankara, Sincan Cezaevi’ne nakletti. Mahkeme, tutuklama kararına dayanak olarak, Şardan’ın işlediği iddia edilen suçun, şüphelinin derhal tutuklanmasını gerektiren suçların bir listesini içeren Türk Ceza Muhakemesi Kanunu’nun 100/3 maddesinde belirtilen “katalog suçlar” kategorisine girdiğini yanlış bir şekilde gösterdi. Ancak 5237 sayılı Kanun’un 217/A maddesi bu madde kapsamına girmemektedir.

Dezenformasyon Yasası, kabul edildiği günden bu yana en az 12 kez gazetecileri yaptıkları haberler nedeniyle hedef almak için kullanıldı. Yasanın kabul edildiği gün, iktidar partisi temsilcisi ve TBMM İnsan Haklarını İnceleme Komisyonu eski başkanı Hakan Çavuşoğlu, Türkiye’yi ziyaret eden uluslararası basın özgürlüğü heyetine, yasanın gazetecilere karşı kullanılmayacağını, sadece kargaşa dönemlerinde ve akut afetler gibi acil durumlarda insanları yanlış bilgi paylaşmaktan caydırmak için çıkarıldığını söyledi. Bu yılın başlarında gazeteci Sinan Aygül, Dezenformasyon Yasası kapsamında mahkum edilen ilk gazeteci oldu. Şardan’ın tutuklanması, geçtiğimiz yıl Türkiye’de tespit edilen Dezenformasyon Yasası vakalarına ilişkin 13. Medya Özgürlüğü Haritalama veritabanı uyarısı oldu.

Bu nedenle Türkiye makamlarına Tolga Şardan’ı derhal tutuksuz yargılanmak üzere serbest bırakmaları ve hakkındaki tüm suçlamaları düşürmeleri çağrısında bulunuyoruz. Yetkililer, ülkedeki ifade hürriyeti ve medya özgürlüğü hakkı da dahil olmak üzere, Şardan’a ve diğer gazetecilere yönelik sistematik hukuki tacize son vermelidir. Türkiye’de keyfi olarak gözaltına alınan tüm gazetecilerle dayanışma içinde olduğumuzu yineliyoruz. Gazetecilik suç değildir ve bir gazetecinin meşru habercilik ve gazetecilik faaliyetleri nedeniyle parmaklıklar ardında geçirdiği her dakika ifade ve basın özgürlüğünün ihlalidir. Buna bir son verilmelidir.

İmzalayanlar:

  • Article 19
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)
  • Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği (ÇGD)
  • Gazeteciler Cemiyeti (GC)
  • Gazetecilikte Kadın Koalisyonu (CFWIJ)
  • Gazetecileri Koruma Komitesi (CPJ)
  • Güney Doğu Avrupa Medya Örgütü (SEEMO)
  • İnsan Hakları İzleme Örgütü
  • Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA)
  • Norveç PEN
  • Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBC Transeuropa)
  • Punto24 Bağımsız Gazetecilik Derneği (P24)
  • Türk Alman Kültür Forumu
  • Yabancı Medya Derneği (FMA)
  • Özgürlük Evi (Freedom House)
  • Uluslararası Af Örgütü
  • Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)

This statement was coordinated by IPI as part of its #FreeTurkeyJournalists campaign and members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) consortium, a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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Candles are placed during a march in memory of murdered Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova. Library

End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

Access to reliable information that journalists provide civil society is the lifeblood of a resilient democracy, where a robust system of checks and balances thrives. Impunity for the killings of journalists diminishes the rule of law and press freedom. As today we mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, we want to pay a special tribute to those reporters in Europe whose families still await justice for their murders. They were threatened, targeted and murdered for challenging the powerful and corrupt. We call on the states to redouble their political will to tackle impunity.

When Greek veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was shot dead in Athens in 2021, the authorities committed to prioritising the case and bringing all perpetrators to justice. Yet, for two long years, there was no significant progress. While the arrest in April 2023 of two suspects marks an important step towards accountability, the case remains in a state of impunity as potential middlemen and masterminds have not been apprehended and no convictions have been delivered. Justice can only be served when all those directly and indirectly involved in planning and executing the assassination are held responsible for their actions, without exceptions. 

Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was killed outside his home in Athens on Friday 9 April, 2021

Karaivaz was gunned down in front of his house in broad daylight sending a clear and chilling message to all reporters in Greece who hold power to account by exposing inconvenient truths. The abhorrent murder and the repeated failure to conduct a swift and thorough investigation is in part a consequence of inaction in the case of the 2010 murder of journalist Sokratis Giolias and came amidst numerous unresolved cases of threats and attacks against journalists. This worrying pattern ultimately underscores that despite declarations, the state continues to fall short of ensuring the safety of journalists with no concrete measures taken to improve the situation let alone secure justice. The recent MFRR mission to Greece, during which the delegation met with both journalists and public officials, further confirmed the stark erosion of media freedom in the country. We renewed our call for the authorities to dedicate additional resources and staff to the cases of violence against journalists and recognise their special nature to finally guarantee prompt, independent and efficient investigations. 

picture alliance/EPA-EFE | MATEJ KALINA

The murder of investigative reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová in 2018 sparked the biggest nationwide protest since the Velvet Revolution in 1989. The public’s rage subsequently translated into a vibrant quest for change and eventually toppled Robert Fico’s government. Kuciak, who was ruthlessly shot in his own home, reported on corruption, tax fraud and shady connections between businesses and oligarchs close to Fico’s SMER party. Five years on, Fico is back as Prime Minister for the 4th time, while the families of Kuciak and Kušnírová still await full justice. 

From the start, the process has been marked by allegations of political meddling in the police investigation. While the culprits who executed and facilitated the murder have since been prosecuted and sentenced to 25 years in prison, the suspected mastermind has continued to evade accountability. Businessman Marian Kočner was acquitted in a retrial in May 2023, a decision that the MFRR strongly condemned at the time stressing the massive setback for the protracted fight against impunity for Kuciak and Kušnírová’s murder. The verdict arrived amidst a resurgence of verbal attacks on Slovakian journalists, with top politicians launching smear campaigns that continue to go unaddressed. Before the September election, the SMER party disseminated at least 174 posts targeting journalists on social media which raises further concerns about whether the newly appointed government will rise to the occasion to tackle the climate of impunity and hostility against journalists. The MFRR delegation visited Bratislava in February 2023 to commemorate Kuciak and Kušnírová on the fifth anniversary of their murder and to reaffirm our steadfast support for the victims’ families. We reiterated the call for the authorities to provide law enforcement with all necessary means to bring justice for the crimes against journalists and to strengthen punishment for attacks against journalists targeted for their work.

picture alliance/AP Photo | Rene Rossignaud

The glaring illustration of how a total absence of political will perpetuates ongoing impunity has been bluntly demonstrated in the case of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia who was killed in a car bomb in October 2016. Incessant pressure from Daphne’s family and civil society groups resulted in the creation of an independent public inquiry to establish the circumstances that led to the journalist’s death. The final report published in 2021 found the state had to ‘shoulder responsibility’ for Caruana Galizia’s murder as it had created an ‘atmosphere of impunity’ and failed to take effective measures to protect her. The key findings included detailed recommendations on how to enhance the safety of journalists and restore the rule of law so that assassinations like that of Daphne could never happen again. Though in 2022, the hitmen were handed down harsh prison sentences, the masterminds still remain free. 

Though the report provided a historic opportunity for the Maltese government to create an enabling environment for independent journalists, and despite the repeated calls from the international community, the authorities remain reluctant to implement these vital safeguards. Civil society was not consulted in the production of draft media laws which resemble token gestures that do not offer robust and systemic reforms that are urgently needed. In addition, Malta consistently fails to address corruption and crime exposed by Caruana Galizia and other investigative journalists who operate in a high-risk environment. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s hard-hitting investigations into dirty money scandals, organized crime, and high-level government corruption earned her the nickname a ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’ – and in turn put a target on her back. Daphne was vilified, harassed and singled out as a public enemy. At the time of her death, she was facing 48 SLAPP cases. 

While the EU is still perceived as one of the safest places for journalists, year by year the various attacks are on the rise, with the most tragic examples being the assassinations of journalists. The vicious cycle of impunity tarnishes the press freedom and rule of law reputation of the authorities responsible. EU member states must genuinely engage in fulfilling their international obligations to safeguard media freedom including by redoubling their efforts and strengthening the political will to tackle impunity. In addition, they should fully implement the European Commission’s recommendation on journalists’ safety and report on their progress transparently. 

It is imperative to confront impunity for crimes committed against journalists to uphold the principles of free expression and support resilient civil society. Daphne Caruana Galizia, Giorgos Karaivaz and Jan Kuciak were brutally killed for their dedication to investigating and exposing crime, corruption, and other abuses of power that affect our communities. The assassination of a journalist seldom occurs in isolation. Instead, it is often preceded by consistent attempts to denigrate journalists and paint them as traitors to turn the public hostile towards them. We must collectively try harder to neuter and challenge vicious narratives aimed at decreasing trust in independent journalism. 

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Library

Threats to Journalists must be addressed by institutions in…

Threats to Journalists must be addressed by institutions in Serbia

The host of the “Good, Bad, Evil” podcast, Nenad Kulacin is again the target of threats. The last threat to the presenter was sent via social networks from an anonymous account. The SafeJournalists Network (SJN) and the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), as organisations dedicated to protecting media freedom and the rights of journalists, are concerned about the rising threats targeting the presenter, and note that the competent institutions in Serbia have not yet determined the identity of any perpetrator in the cases that have been reported since the beginning of the year.

We emphasize that threats to journalists and media workers in Serbia are an almost daily occurrence that endangers their safety. Accordingly, we call on the authorities in Serbia and the international community to condemn these threats, and the institutions in Serbia to protect journalists and sanction the perpetrators of such threats.

Nenad Kulacin reported eight threats to the prosecutor’s office this year, and to this day only one decision has been made to dismiss the criminal complaint, while the other cases are still before the prosecutor’s office. Some of the threats also referred to his colleague Marko Vidojkovic or his family members. For example, the last threat that Nenad Kulacin received via social networks from an anonymous account also referred to his brother. The account “Sacha Pariss” threatened Kulacin with insults, while mentioning his hometown and his brother.

In October 2021, the mother of Kulacin was also attacked in Bor, when a person verbally attacked her and said: “Your son should be hanged.”

Also, earlier pro-government tabloids ran a campaign against Kulacin, where he was characterized as a “leading ideologue of the opposition”, “Dragan Solak’s favorite editor” and “Dragan Djilas’s poodle”, and unknown persons put up posters with his address in Belgrade on it.

Nenad Kulacin and Marko Vidojkovic, the hosts of the satirical podcast “Good, Bad, Evil”, have been receiving threats for years because of their work. In addition to anonymous threats, the outgoing mayor of Belgrade, Aleksandar Sapic, also threatened the presenters a few years ago. He said that he would “rip out the heart” of Kulacin and Vidojkovic when he met them on the street, but the institutions did not recognize these words as a threat and decided to dismiss the criminal charges.

 

Kulacin and Vidojkovic have been suffering serious threats for a long time. As a result, Vidojkovic was relocated from his home, through a scheme provided by international organizations, while Kulacin refused to move.

Inaction by state institutions, tabloid smear campaigns and public threats by government officials create a hostile atmosphere in which attacks on those critical of the government are normalised and even encouraged, which has a serious chilling effect on free speech and independent reporting.

Due to all of the above, SafeJournalists Network and Media Freedom Rapid Response call on the authorities in Serbia and the international community to condemn these threats, and institutions in Serbia to process all reports raised by journalists and to act urgently in such cases in accordance with the mandatory instructions of the Supreme Public prosecutor’s offices and in this way send a message that they stand up for the protection of journalists and media workers, but above all, respect democratic values and international commitments, such as the protection of freedom of speech.

Signed by:

SafeJournalists Network

  • Association of Journalists of Kosovo
  • Association of Journalists of Macedonia
  • BH Journalists Association
  • Croatian Journalists’ Association
  • Independent Journalists Association of Serbia
  • Trade Union of Media of Montenegro

Media Freedom Rapid Response 

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • OBC Transeuropa
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

This statement was coordinated by the SafeJournalist Network and the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Emilia Șercan Library

Media freedom groups demand renewed investigation into crimes against…

Media freedom groups demand renewed investigation into crimes against Romanian journalist Emilia Șercan

In an open letter to the Romanian General Prosecutor the MFRR partners have condemned the negligent and error-strewn investigation into the crimes committed against journalist Emilia Șercan.

Prosecutor General of Romania, Mr. Alex Florin Florența

First Deputy Prosecutor General of Romania, Mr. Aurel Sebastian Vălean

 

Dear Prosecutor General, Alex Florin Florența, and first Deputy Prosecutor, Aurel Sebastian Vălean,

We are writing to express our deep alarm about the failure to effectively investigate and prosecute the criminal acts against journalist Emilia Șercan and the news that the ‘resolution’ of the case is imminent.

According to our information the investigation has been riddled with negligence, delays, obfuscation and evident breaches in procedure and in the rights of the injured party, resulting in a failure to establish the suspected perpetrators. As a consequence, any ‘resolution’ of the case is likely to mean its closure.

Should the case be closed without a prosecution, the conclusions to be drawn must be that the failure was a result either of incompetence and neglect, or a deliberate effort to cover up a crime that evidence suggests may have involved a senior police figure.

Regardless, Emilia Șercan, a respected and dedicated journalist, will have been denied justice by your offices.

Such negligence is even more unacceptable given that the crimes were most likely committed as part of a politically orchestrated smear campaign after Șercan had revealed over several years that leading members of the government, judiciary, security services and the military had plagiarized their academic theses.

The crimes against Șercan started straight after she published revelations, on January 18, 2022, that Nicolae Ciucă, President of the Romanian Senate who was at the time Prime Minister, had plagiarized his doctoral dissertation.  The following day Șercan received a message threatening revenge for the exposure that she reported to the police.

One month later, Șercan discovered through a Facebook message that five private photos of her had been published on 31 adult websites.

The following day, February 17, 2022, Șercan filed a complaint for theft (of photos) and violation of privacy (publication of photos) and provided a screenshot of the Facebook message as evidence to the Romanian police.

Forty minutes after she left the police station a Moldovan website published a smear article on Șercan accompanied by the five stolen photos and the screenshot of the FB message provided to the police.

According to Șercan, only the police had received the screen shot, and therefore the Moldovan website can only have obtained it via a police leak.

The smear article was subsequently posted on 78 more Romanian websites. At least one of the five images remains accessible through 68 different websites today.

The subsequent investigations included the following failures:

  • It took 14 months for the investigators to interview the six senior police chiefs alleged to have received copies of the original evidence (including the FB screenshot) and who may therefore have been the source of the leak. The identification of the six police chiefs was done, not by the prosecutor, but by Șercan using Freedom of Information requests.
  • The investigators failed, at first, to interview owners of the websites that posted Șercan’s photos as key witnesses. Following protests from Șercan, the prosecutors finally conducted interviews with three site owners, but they failed to notify and invite Șercan’s lawyer to attend the witness interview. Denying access to the injured party’s lawyer is a clear breach of Romania’s criminal law.
  • Upon appeal the Chief Prosecutor of the Bucharest Court of Appeal refused to repeat the interviews in the presence of Șercan’s lawyers, another breach of the criminal law.
  • Șercan’s Lawyer was denied access to some of the case file documents that were classified as ‘strictly secret’ by the intelligence services, despite being certified to access such documents.
  • The investigators presented evidence that another website, patrianoastra.com, had posted the screenshot of the FB post five hours before Șercan filed her complaint with the police. Such evidence, if true, would help clear the police of leaking the screen shot and photos. However, the investigators then refused a request to involve independent technical experts to examine this new evidence to determine the exact timing of the publication. Refusing the request for an independent examination is another procedural breach and renders this evidence highly unreliable. Moreover, reports by Qurium Foundation and Bitdefender conclude that the site falsified the dates of publication to a day earlier than actually published.
  • Meanwhile the crime against Emilia Șercan remains ongoing. Șercan made four separate requests to prosecutors to remove the photos, all of which went unanswered. It was only after a public appeal by 19 Romanian NGOs in July 2023 that the owner of the website with all five photos removed them, and not as a result of official action. Finally, on October 10, 2023, a full 20 months after the start of the crime and following a fifth request for action, the First Deputy Attorney General informed Șercan that they would start measures to “suppress the dissemination of the disputed photos in cyberspace”.

On October 10, Șercan was also informed by the First Deputy Attorney General that the file would be ‘resolved’ by the end of October. With nobody identified as a potential suspect, Șercan believes this can only mean the prosecutor intends to close the file with no further action.

Such a decision would be personally devastating for Emilia Șercan. It would also send a clear message to all journalists in Romania who attempt to expose crime, corruption or hypocrisy at the heart of government that the Romanian judicial system cannot be relied upon to protect them from criminal acts.

We therefore call upon you to do the following:

  • Take the immediate legal measures with due process, necessary to end the ongoing crime against Șercan by ensuring the stolen photos are no longer accessible online.
  • Fulfill the request made by Emilia Șercan to transfer the case to the General Prosecutor where a new team with the resources, the expertise and competence necessary can conduct the investigation to its conclusion.
  • Launch a separate investigation into the failures of the current investigations, the breaches of procedure and the possibility of a deliberate cover up.

We look forward to reading your response soon,

Signed by:

  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) 
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) 
  • International Press Institute (IPI) 
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU) 
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) 
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 
  • ActiveWatch 
  • Center for Independent Journalism

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Alican Uludag Library

Turkey: International groups alarmed by the targeting of journalist…

Turkey: International groups alarmed by the targeting of journalist Alican Uludağ

The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organizations denounce the inflammatory rhetoric directed at Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish service reporter Alican Uludağ by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) officials and call on the Turkish authorities to ensure journalists’ safety. Journalists must be able to freely publish information they obtain on matters of public concern, without any risk of violence.

On October 10, DW Turkish service reporter Alican Uludağ published a news report revealing developments about the controversial case of Sinan Ateş, former leader of the Grey Wolves, the paramilitary wing of MHP, who was assassinated in the center of Ankara in December, 2022. Uludağ reported allegations that İzzet Ulvi Yönter, deputy leader of MHP had tried to bribe one of the prosecutors with a position on the Supreme court if suspects affiliated with the MHP were released.

 

Following Uludağ’s report, Yönter shared a post on his X account, targeting Uludağ by writing “If you do not prove these disgusting claims, you are a vile and shameful slanderer. We will settle the score in the judiciary.”

 

Semih Yalçın, another MHP deputy leader also posted “Those who attempt to slander our deputy leader İzzet Ulvi Yönter will be held accountable to the relevant authorities. We will not remain silent while people such as Alican Uludağ, who lack honor and dignity, try to cast a shadow of doubt on our party and companions. Let this go on the record.”

 

Following the MHP posts there was a pile on of harassment and threats of violence on social media targeting Uludağ. In response, Uludağ wrote that he is not afraid of the threats he received. He said he will continue to shed light on Ateş’s murder.

 

Earlier in January 2023, Voice of America (VoA) Turkish service reporter Yıldız Yazıcıoğlu was also targeted by MHP officials. The events unfolded after her attempt to ask MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli about the assassination of Sinan Ateş, to which Bahçeli responded by telling the journalist to “mind her business”, after which Yazıcıoğlu was pushed out of the way by an MHP MP. Following this, she was targeted on social media by one of MHP deputy leaders, İsmail Özdemir, who accused her of being an “agent provocateur”.

 

We reiterate our call on the government to guarantee that journalists are able to do their work free of intimidation and harassment. Politicians, in particular, have a responsibility to avoid online harassment of critical journalists which, unchecked, can quickly lead to violence.  Authorities must take all measures to ensure the safety of journalists.

Signed by:

  • International Press Institute
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

This statement was coordinated by IPI as part of its #FreeTurkeyJournalists campaign and members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) consortium, a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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Serbian penal code Library

Serbia: New draft media laws represent another step backward…

Serbia: New draft media laws represent another step backward for media freedom

The partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) today raise the alarm about two draft media laws brought forward by the Serbian government for their lack of compliance with international freedom of expression standards. If passed they would represent a regressive step with wide-ranging implications for media freedom and pluralism. As the public debate on the legislation continues, the MFRR calls on the Serbian government to withdraw the problematic changes added into the latest drafts and ensure compliance with the country’s previously agreed Media Strategy.

The latest draft versions of the Law on Public Information and Media and the Law on Electronic Media, developed by the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, propose a framework that would block the reform of the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media (REM) and pave the way for a return to full state ownership of private media, including Telekom Srbjia. The MFRR is concerned that the proposed changes do not comply with international and European standards on media freedom and freedom of expression and diverge radically from the objectives of the Media Strategy adopted by the Government of Serbia in 2020.

 

First, the draft of the Law on Electronic Media does not foresee the election of new REM Council members after the adoption of the new law, despite the fact that the draft law prescribes completely new criteria for their election, as well as authorized proposers, as is foreseen in the Media Strategy adopted by the Government of the Republic of Serbia. The REM has faced both domestic and international criticism, including from the MFRR, for its lack of independence and politically-motivated decision-making processes. There has also been widespread criticism about how members of the REM are appointed. Proposed changes which would oblige the Council of REM to adopt the Code of Labour – a shift which would better regulate the ethics of its members – have also been disregarded. If passed, this proposal would solidify political control over REM and block much needed reforms to strengthen the regulator’s independence.

 

Secondly, the new proposal of the Law on Public Information and Media fails to establish legal provisions that would ensure that all media must meet ethical standards to receive public co-financing funding. Under the previous draft, sanctions issued by the Press Council could see media fail to receive public money from co-financing funding for public interest content. However, new rules provide a loophole for print and online media outlets which have not accepted the competence of the Press Council. For those media, such criteria would not apply, meaning they can continue to violate professional standards with impunity and still receive public funding. We fear this will disadvantage media which abide by professional standards and further encourage the dissemination of disinformation and violent rhetoric in the Serbian media landscape. This change was controversially included at the last-minute by the government and was not discussed in a wider Working Group established to discuss the draft laws, which comprises members of civil society and of the journalistic community.

 

Thirdly, the government also included in both draft laws an identical provision which would essentially facilitate the return to state co-ownership of private media in Serbia. Under the current Media Strategy, direct and indirect ownership of private media by the state is banned. However, the new law would formally allow the state to return to being the co-owner and founder of media outlets. This would formally legalise the ongoing ownership situation at telecommunications provider Telekom Srbija, which is majority state-owned, in violation of the current law. If passed, the MFRR fears the new law would further cement government control over Telekom Srbija and represent a damaging new form of media capture in an EU Candidate Country which is already experiencing its biggest crisis for independent journalism in years.

 

Finally, the MFRR highlights that the new proposals radically deviate from the Media Strategy, a landmark blueprint developed after widespread consultation with the journalistic community, which the government of Serbia has held up as proof of its commitment to positive reform of the media landscape. This new approach also undermines years of work by journalist associations and working groups to shape the laws and bring them closer in line with EU acquis and other European standards.

 

Our organisations warn that if passed, the new laws would undermine national and international confidence in the Media Strategy and pose serious questions for the government’s commitment to improve media freedom and pluralism as part of its potential accession to the European Union. Rather than ushering in positive steps in this direction, the last year has been marked by steps backward, as noted by many of our organisations following a visit to Belgrade, and in the most recent report of the European Parliament.

 

The MFRR therefore shares the concerns recently outlined by the Coalition for Media Freedom in Serbia, and calls for the government to reverse the problematic changes introduced in the two draft media laws and ensure that their provisions comply with international standards on freedom of expression. As the public debate on the legislation continues, we urge the government to return to discussions with the Coalition and other groups which remain committed to reform of the media landscape in Serbia in line with European values. Key provisions must be reintegrated into the draft laws, especially those which provide for more democratic management of the REM. Our organisations will continue to closely monitor the situation in Serbia and call for systemic media reform.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe 
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) 
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) 
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU) 
  • International Press Institute (IPI)  
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Library

Cyprus: Call for thorough investigations into surveillance of Makarios…

Cyprus: Call for thorough investigations into surveillance of Makarios Drousiotis

We are highly concerned about the alleged surveillance of journalist Makarios Drousiotis, and the lack of prompt, adequate or thorough investigation of the matter.

To:

Office of the Attorney General of the Republic of Cyprus, George L. Savvides

Minister of Justice and Public Order, Anna Koukkides Procopiou

Chief of Police, Stylianos Papatheodorou

 

19 September 2023

 

Re: the alleged surveillance of Makarios Drousiotis and the lack of adequate investigations into the matter

 

Dear Mr Savvides, Ms Koukkides Procopiou and Mr Papatheodorou,

 

We, the undersigned international media freedom organisations and journalists’ associations, are highly concerned about the alleged surveillance of journalist Makarios Drousiotis, and the fact that there has not been a prompt, adequate or thorough investigation of the matter. As the responsible authorities, we call on you to act at last and ensure a proper investigation and prosecution of those responsible for any wrongdoing.

 

In recent years, Drousiotis, a well-known and widely-read investigative journalist, has published a series of books in which he has documented corruption in the Cypriot Government. Starting in February 2018, Drousiotis was allegedly spied on by the Cypriot Government using both eavesdropping techniques and spyware, as documented in the Report of the European Parliament on the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance software. At the time, Drousiotis was assistant to the Cypriot EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides. In parallel, he also investigated financial connections between the then-President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, and Russian oligarchs.

 

Amidst revelations in the media about NSO Group operating from Cyprus and suspicions voiced by CitizenLab that the country used NSO technologies, Drousiotis noticed several indications of possible infiltration of his phone with Pegasus spyware. These included a suspicious missed WhatsApp call, rapid battery depletion, and frequent overheating of his device while he was not using it. In the following months, Drousiotis faced several intimidation attempts, including the disconnection of security cameras at his home and being followed by unknown persons.

 

After going public with his story and filing a complaint with the Cypriot police, Drousiotis contacted a private security expert who – unbeknownst to Drousiotis – also appears to cooperate on various projects with the Cypriot Government. The expert installed software on Drousiotis’s computer, which, without his consent, allowed remote access to all archives and data stored on the machine. These included sensitive information identifying Drousiotis’s sources, who had wished to remain anonymous.

 

Despite repeated requests to the Cypriot police, no progress in the investigation of the breach has been reported. A forensic lab in the Netherlands, which was provided with the same information that was shared with the police, has independently documented the security breach, which Drousiotis described in his book Mafia State: How the Gang Abolished the Rule of Law in Cyprus, published in September 2022.

 

It is wholly unacceptable that despite complaints to the authorities and repeated follow-ups by Drousiotis and his representatives, there has been no progress in the investigation and prosecution of these grave allegations. Intimidation, harassment and surreptitious surveillance of investigative reporters undermine their watchdog role and the protection of their journalistic sources, which are essential in a functioning democracy.

 

We call on you to step up and finally take the appropriate investigative measures and prosecutorial action. While respecting the confidentiality of the investigation, we also ask you to respect its basic transparency and duly inform the journalist and the public about the results. We stand in solidarity with Drousiotis and will continue to follow the case closely.

 

Sincerely,

ARTICLE 19 Europe

Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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MFRR fact-finding mission Poland Library

Polish media grapple with unprecedented challenges and uncertain future…

Polish media grapple with unprecedented challenges and uncertain future as the country faces electoral crossroads

At the conclusion of their press freedom mission to Warsaw from 11-13 September, partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) declared that the media and journalists in Poland are facing unprecedented challenges including legal threats, financial precarity, political pressure, regulatory capture and growing polarisation.

The delegation, comprised of representatives of ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU) and International Press Institute (IPI), met with editors, journalists, regulators, civil society groups, lawyers, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ministry of Culture to hear directly about the conditions under which media are currently operating in the build up to the parliamentary elections due on 15 October.  

Poland has long enjoyed one of the most robust and pluralistic media markets in central and eastern Europe, however in recent years Poland has witnessed intensifying efforts to assert control and influence over large sections of the media. The situation is further exacerbated by the deep polarisation within the media and between journalists.

Within weeks of the 2015 election, the ruling coalition led by the Law and Justice (PiS) party passed a provisional law to dismiss the board and senior management of public service media enabling it to take full control on the information it aired. The Telewizja Polska (TVP) today occupies approximately a third of the broadcast market and enjoys an annual budget of 2.5 billion Zlotys (550 million euros). According to monitoring figures provided by the Polish National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT) for the second quarter of 2023, the governing coalition dominates TVP news, enjoying 80% of political coverage, of which 73% is dedicated to PiS. Oppositional political parties meanwhile share the remaining 20% of coverage, which is overwhelmingly negative. 

These figures alone demonstrate how TVP is failing in the fundamental duty of any public broadcaster to provide fair and balanced political coverage between and during elections.

The private broadcast sector has also come under intense pressure through a variety of means to ensure pliable media that are cautious of holding the government to account.

KRRiT, whose composition is controlled by PiS allies, has used its licensing powers to create business uncertainty and intimidate broadcasters such as TVN and RADIO TOK FM.  In the past years, KRRiT has also issued a number of financial penalties against broadcasters for reporting on issues such as the new school history books, questioning the official report into the Smolensk air crash tragedy and child abuse within the catholic church.

Media pluralism was further compromised when the state controlled energy giant PKN Orlen took over the largest regional media company, Polska Press, in 2021 leading to the rapid replacement of most of the editors in chief with journalists from TVP and other pro-PiS media. The purchase has further restricted access to diverse media, particularly in rural areas with limited internet access. 

Local independent media are in an exceptionally precarious situation facing financial and distribution troubles, legal threats and uneven competition against media backed by the local authorities. 

Meanwhile, many private media are denied access to state advertising funds which PiS has weaponised to fund favourable media outlets and undermine independent journalism. The move exacerbates the financial pressures on media, particularly print media, that are still trying to find sustainable income streams to support the transition to digital. 

Polish media are additionally subjected to one of the largest number of vexatious lawsuits, or SLAPPs, in the European Union. Though judicial harassment of journalists is not new, since PiS came to power abusive litigation has become an inherent strategy for weakening critical media. Most SLAPPs are taken by politicians from the governing parties or state companies and public institutions and are therefore financed by public funds. 

The overwhelming majority of commentators met by the mission expressed the concern that the country was at a crossroads and that four more years of the current policy would accelerate media capture and push Poland down the path to emulating the situations in Hungary, Turkey or Russia.

The mission will issue its full report in the first week of October.

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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Library

Greece: Swift investigations required after two attacks against journalists

Greece: Swift investigations required after two attacks against journalists

The undersigned journalists’ and media freedom organisations strongly condemn the recent attacks against Greek journalists Giorgos Papachristos and Kostas Vaxevanis and call on the authorities to swiftly investigate the attacks and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

On 29 August, Giorgos Papachristos, an editorialist and adviser at the centrist daily Ta Nea, was attacked at a football match in Athens. According to the case filed by the journalist, businessman and ship owner Yiannis Karagiorgis, backed by two bodyguards, punched him in the face and head in an unprovoked attack. Karagiorgis also reportedly threatened to kill Papachristos and ordered his associates to “kill him on the spot”. Papachristos was taken to the Sismanoglio hospital for medical examinations and was treated for injuries. The motive behind the attack is not yet established, however Papachristos had written critical reports on Karagiorgis’s business activities.

 

On 26 August, Kostas Vaxevanis, a veteran investigative journalist and publisher of the weekly Documento, was attacked along with his family while dining, on the island of Evia. The attack occurred after an individual entered the restaurant, approached the journalist and began swearing at him aggressively: “You are a spoiled brat, I will sort you out but not now. You bastard for daring to write about me because I have money in Switzerland.” The man continued to insult and threaten Vaxevanis, complaining about a name put “on the Lagarde list”. As the situation escalated, Vaxevanis’s mother-in-law was physically assaulted and required treatment for facial injuries. The man fled the restaurant.

 

As reported on Mapping Media Freedom, Documento journalists conducted research to identify the man and cross-check his name against the Lagarde list, a spreadsheet published by Vaxevanis in 2012, containing around 2,000 potential tax evaders with undeclared accounts at Swiss HSBC bank’s Geneva branch. According to Documento, the attacker was a relative of Michalis Stasinopoulos, one of the richest businessmen in Greece, whose name was included on the list.

 

Vaxevanis is known for his numerous investigations into corruption, for which he has received numerous threats and death threats. In 2021, he was given increased police protection after the Athens Prosecutor’s Office ordered a preliminary investigation into information about a murder contract issued against him.

 

The Journalists’ Union of Athens Daily Newspapers published statements condemning both attacks. While our organisations welcome the swift statement of condemnation of the attack on Papachristos by the Greek government spokesperson, we note that no similar denunciation was made regarding the attack against Vaxevanis and his family days previously.

 

Our organisations further call on the Greek authorities to swiftly investigate the complaints filed by the two journalists and to bring criminal charges against those responsible. These two cases of violence again underscore the worrying situation for the safety of journalists in Greece, and media freedom more widely.

 

In both cases, the identity of the alleged perpetrators are known to police and the incidents occurred in front of multiple witnesses. Arrests should therefore follow quickly. Those behind these brazen attacks must not be permitted to act with impunity. Our organisations have reported these cases to the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Safety of Journalists and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Signed by:

  • European Federation of Journalists
  • International Federation of Journalists
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

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Barış Pehlivan Library

Turkey: International groups condemn fifth imprisonment order against journalist…

Turkey: International groups condemn fifth imprisonment order against journalist Barış Pehlivan

The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression, human rights, and journalists’ organisations strongly condemn the latest incident of judicial harassment against journalist Barış Pehlivan and reiterate calls to the Turkish authorities to respect media freedom.

 

Turkish translation available here.

On August 2, journalist Barış Pehlivan was informed via an SMS from the Ministry of Justice that he was expected to turn himself over to the Marmara Low Security Correctional Institution (formerly Silivri) between August 1-15, 2023. Pehlivan has already been incarcerated four times due to his journalism, two of those being one day behind bars in February and May 2023 for the same sentence. This order would mark his fifth time behind bars

 

We are concerned by the repeated judicial harassment of Pehlivan, who is exercising his fundamental right to free speech as a journalist in Turkey. 

 

Due to his coverage of the funeral of an MIT (Turkish National Intelligence Organization) officer in Libya, Pehlivan was arrested on March 6, 2020 and taken to court, alongside journalists Aydın Keser, Barış Terkoğlu, Eren Ekinci, Hülya Kılınç, Ferhat Çelik and Murat Ağırel, and was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison on charges of exposing classified intelligence documents.

 

On May 12, 2020, Turkish authorities postponed the sentences of thousands of inmates due to Covid-19, but a last-minute clause excluded primarily the charges that journalists face, keeping all journalists, including Pehlivan, in prison. 

 

After spending 6 months behind bars, journalist Barış Pehlivan was released on September 9, 2020 on parole on the condition that he not be subject to another court case. After his release, Pehlivan commented on the court’s decision by saying: “There is no crime in this case. This case aims to punish our journalism.”

 

On July 15 this year, the Turkish Parliament enacted a measure drafted by the governing coalition regulating parole and probation rules. According to this regulation, Pehlivan also gains the right to benefit from parole, his lawyer reports. When Pehlivan’s lawyer filed a request for information on the decision that Pehlivan submits himself to the correctional institution, the response indicated that the prison administration had disregarded the relevant clauses of the legislation from July 2023.

 

Shortly after he co-authored a book titled “SS” (referring to the initials of former Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu) in April 2023, Pehlivan was targeted by then-advisor of the Minister of Interior on the grounds of having ties to organised crime, and another one of his articles became the subject of an insult case. While the trial process has not begun for the latest court case that was opened in April 2023, it has been seen as an attempt to end Pehlivan’s parole. 

 

In mid-July, 15 journalists were released from prison, while as of August 7, 20 journalists still remain behind bars in Turkey. In the past year 232 alerts regarding Turkey were reported on the Mapping Media Freedom database, impacting 329 journalists, media workers or outlets, which shows the dire conditions independent journalism operate under in the country. All together, these alerts make up a quarter of all the reported alerts in Europe. 

 

Acts of judicial harassment targeting journalists hinder media freedom and people’s right to access information.

 

We call upon the Turkish authorities to reverse the decision to reimprison Pehlivan and end the systematic judicial harassment against him and other journalists.

 

We reiterate our solidarity with the imprisoned journalists. Journalism is not a crime and every minute a journalist spends behind bars is a violation of freedom of expression and media freedom.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • Articolo 21
  • Association of Journalists (GC)
  • Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
  • Danish PEN
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD)
  • Freedom House
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
  • Media Research Association (MEDAR)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN America
  • PEN International
  • Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  • Roma Memory Studies Association (Romani Godi)
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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Türkiye: Uluslararası kuruluşlar gazeteci Barış Pehlivan’ın beşinci defa parmaklıklar ardına girecek olmasını kınadı

 

Aşağıda imzası bulunan medya özgürlüğü, ifade hürriyeti, insan hakları ve gazetecilik örgütleri; gazeteci Barış Pehlivan’a yönelik son yargı tacizini şiddetle kınamakta ve Türkiye yetkililerine medya özgürlüğüne saygı gösterme yönündeki çağrılarını yinelemektedir.

 

Gazeteci Barış Pehlivan’a 2 Ağustos’ta Adalet Bakanlığı tarafından gönderilen SMS ile 1-15 Ağustos 2023 tarihleri arasında Marmara Açık Ceza İnfaz Kurumu’na (eski adıyla Silivri) teslim olması gerektiği bildirildi. Gazeteciliği nedeniyle ikisi 2023 yılının Şubat ve Mayıs aylarında aynı cezadan birer gün olmak üzere şimdiye kadar dört kez cezaevine giren Pehlivan, hakkındaki son kararın bozulmaması halinde beşinci kez hapse girmiş olacak.

 

Bir gazeteci olarak temel ifade hürriyeti hakkını kullanan Pehlivan’a yönelik tekrar eden yargı tacizinden endişe duymaktayız.

 

Pehlivan, Libya’da yaşamını yitiren bir Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT) görevlisinin cenaze törenini haberleştirdiği için 6 Mart 2020 tarihinde gazeteciler Aydın Keser, Barış Terkoğlu, Eren Ekinci, Hülya Kılınç, Ferhat Çelik ve Murat Ağırel ile birlikte tutuklanarak mahkemeye çıkarılmış ve gizli istihbarat belgelerini ifşa etmekten 3 yıl 9 ay hapis cezasına çarptırılmıştı.

 

12 Mayıs 2020’de Türkiye yetkilileri Covid-19 salgını nedeniyle binlerce mahkûmun cezasını erteleme kararı almış, ancak son dakikada eklenen bir madde ile özellikle gazetecilerin karşı karşıya kaldığı suçlamalar bu ertelemenin kapsamının dışında bırakılmıştı. Bunun sonucunda Pehlivan da dahil olmak üzere tüm tutuklu gazeteciler cezaevinde kaldı.

 

Gazeteci Barış Pehlivan, parmaklıklar ardında altı ay geçirdikten sonra, başka bir davaya konu olmamak kaydıyla, 9 Eylül 2020 tarihinde denetimli serbestliğe ayrıldıi. Pehlivan tahliyesinin ardından mahkemenin kararını şu sözlerle yorumladı: “Bu davada suç yok. Bu davada bizim gazetecilik hayatımızı cezalandırma amacı var.”

 

15 Temmuz 2023’te iktidar koalisyonu tarafından hazırlanan şartlı tahliye ve denetimli serbestlik kurallarını düzenleyen bir tasarı mecliste kabul edildi. Barış Pehlivan’ın avukatı, bu düzenlemeye göre Pehlivan’ın da denetimli serbestlikten yararlanma hakkı kazandığını bildirdi. Ancak avukatı Pehlivan’ın cezaevine teslim olması kararına ilişkin bilgi talebinde bulunduğunda, cezaevi yönetiminin Temmuz 2023 tarihli düzenlemenin ilgili maddelerini göz ardı ettiği anlaşıldı.

 

Pehlivan, Nisan 2023’te “SS” başlıklı (eski İçişleri Bakanı Süleyman Soylu’nun adının baş harflerine atıfla) bir kitap yazdıktan kısa süre sonra, dönemin İçişleri Bakanı danışmanı tarafından organize suçlarla bağlantısı olduğu gerekçesiyle hedef gösterilmiş, bir başka yazısı da hakaret davasına konu olmuştu. Nisan 2023’te açılan yeni davanın yargılama süreci henüz başlamamış olsa da, bu dava Pehlivan’ın denetimli serbestliğini sona erdirmeye yönelik bir girişim olarak yorumlandı.

 

12 Temmuz’da tutuklu yargılanan 15 gazeteci tahliye edildi, ancak 7 Ağustos itibariyle Türkiye’de halen 20 gazeteci cezaevinde bulunuyor. Son 12 ay boyunca Mapping Media Freedom veri tabanında Türkiye ile ilgili 232 vaka rapor edildi. Bu vakalar 329 gazeteci, medya çalışanı ve kuruluşunu ilgilendiriyordu. Bu da ülkede bağımsız gazeteciliğin içinde bulunduğu zorlu koşulları göstermektedir. Türkiye kaynaklı bu vakaların tamamı Avrupa’dan bildirilen tüm vakaların dörtte birini oluşturuyor.

 

Gazetecileri hedef alan yargı tacizi uygulamaları, medya özgürlüğünü ve halkın bilgiye erişim hakkını engellemektedir.

 

Türkiye yetkililerine; Barış Pehlivan’ın denetimli serbestlik şartlarını oluşturmadığı gerekçesiyle 15 Ağustos’ta yeniden cezaevine girmesi yönündeki karardan vazgeçilmesi ve Pehlivan ile diğer gazetecilere yönelik sistematik yargı tacizine son verilmesi yönünde çağrıda bulunuyoruz.

 

Tutuklu gazetecilerle dayanışma içinde olduğumuzu bir kez daha yineliyoruz. Gazetecilik suç değildir. Gazetecilerin parmaklıklar ardında geçirdiği her dakika ifade ve basın özgürlüğü ihlalidir.

İMZALAYANLAR:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • Articolo 21
  • Avrupa Basın ve Medya Özgürlüğü Merkezi (ECPMF)
  • Avrupa Gazeteciler Federasyonu (EFJ)
  • Danimarka PEN
  • Freedom House
  • Gazeteciler Cemiyeti 
  • Gazetecileri Koruma Komitesi (CPJ)
  • Gazetecilikte Kadın Koalisyonu (CFWIJ)
  • Güney Doğu Avrupa Medya Örgütü (SEEMO)
  • İfade Özgürlüğü Derneği (İFÖD)
  • Medya Araştırmaları Derneği (MEDAR)
  • Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
  • PEN Amerika
  • Roman Hafıza Çalışmaları Derneği (Romani Godi)
  • Sınır Tanımayan Gazeteciler (RSF)
  • Uluslararası Basın Enstitüsü (IPI)
  • Uluslararası PEN