Two journalists receive prison sentences for writing about Kurdish Workers

SOURCE: IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET), Istanbul

(BIANET/IFEX) – The following is a 28 October 2008 BIANET press release:

Journalists Vatandas and Belek of the pro-Kurdish newspaper “Evrensel”
receive prison sentences for publishing a declaration by the Kurdish
Workers Party

“Evrensel” desk editor in-charge Mehmet Ugras Vatandas and license holder
Ahmet Sami Belek have been sentenced to one year in prison for publishing a
declaration by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).

The 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which tried the case, did not
even convert the sentence to a fine, let alone postpone it. According to
Evresel’s lawyer Devrim Avci, the paper already appealed the ruling, but
the paper has not seen the legal background for the decision yet.

Protests

The employers of the newspaper protested the court ruling against them at
the press conference they held at the Journalists Association of Turkey
(TGC).

Speaking at the press conference, “Evrensel” desk editor Fatih Polat said
Vatandas and Belek had been punished for Çetin Diyar’s article titled “Son
Pismanlik Neye Yarar?” (“What good is final regret?”), which was published
on 10 December 2007 and included a declaration of seven articles by the PKK
under the title “Democratic Solution.”

The demands stated in the declaration were “the recognition of the Kurdish
language”, “the removal of the obstacles in front of the Kurdish language
and culture”, “recognition of the right to unhindered political activity
and association based on freedom of thinking, belief and expression”, “the
release of all the political prisoners”, “the abolishment of the system of
Village Guards, a state-sponsored paramilitary organization, and the return
of the villagers back to their villages”, “the extension of the powers the
local administrations have”, and “the initiation of the process that will
enable the guerillas to lay down their arms gradually, dates of which are
to be determined by both sides, and enable them to join the political
life.”

“The attitudes of the President and the Chief of Staff affect the process
negatively.” Emphasizing how natural it is for a writer to discuss the
arguments of the opposing sides, Polat argues that both the Prime
Minister’s attitude towards the media and the Chief of Staff’s explanations
make it difficult for the judiciary to make decisions that put freedom of
expression before anything else.

Polat also said, “The decisions to close the newspapers ‘Alternatif’,
‘Gelecek’, ‘Gerçek’, ‘Atilim’ and ‘Azadiye Welat’ show that the judiciary
is put in a sensitive situation in relation to the Kurdish Problem and that
we are passing through a period during which freedoms are easily sacrificed
to the issue of safety.” Polat called upon professional media
organizations, labor forces, democracy and the papers’ readers not to leave
them alone.

Support from the unions
Speaking on behalf of the Confederation of Public Worker’s Unions (KESK),
Songül Beydilli said they protested the decision. President of Gida-Is
(Union of Food Workers) Seyit Aslan said, “When we look at the developments
in Turkey and the world, we see that those who are against this system and
who are for uncovering the facts are under very serious pressure.” Another
unionist, Mehmet Demir, and broadcasting coordinator of Hayat TV, Iskender
Bayhan, also showed their displeasure with the decision.

For further information on the “Alternatif” case:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/97331

For further information on the “Azadiye Welat” case:
http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92333

For further information contact Nadire Mater at BIANET, Faikpasa Yokusu,
No. 41, Antikhane, Kat: 3, D.8-9, Cukurcuma, Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey,
tel: +90 212 251 1503, fax: +90 212 251 1609, e-mail: bia@bianet.org,
Internet: http://www.bianet.org

The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of
BIANET. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit
BIANET.
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One thought on “Two journalists receive prison sentences for writing about Kurdish Workers

  1. I first met John the year I started volunteering in the prison. I heard about AVP & asked could I join & I was told yes. Where I don’t have a car John ended up being my drive. When I heard the news about John Mike & I was in an AVP workshop then John planned

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