One hearing in this week’s Turkey tribunal exposes the insecurity and the lack of respect for the fundamental rights of the press by the Turkish government
In the Turkey tribunal held over this week, there have been presentations of reports as well as testimonies of key witnesses on issues concerning Turkey. One such issue in which a report was presented and witness was heard was concerning the press freedom of Turkey.
In this article, the focus will be on the victims who have suffered human rights violations on account of disagreeing with the Turkish government and expressing dissent in order to encourage democracy and hold the government accountable for its actions.
One victim who was a journalist who testified in front of the judges who are a part of the tribunal claimed that the police applied charges such as insulting the president, Propaganda for the terrorist organization, overturn the Turkish govt through an armed rebellion, and being a member of a certain opposition movement and propaganda against the Turkish state. All of these charges combined attracted a combined prison sentence of 22.5 years by Turkish law.
As if these points are not enough the contention of the individual is that fleeing the country was the only option because some of his colleagues expressed fears that he could be part of a government-mandated hit list or what in the words of the individuals was an assassination list. While it couldn’t be ascertained for certain whether the individual was a part of the hit list or not at the time of fleeing the country, the individual did confirm that the name was a part of the hit list two years ago and that the Turkish media went so far as to display the name of the individual concerned in front of the media.
The victim who worked for a magazine in Turkey was one among the many at the time who exposed corruption in the government in 2013. Due to this four ministers had to resign. Since this time the Turkish government has been involved in silencing the voices of journalists who write against the government on various issues such as LGBT rights in Turkey, corruption among many issues. The victim is one among the many journalists.
The serious nature of the claims in front of the judges of the tribunal shows that the Turkish government is willing to do anything to ensure that journalists tow their line. The allegations of the government maintaining a potential hit/murder list and people’s name, in this case, a journalist’s appearing on the hit/murder list are very serious allegations that require the immediate and urgent attention of the international community, if required there needs to be an investigation to understand these claims. Everything has to be done to hold the Turkish state accountable for its actions against journalists. Only then can journalists can practice journalism without pressure. While the hit/murder list is the gravest allegations of many, other developments cannot be ignored. The shutting down of media platforms, the fleeing of journalists to the West, arrest of journalists without any charges, etc also needs to be taken into consideration in the context of Turkey.
Impunity and Turkey – a tale of the unaccountable
Hearings over this week seemed to confirm the terrible situation concerning impunity in Turkey. Two victims and both of their tales show the terrible situation of the unaccountable who commit crimes with impunity in Turkey.
One of them was an LGBT rights activist who wanted to ensure that the Turkish state does everything it can to protect the rights of the LGBT community. According to the individual, the situation of the LGBT community in Turkey is terrible, and face atrocities at the hands of the Turkish state. Crimes by the state such as rape and torture against the LGBT community are fairly widespread in Turkey.
When the activist started covering this the activist faced the full might of the Turkish government. The individual testified in front of the judges that in one instance the police placed the gun in the mouth of the individual. The clear attempt was to intimidate the activist so that there is no challenge to the Turkish government.
The same activist also testified yet another instance where the police dragged the individual out of an airline in Istanbul Airport Turkey and beat the individual on the airport tarmac. A group of some 20 people was involved in this particular incident, exposing the sheer lack of fear that criminals have in Turkey. This can be termed as impunity because at the heart of such an attack is to display the brazenness of criminals in order to intimidate and warn everyday people against expressing dissent against the Turkish government. Impunity is also a gory display of power in order to inform the world and people in Turkey that nobody can do anything to hold people accountable.
The other incident of impunity is when a man testified in front of the Turkey tribunal that police officers informed the man that his brother was killed by a bomb explosion only to find out that police officers had murdered the individual’s brother. The testimony of the individual regarding this was that there was a witness to the incident. Press given photographs it was not a live bomb it was a murder. Police officers were taken under custody and released three days later. Court refused the arrest of police officers. The court accepted that police had not murdered and let off the officers on account of lack of evidence.
These are two cases but they show one thing. Neither the courts, nor the police, nor the government is accountable for impunity that was in ugly display in these two cases. Therefore, the situation in Turkey is that impunity in Turkey is the tale of the unaccountable where a regime shields and protects criminals to only protect its image and ego.