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Turkish Journalist in Germany Concerned Over Life Amid Threats From Erdogan

As the whole world still struggles to make sense of the shroud of fog over the mysterious case of a Saudi journalist whose sudden disappearance in Istanbul shuddered the international community, a Turkish journalist living in self-imposed exile in Germany has expressed fears over his own wellbeing and his family’s safety in Turkey.

Can Dundar, former editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet daily, revealed his deep-seated anxiety and dread over threats by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking in an interview with Deutsche Welle, Dundar said Erdogan’s opponents are at risk everywhere in the world. His remarks came in the wake of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s startling disappearance in Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The incident is still riddled with mystery and enigma, with little answers available over a set of questions about the fate of the critical journalist.

Dundar has found himself again in the crosshairs of the Turkish president as he accused the journalist at a recent press conference in Berlin of being a foreign spy working for foreign governments. In the eyes of the Turkish government, he has already been painted as an enemy figure after the Cumhuriyet, under his editorial watch, published records of Turkey’s arms shipment to the warring sides in Syria in 2015.

President Erdogan vowed to not let him go without a punishment for leaking “classified state secrets.” After serving a brief time in jail, the journalist was released pending trial. He survived an assassination attempt outside Istanbul Caglayan Courthouse.

It was the last straw that paved the way for his departure from Turkey en route to Germany. But the Turkish authorities seized her wife’s passport and did not allow her to travel with Dundar.

In remarks to Deutsche Welle, Dundar dismissed Erdogan’s spy allegations as politically motivated.

When asked about Erdogan’s treason and spy remarks, Dundar called the Turkish strongman a liar.

“Because there are no journalists in jail on terrorist charges. They are all convicted or accused of leaking state secrets, writing against the government, being critical about the government’s policies, etc.. So they are just journalists, not terrorists,” he told Deutsche Welle. “But calling that kind of thing terrorism is a kind of traditional attitude of this government, unfortunately,” he added.

Dundar whose family is still in Turkey is extremely worried about their wellbeing. He thinks that the Erdogan government keeps her wife as a hostage in Turkey.

When Erdogan was invited to Germany for an official visit, the invitation divided political parties and generated a heated debate over how to handle with an increasingly unruly and authoritarian leader. Many parties in Bundestag expressed their opposition to Erdogan’s visit.

When asked about Germany’s response to Erdogan so far regarding the state of political affairs in Turkey, Dundar appeared satisfied with the messages and calls clearly conveyed by the German side to the Turkish leader during his visit to Berlin in late September.

In the beginning, Dundar thought that the German approach was meek and tepid against Erdogan’s crackdown on media and democracy in Turkey. But later, the Turkish journalist has begun to appreciate Germany’s dire challenge to tread a delicate balancing act between pushing Ankara for democratic reforms and the need to preserve the bilateral relationship as smoothly as possible.

On Thursday, writing for Foreign Policy, Steven Cook shared Dundar’s concerns in the face of threats from authoritarian leaders.

“Ours is an era of international thuggishness combined with a total absence of norms. That makes everyone a target,” he wrote, delving into the riddling case of Saudi journalist and recalling the authoritarian shift in the past decade around the world.

From Egpyt to China, from Turkey to Hungary and Venezuela, dissidents and critical journalists increasingly feel less safe. The unknown fate of Khashoggi remains as a dreadful warning and lesson for others to see. Dundar is one of them. Facing Erdogan’s incessant threats, he is right to be concerned and alarmed.

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Turkey: Media, Activists, Political Opposition Targeted

Turkey increased restrictions on the media, political opposition, and human rights defenders during 2017, on the back of a very narrow referendum, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2018. Turkey also introduced a presidential system with insufficient democratic checks and balances against the president’s abuse of power. “Everywhere you look, checks and balances that protect human rights and rule of law in Turkey are being eroded” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. Under the state of emergency, the government has failed to provide redress for the over 100,000 civil servants dismissed, as well as hundreds of media outlets, associations, and other institutions closed down.

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/18/turkey-media-activists-political-opposition-targeted

Report: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/turkey

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Turkish Media Worker Zafer Özsoy Faces 3 Life Sentences With No Evidence

A Turkish media worker, who has been behind bars for 478 days, faces three consecutive life sentences and additional 15 years in jail on fabricated terrorism and coup plotting charges.

Zafer Özsoy, 44-year-old media professional who specializes in broadcasting network and satellite uplink services, is charged under Turkey’s abusive anti-terror laws when his company FİA was found to have provided infrastructure services to critical media outlets.

The company does not get involved in editorial policies of the clients that it provided services yet he stands accused of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, the Turkish government and the Turkish Parliament without any evidence to back up any of the charges.

Özsoy started his media career at Cihan News Agency in 1995 right after he graduated from İstanbul University’s Radio and Television department. He had worked almost for 20 years at the same company’s various departments. Thanks to his experience and extensive network of contacts, he became one of the best media professional in his field of expertise.

Starting in 2014, Erdoğan’s government intensified pressure on Cihan news agency and its clients, forcing the company to downsize a year later to survive by shedding some of its assets and laying off workers.

Özsoy and his colleagues who worked together for years decided to establish their own production company FİA that would serve live streaming, broadcasting and digital video content for businesses. FİA purchased some of the technical equipment from the Cihan news agency under a deal that included negotiated fee for severance and compensation payments.

However, on March 7, 2016, Turkish government unlawfully seized both the Cihan news agency and FİA as part of the escalating crackdown on critical media outlets in Turkey. Özsoy and his partners were the first ones who were fired by the government appointed trustees who took over the management of these companies.

After working 20 years in media industry, Özsoy’s dream to run his own company with a selected team of his own was over but the worst was yet to come.

He was detained on July 27, 2016 at his home in İstanbul following detention warrants were issued for 47 journalists on dubious charges. He was formally arrested on August 4, 2016 over alleged links to FETÖ, a hoax terror organisation that was fabricated by the regime of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to defame the civic Gülen movement. He was sent to notorious Silivri Prison pending trial.

During the interrogation, Özsoy was asked why he continued to work for “Zaman Newspaper” when Turkey’s biggest corruption investigations incriminating cabinet ministers and President Erdoğan’s family members were made public at the end of 2013. Erdoğan, then prime minister, presented graft probes as a coup attempt against his government and accused critical media outlets, which covered the graft scandal, of being traitors and coup plotters against his government. Özsoy told his interrogators that he has never worked in Zaman newspaper.

The police even asked Özsoy whether he made any contribution to a piece written by Today’s Zaman former editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş who forewarned that a coup would be terrible for Turkey’s future, in an article Keneş wrote on July 8, 2016. Özsoy replied “I heard about the article for the first time here.” Keneş has also been indicted over absurd terrorism charges in several cases and remain at large. Ironically, this question was asked to all suspects who were detained along with Özsoy on July 27, 2016.

Özsoy appeared before judges for the first time in 14 months after he was arrested on September 18, 2017. The most difficult moment of the hearing was that he had to defend himself against the indictment that included no direct accusation on him. The public prosecutor mentioned his name twice in 64-page indictment. The first citation of him is recorded among the list of defendants in the first part of the indictment. The second and the last was in the list of suspects for whom the prosecutor demanded severe punishment for him. The prosecutor did not bother to present any evidence against the suspect whom he asked for sentencing that amounted to three life sentences and additional 15 years in prison.

As expected the court ruled for the continuation of his arrest pending next hearing which will be held on December 8, 2017.

Özsoy who is married with two children and known for his Formula-1 passion is looking forward to being free one day and reuniting with his loved ones.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the SCF has showed that 256 journalists and media workers are in jails as of November 21, 2017, most in pre-trial detention languishing in notorious Turkish prisons without even a conviction. Of those in Turkish prisons, 230 are arrested pending trial, only 26 journalists remain convicted and serving time in Turkish prisons. An outstanding detention warrants remain for 135 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Souce: https://stockholmcf.org/turkish-media-worker-zafer-ozsoy-faces-3-life-sentences-with-no-evidence/

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