Turkey Releases Four Journalists, But is it Enough?
A Turkish court released four journalists accused of conspiracy to overthrow the government in collaboration with ‘Ergenekon’ – a case that drew significant international criticism of Turkey’s repression of press freedom. Among the defendants released were Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, who were held for 375 days, but have yet to be acquitted of their charges. They have a hearing scheduled for June 18th, during which they could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Some say, however, that although the release of these journalists is a step in the right direction, it is not nearly enough with an estimated 96 more journalists in jail. Andrew Finkle, a journalist who himself was charged in 1999 with “causing the Turkish military to be held in contempt,”, says the problem is within Turkey’s penal code that defines ‘terrorism’ very broadly. “Many of the journalists who are detained work on politically committed Kurdish newspapers,” he writes, “Some are standing trial for being propagandists for the Ergenekon conspiracy.” Fiachra Gibbons writes, “Turkey is a much freer country today than the day the AK party came to power… But it is a funny kind of freedom, one where the Internet is tracked and restricted and where freedom of speech comes at a price.” Gibbons says Turkey cannot be a “model to the Muslim world” if it continues to keep its journalists in jail. Suzy Hansen argues, ”It’s possible that the repression of criticism [in the media] is the purest reflection of [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s] character. Erdoğan, finally unrestrained by the secularist elite, seems to see no reason to endure critique,” and is skeptical that the recent release of journalists is any indicator of reform.