Turkish Journalists on Trial, Military Battles Kurdish Rebels
Forty-four journalists went on trial this week in the largest trial ever involving the media in Turkish history. Accused of being members of the Union of Kurdistan Communities (KCK), which has been called the urban wing of the PKK by the Turkish State, prosecutors asked for prison terms of seven to twenty years. Ertugrul Mavioglu, an investigative journalist whose terrorism charges were dropped last December, called the trial “clearly political,” adding that “the government wants to set an example; it wants to intimidate.” Thirty-six of the defendants have been detained since December, with an additional 46 journalists imprisoned awaiting trial. Idris Naim Sahin, the Minster of the Interior, was cited saying there was “no difference between the bullets fired in [the Kurdish south-east of Turkey] and the articles written in Ankara.” Although Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has publicly claimed a commitment to the freedom of the press and freedom of expression, he has asked journalists not to cover the ongoing conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish forces, saying “this [news about the conflict] must be ignored; there is no other way.”
The week also saw fierce fighting between Turkish security forces and Kurdish rebels, with 75 militants and four Turkish soldiers killed. Citing concerns that the Kurdish rebels may exploit the instability in neighboring Syria, Turkey has leveled a barrage of attacks in the recent months against the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
In an op-ed piece for The Guardian, Fazel Hawramy suggested that Prime Minister Erdoğan should remember the words leading intellectual Yasar Kemal wrote in Der Spiegel in January 1995: “We in Turkey should always be aware that the road to true democracy must lie in a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question.” Following the trail and attacks, a study released by Istanbul-based BİLGESAM (Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies) asserted that the majority of Turks and Kurds interviewed did believe that the two communities should live together peacefully, but found that 83 percent of Turks and 61 percent of Kurds support the arrests and trials of the journalists stated above.