Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The state of Freedom of Expression in Turkey

At least 9 newspapers were banned based on the Anti-Terror Act, 23 people were sentenced to 58 years imprisonment and fines summing up to 9,740 TL; 101 people were convicted of "attacks on personal rights", received prison sentence of 98 years in total and were sued for compensation claims of 1,408,680 TL. Journalist Cihan Hayırsevener was killed due to the state's indifference to violence.

47 people, 22 of them journalists, were prosecuted in 2009 under charges of "publishing pronouncements of terror organizations", "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization" or "revealing people struggling against terrorism as targets". 23 people were sentenced to 58 years imprisonment and monetary fines of 9,749 Turkish Lira (TL) (€ 4,640). However, this is a small number compared to 44 convicts and thus twice as many convictions under the TMY in 2008.
34 journalists among 101 Turkish citizens were sentenced to 98 years and five days imprisonment and compensation claims summing up to TL 1,408,680 (€ 670,800) under charges of "attacks on personal rights". Local courts in 2009 decreed for a total of nine years, three months and 6 days imprisonment and monetary fines of TL 41,290 (€ 19,660). In the previous year, 74 people received prison sentences of 77 years and faced compensation claims of TL 1,885,500.
21 people, six of them journalists, stood trial for "incitement to hatred and hostility"; 13 defendants were convicted, among them three journalists. They received a total of 16 years and seven months imprisonment.
cases were dismissed by the Ministry of Justice. The trial of author Temel Demirer is still pending. Ten activists from Eskişehir and radio journalist Sabri Ejder Öziç were acquitted. The Ministry of Justice has still not decided whether to pursue or dismiss the prosecutions of another 20 people.

The trials of 54 mayors of Democratic Society Party (DTP), which was closed down by the Constitutional Court in mid December, including four journalists, are pending under charges of "praising criminals".
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) convicted Turkey to a total fine of TL 472,392 (€ 225,000) in compensation. In the previous year, this amount added up to TL 183,801 (€ 87,525). 11,100 complaint files concerned with Turkey are currently waiting to be dealt with at the ECHR.
The following new applications were made to the ECHR in 2009: the Hrant Dink murder, publication bans imposed to Özgür Mezopotamya, Özgür Görüş, Rojev, Siyasi Alternatif and Süreç newspapers, Internet Technology Association (INETD) in regard to the ban of, Birecik'in Sesi newspaper official Şevket Demir, Siirt Mücadele newspaper owner Cumhur Kılıççıoğlu, Cumhuriyet newspaper journalist Alper Turgut, Cevat Düşün from Alternatif newspaper, Vakit newspaper writer Abdurrahman Dilipak and Taraf newspaper journalist Orhan Miroğlu. (EÖ/VK)
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On and off screen, drama in Turkish foreign relations (By Bram Vermeulen)

An episode of a popular Turkish soap opera has sparked diplomatic conflict with Israel.

By Bram Vermeulen in Istanbul for

Bahadir Özdener has never met the prime minister of Turkey. The screenwriter has never got a letter of gratitude from the governing AK party. Quite to the contrary: the government has censored one of his scenarios. Özdener swears the Turkish powers that be have nothing to do with the TV-series he is responsible for.

Nonetheless, Israel has shifted from being Turkey’s friend to being its enemy, both in the prime minister’s speeches and in the popular TV-series Kurtlar Vadesi or Valley of the Wolves simultaneously. Perhaps the two drew on the same “popular sentiment”, Özdener ventured. He has been the centre of attention since a single scene propelled the soap opera into the worldwide limelight a few days ago.

A recent episode featured a spy working for the Israeli secret service Mossad took a mother and her child hostage. The show’s hero, Turkish police officer Polat Alemdar saved the day by freeing the mother from brutish hands with a single shot. Blood gushing from the Mossad officer’s wounds dripped down, soiling the Star of David. An intentional reference to last year's Gaza war that caused a rift in the decades-old alliance between Turkey and Israel, the screenwriter confirmed.

A product of modern Turkey

Sitting in his office in the heart of the upscale Istanbul neighbourhood Nisantasi, Bahadir Özdener is surely a product of secular Turkey. He was dressed in a college sweater, flaunting a goatee and a distrustful and proud attitude towards the outside world. As a student, he attended lectures given by the current minister of foreign affairs, Ahmet Davutoglu, who taught international relations at the Marmara University in the 1990s. He said he ascribed to Davutoglu’s vision of a Turkey seeking closer ties with its neighbouring countries, from Armenia to Iran.
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Day Opening - February 10

Even Fish do kiss