Ergenekon

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New York, March 11, 2014--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release this week of five Turkish journalists who were imprisoned after being sentenced to jail in connection with the controversial Ergenekon case. Three of the journalists--Yalçın Küçük, Deniz Yıldırım, and Merdan Yanardağ--were convicted because of their work, according to CPJ research. In the cases of Tuncay Özkan and Hikmet Çiçek, CPJ had not been able to establish a connection.

A man holds a flag outside a Turkish jail, where hundreds of people, including journalists, await a verdict in the Ergenekon trial. (AP)

For the second year in a row, our prison census shows, Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country. The number of journalists behind bars is 40; down from the 61 reporters in October 2012, and less than the 49 we recorded on December 1, 2012. Still, Turkey holds more journalists in custody than Iran, China, or Eritrea.

Protesters demonstrate outside the courthouse on Monday, where several journalists were among those convicted for participation in the alleged Ergenekon plot. (AP)

Istanbul, August 7, 2013--A Turkish appellate court should overturn the convictions of numerous journalists who have been convicted in connection with Ergenekon, a broad anti-government conspiracy, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. The journalists were convicted on flawed penal and anti-terror laws that conflate news coverage and commentary with terrorism.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is known for his intolerance to criticism. (Reuters/Peter Dejong/Pool)

Today, hope for peace between the government of Turkey and Kurdish rebels is closer than ever to becoming reality. A resolution to the conflict, after more than 30 years, could have ramifications for Turkey's standing as the world's worst jailer of journalists. According to CPJ research, three-quarters of the journalists imprisoned in Turkey are from the pro-Kurdish media.

Istanbul, December 28, 2012--Turkish authorities on Thursday released Soner Yalçın, owner and publisher of the ultranationalist-leftist news website Odatv, from prison for the duration of his trial, according to news reports. Yalçın, who has been jailed since February 2011 on anti-state charges, could be re-arrested and jailed if he is convicted.

A passer-by looks at Turkish newspapers at a kiosk in Istanbul. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

This week I joined CPJ board Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe, Executive Director Joel Simon, and Turkish researcher Özgür Ögret in Istanbul to present CPJ's latest report, "Turkey's Press Freedom Crisis," and convey our main press freedom concerns, including the mass imprisonment of journalists.

1. Summary

The Committee to Protect Journalists prepared this report to highlight the widespread criminal prosecution and jailing of journalists in Turkey, along with the government’s use of various forms of pressure to engender self-censorship in the press. CPJ’s analysis found highly repressive laws, particularly in the penal code and anti-terror law; a criminal procedure code that greatly favors the state; and a harsh anti-press tone set at the highest levels of government. Turkey’s press freedom situation has reached a crisis point. 

2. Assault on the Press

Nuray Mert, one of Turkey’s most prominent political columnists and commentators, had a long history as a government critic, but in the view of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, her comments last year opposing administration policies toward ethnic Kurds went too far. Erdoğan lashed out with a personal attack that implied Mert was traitorous, setting off a torrent of public vitriol—including threats to her safety—and prompting her politically sensitive bosses to cancel her television show and newspaper column. 

3. The Anti-State Prosecutions

Journalist Ahmet Şık found himself behind bars for writing a book that was not even published. So explosive was the subject of The Imam’s Army that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan likened it to a bomb. Şık was probing too far into one of the most influential and underreported forces in modern Turkish politics—the Gülen movement.

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