Journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık were threatened shortly after their release from prison. Here, colleagues protest the journalists' imprisonment, which lasted more than a year. (AP)
Journalists Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık were threatened shortly after their release from prison. Here, colleagues protest the journalists’ imprisonment, which lasted more than a year. (AP)

Investigation, threats against freed Turkish journalists

New York, March 22, 2012–Turkish authorities must immediately dismiss the new criminal investigation against journalist Ahmet Şık and should thoroughly investigate threats made against Şık and investigative journalist Nedim Şener, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

On March 12, Şık and Şener were released from prison on bail for the duration of their ongoing trial, according to news reports. The journalists were charged with participating in the purported Ergenekon antistate plot and had already remained in prison for more than a year, according to news reports.

Special Authority Public Chief Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş launched a new investigation against Şık shortly after his release, according to the independent online news agency Bianet, although Can Atalay, a member of Şık’s defense team, told CPJ today that the journalist had not yet received an official notification of legal action.

The new investigation against Şık accused him of allegedly “threatening and identifying judges and prosecutors as targets for terror organizations” in his statement to journalists upon his release from prison, Bianet reported. Şık had told the press that day: “Incomplete justice is not going to bring justice and democracy. About one hundred journalists are still in prison. … The police officers, prosecutors, and judges who plotted and carried out this complot will go to prison. Justice will come when they enter this prison,” according to news reports.

Four days after Şık and Şener were released from prison, unknown individuals posted threats against them on Twitter. On March 16, someone posting under the name Faiz Düşmanı (Enemy of Interest) tweeted: “Attention, attention… I warn the government… The Ergenekon Terror Organization is planning to assassinate Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener.” The Twitter post then said the assassination would be blamed on the Fethullah Gülen, a powerful religious brotherhood close to Prime Minister Recep Tayyp Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). CPJ confirmed that the user’s Twitter account is no longer available.

“In launching yet another politicized investigation against Ahmet Şık, Turkish authorities are demonstrating their determination to criminalize dissent,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on authorities to use their resources instead to investigate the criminal threat against Şık and Nedim Şener and to ensure their safety.”

Also, on Wednesday, Erdoğan sought to link journalists who cover Kurdish separatist issues with the separatists themselves. In comments directed at those journalists, made at a meeting of the ruling AKP, the prime minister said: “Do you have ears? Are you deaf? … How long will you make common cause with those who endeavor to turn an easeful country into a restless country?”

“We are deeply concerned by Prime Minister Erdoğan’s intemperate statements concerning journalists,” Ognianova said. “Coming from his high office, they are equivalent to instructions to his subordinates to crack down on the independent media.”