Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Freedom of Expression, Association and Publication: BIA Media Monitoring Full Report

Emel Gülcan from Bianet writes about the freedom of expression, association and publication landscape invaded by criminal charges and interpretations of the vaguely phrased Anti-Terrorism Law in Turkey:

"Journalist murders/trials, imprisoned journalists, attacks, threats, and restraints, inquiries, trials, decisions, publication bans, defamation, personal rights and compensation cases, RTUK and ECHR decisions.


Punishment for Kurdish folk songs: Raziye Kızıl President of the Komela Jinen Dengbej (KJD) Women Dengbejler House, was sentenced to a year in prison on 10 October by the Van 3rd High Criminal Court. Kızıl had sang two folk songs, 'Megrî / Don't cry' and 'Lo Lawo' on 7 February 2010 at the Dengbêjler Council at the Tatvan Municipality Culture Centre. She was charged with 'membership in a terrorist organization' (TMK 7/2). It was said that the songs in question were about two students named Mahsun and Mustafa, who were killed in the intervention of the soldiers during the Amara march in 2009. It was added that the word 'Amara' was translated as 'Gabar,' and the name 'Mahsun' was translated as 'Mesut,' and that these two were represented as 'terrorists killed in Gabar.' Kızıl's objection that there is a mistake in translation was not accepted.


10 months in prison for chanting slogans at a concert: In October, the 9th Division of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the punishment handed out to three youngsters, who chanted slogans at the Group Yorum concert in 2007 in the Hozat district of Dersim. Mesut Geyik, Emrah Sarıtaş and Sinan Yıldırım have been sentenced to 10 months in prison for 'making propaganda in connection with DHKP-C' (TMK 7/2).

One year prison sentence for a caricature: Bahadır Baruter is facing a year in prison for a caricature published in the Penguen magazine on 10 February 2011, which had the writing "There is no Allah, religion is a lie" on a mosque column. Baruter is being accused of 'insulting the religious values embraced by part of the people' (TCK 216/3).  Turkish Religious Affairs and Foundation Members' Union and a number of citizens had filed a complaint against Baruter. During the first hearing on 29 September, it was decided that Baruter is brought to court by compulsion and that the complainants should be included in the trial. Baruter's lawyer Tora Pekin expects the court to decide for lack of jurisdiction based on article 27/2 of the Press Law and to transfer the trial to the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The second hearing is scheduled for 29 March 2012.


Disclaimer for readers' comments: web site's director Barış Pehlivan is standing trial for charges of not withdrawing the comments about a news story on Fetullah Gülen, which allegedly constituted insult and of not publishing a disclaimer. The trial continued at the 12th Criminal Court of Peace on 1 November. Lawyer Topbaş argued that the 3rd Criminal Court of Peace, in its decision for a disclaimer, stated that the comments, which constituted insult should be withdrawn, but did not state which comments exactly should be withdrawn. He demanded the acquittal of the defendant. The trial was postponed to 10 January 2012.


The comment on Facebook: H.Y. was reported on 19 October to the Prime Ministry Communication Center for insulting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, TBMM Speaker Cemil Çiçek, deputy prime ministers, some ministers and members of parliaments on facebook. In his defense statement H.Y. stated that he had no ulterior motives and that he is regretful. The defendant is faced with up to two years in prison for charges of 'insult through a voice, written or video message' at the trial at the Ankara 7th Criminal Court of Peace.


Decisions by the Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications

The Soft Machine: Translator Süha Sertabiboğlu of the book 'The Soft Machine' and publisher İrfan Sancı are standing trial for charges of 'publicizing indecent words' under TCK 226/2. They are faced with 6 months to three years in prison. The third hearing of the trial was held on 1 December at the Çağlayan Courthouse. The trial was postponed to 18 January 2012 since the book could not be sent to a court expert due to a change of judge. At the previous hearing, Sertabiboğlu and Sancı had demanded that the book is sent to the Comparative Literature department and the expert report is prepared by the experts. The same demands were voiced since the book had still not been sent to a court expert due to a change of judges.

Death Porn: Translator Funda Uncu of Chuck Palahniuk's book named 'Death Porn' and Hasan Basri Çıplak, the head of the Ayrıntı Publishing house are standing trial for charges of 'acting as intermediary in publication of indecent publications' TCK 226/2. ' The first hearing was held on 17 November at the Çağlayan Court House İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Çıplak, in his defense statement, pleaded not guilty and added that the book in question is a literary work. Uncu and Çıplak face 6 months to three years in prison. The next hearing was scheduled for 18 January 2012.

Bans, suspensions, confiscations

Three books were seized in January-October, two of which were not yet published. The publications of four newspapers were suspended for a total of 5 months and 15 days. The publications of a magazine were suspended for a month and the publication of one magazine was suspended altogether. A magazine went out of business after receiving a fine of 150 thousand TL (about 64 thousand euros). The following are the violations in October-November-December:

Book ban in prison: According to the Sincan Prison Report published on 20 December by the Contemporary Lawyers' Association, books sent to the prison were not allowed inside citing bans applied in the 70s. According to the report, 'History of Civilization' by Server Tanilli, 'What Should I Tell You' by Ece Temelkuran and 'Operation Return to Life' by Güçlü Sevimli were among the books that were found to be objectionable despite of a lack of a confiscation order.

Yürüyüş magazine was confiscated: Bağımsızlık Demokrasi Sosyalizm için Yürüyüş ('March for Freedom, Democracy, Socialism') magazine's 299th issue dated 18 December 2011, was confiscated with decision no 2011/823 of Istanbul 9th High Criminal Court. According to the decision signed by Judge Hakim Mustafa Boz, the grounds for the decision for closure were the articles titled, 'Revolution hope lives in Anatolia with our 122 martyrs' on page 5, the Revolutionary School article on pages 23-25, the article in the 'From the Youth Federation' column on page 40, and an article titled, 'The Ones We Lost in the Freedom, Democracy, Socialism Struggle' on page 54. The decision included the seizure of the magazine and the suspension of its publication for a month.

İnci sözlük is banned: There was vast reaction in the social media for the blocking of access to İnci Sözlük through a court decision on 15 December. In a statement, İnci Sözlük said that the decision was taken by the Adana 6th Criminal Court of Peace on grounds of illegal football game broadcasts over the Internet. The site's owner Serkan İnci stated that they had received no notification and added that he cannot understand the reasoning behind this decision. Serkan İnci also reacted against this decision through Twitter.

Berivan's airing was banned: The airing of the film named Bêrîvan was banned at the Batman Yılmaz Güney Film Festival on 15 December, so director Aydın Orak talked about his film on stage. The banning decision communicated by the Office of the Governor, stated that there was a unanimous decision to ban the film from commercial circulation and screening. The decision said that the film, 'distorts historical realities,' 'is in violation of the basic principles of the constitution,' and 'disseminates PKK propaganda,' among others. Berivan's screening was banned a couple of times before. The censorship board of the Ministry of Culture had not given permission for the film to get a banderole. Berivan is a film about the events in 1992 in Cizre and the incidents a 17-year-old girl named Berivan was faced with. The film's director Aydın Orak talked about the film on stage.

Letters were seized: On 13 December, the letters sent to the media organizations by the prisoners at the Kocaeli No 1 F-type prison were seized because they 'pointed as target the institution and the employees.' Prisoner Ömer Adıgüzel, who sent a fax to Özgür Radio, stated that the periodic letters to media organizations and writers every month telling about the rights violations they are faced with are being withheld by the management. Adıgüzel said that the letters they sent to Özgür Radio, Özgür Gündem, Atılım, Birgün newspapers, the Human Rights Association and a number of columnists were seized.

Ban on Kurdish banners: Iğdır and Kars Governors' Offices banned the banners of the "I am here, I am becoming a member of BDP - Ez li virim" campaign by BDP in December on grounds that they included Kurdish writings. BDP made a statement saying that according to the notification sent to the provincial organizations by the Provincial Police Headquarters, the reason of the ban is the Kurdish writings on the banners.

RTÜK obstacle for Mor Çatı: Mor Çatı Women's Shelter Foundation produced three short films named '3 Films Against Violence Directed to Women' to be screened on TV for the 25 November International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Radio and Television Higher Board, in a statement sent to Mor Çatı on 1 December said the reason for the ban is that the films 'includes generalizations that are in contradiction with gender equality.'


The problem with 'The Memories of a Dinosaur': Mina Urgan's book named, 'The memories of a Dinosaur' was found to be objectionable with regards the high-school students. Ankara Yenimahalle District National Education Directorate, has opened an investigation against Suna Kayabaştar, a literature teacher at the Mobil Anadolu Lisesi, who suggested the book to the ninth graders as an example of 'writings that are about personal life.' The grounds for the investigation is that the book contains blasphemy, creates suspicion regarding the belief in god and encourages the consumption of alcohol. İstanbul member of parliament Melda Onur asked for further information regarding the investigation from the National Education Minister Ömer Dinçer with the motion she submitted to the Presidency of the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 25 November."

To read the rest of this lengthy and bleak report, please visit: