Concerning repeated raids on media outlets in Turkey

Monday, January 19, 2015
Following a series of raids on Turkish opposition media outlets on December 14, 2014, CJFE sent a letter to His Excellency Selçuk Ünal, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada, condemning the crackdown and urging the Turkish government to free the detainees. CJFE received a reply from Ambassador Ünal on December 23, addressing the substance of our letter. Below, you will find our subsequent reply as well as the Ambassador's letter.
His Excellency Selçuk Ünal Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to Canada 197 Wurtemburg Street Ottawa, ON, K1N8L9 January 19, 2015 Dear Ambassador, I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world. We would like to thank Your Excellency for your prompt reply on December 23, 2014 to our December 19 letter of concern about the recent crackdown on opposition media outlets in Turkey. Your Excellency has informed CJFE that all except one of at least two dozen people arrested during the December 14, 2014 raids by Turkish police on opposition media outlets are not being held in pre-trial detention, and that the right to a fair trial will be respected and protected during the judicial process. CJFE is pleased to hear this, but we remain deeply concerned about the meritless anti-state charges that have been leveled against these journalists, in what appears to be retribution for their critical reporting on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Charging journalists with anti-state offences is a common practice in Turkey; of the seven journalists currently imprisoned in Turkey, six of them have been convicted of these charges. The use of these baseless charges is just one way that the Turkish media is being intimidated and silenced. Nearly 70 journalists are currently being prosecuted for reporting on the corruption investigation involving former Prime Minister Erdoğan’s cabinet as a result of a ban on media coverage of the hearings that was imposed by an Ankara court on November 25, 2014. This appears designed to prevent journalists from reporting on the corruption investigation, and to punish those who choose to ignore the ban to report on an issue of public interest. We agree wholeheartedly with Your Excellency’s belief that freedom of the media is a sine qua non for a democratic society. However, concrete steps need to be taken to ensure the fundamental principles of free expression and press freedom are upheld in Turkey. While Your Excellency states that the judiciary is independent in Turkey, the ban on media coverage of the corruption investigation and the Turkish police’s ongoing raids targeting opposition media outlets appear to be politically motivated. The raids we condemned in our previous letter were not an isolated incident. On January 14, 2015, Turkish police raided the printing press of newspaper Cumhuriyet to prevent the daily from republishing images of the prophet Mohammed that appear in the first issue of Charlie Hebdo following the January 7 massacre. President Erdoğan has repeatedly shown his contempt for satirical cartoonists in the past, taking them to court on several occasions. However, this most recent incident of harassment is particularly distressing when considering that only three days before the raid on Cumhuriyet, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu attended the Unity March in Paris in support of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Once again, we would like to thank Your Excellency for responding to our previous letter and engaging in a dialogue on these issues. CJFE continues to call on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges against the individuals detained on December 14, 2014 and further calls on the Turkish government to allow all media personnel to operate freely in the country without fear of unfounded persecution. We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply. Yours sincerely, Arnold Amber, CJFE President Cc: Mr. John Holmes, Ambassador of Canada to Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
December 23, 2014 Dear Mr Amber, I acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated December 19, 2014 regarding the detention of some members of the media in Turkey on December 14. Firstly, I would like to mention that as in any other democratic country governed by the rule of law, the judiciary is independent in Turkey. We have witnessed time and again that the rule of law functions effectively in Turkey with all its institutions, procedures and processes. In this regard, it goes without saying that the legislative or the executive bodies cannot interfere with the judiciary. We strongly believe that freedom of the media is a "sine qua non" for a democratic society and we have taken decisive steps in recent years to expand the scope of the freedom of expression and the media in Turkey. According to the information provided by the Chief Public Prosecutor, those who were detained on December 14 have been charged with serious crimes that are not related to their work as journalists or members of the media. Legal process is currently underway. I am confident that just as in any other parliamentary democracy and in line with all the reforms our governments have undertaken, due process rights including the right to a fair trial and observance of the principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty, will be respected and protected during the judicial process. On the other hand, I would also like to inform you that, after the initial process of receiving statements of those concerned, all of the persons in question who were detained on December 14, except one who reportedly refused to give statement to the Court, have already been released on license, to continue with the judicial process. Sincerely, Selçuk Ünal Ambassador
CJFE's letter to Ambassador Ünal, December 19, 2014 Ambassador Ünal's response to CJFE, December 23, 2014 CJFE's response to Ambassador Ünal, January 19, 2015

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