August 17, 2016
WE CONDEMN THE CLOSURE OF THE DAILY AND THE RAID OF ITS HEADQUARTER
Ozgur Gundem Daily was shut down on August 16, 2016 by the decision of Istanbul 8th Criminal Court of Peace, on completely arbitrary grounds lacking any lawful basis. Before the disclosure of this unlawful decision to the Daily, Ozgur Gundem’s headquarter located in Istanbul Beyoglu district was raided by the Police, including the special operations unit. The building was searched in a way that resembles depredation, and the journalists are detained. Among the journalists detained, were the correspondent and the cameraman from IMC TV, who were in the building to make news and were on a live broadcast at the moment. Police also raided the houses of Eren Keskin, Human Rights Association Central Executive Board member and an ex-chief editor of the Daily; and Filiz Koçali, a former columnist at Ozgur Gundem.
In the 1990s and after, Ozgur Gundem had been subjected to serious attacks, its headquarter in Istanbul had been bombarded, and tens of its employees, distributors, and columnists had been killed. The Daily was under intense pressure of the current government for some time now. In this process, alongside the managing editors, journalists, and columnists; hundreds of intellectuals, writers, journalists, and academicians who served as the “Editor-in-chief on Duty” for solidarity with the Daily, were investigated and sued. As part of this process, President of the HRFT Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, and journalist-writer Ahment Nesin were arrested and imprisoned for 10 days before they were discharged.
This most recent incident of closure denotes an explicit and intentional violation of freedom of press, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of communication, and the public’s right to information. The closure of Ozgur Gundem and the widespread detentions and arrests of journalists, is a clear sign that the government has turned the state of emergency, the declaration of which was justified by the failed coup attempt, into an opportunity and almost a weapon, and that it tended towards silencing the opposition and the democratic powers in the country.
The claims that during arrests, the journalists were battered, hand-cuffed behind the back, and were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment; are worrisome. Claims of torture have become more intense and extensive since the declaration of the State of Emergency. This situation is completely incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). According to the ECHR Article 15, in time of public emergency, contracting states “may take measures derogating from its obligations under [the] Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation”. Yet, the state of emergency does not alter the obligation to respect and ensure the absolute prohibition of torture under Article 3. The States should respect the absolute prohibition of torture under all conditions, including times of emergency.
We would like to remind to the representatives of the government, who claimed, after the failed coup attempt, to have recognized the significance of freedom of press; that by limiting public’s right to information, by turning the State’s privilege on monopoly of violence into a tool of terror, by practicing torture, briefly by touching the essence of the fundamental rights and freedoms, one cannot prevent the coups nor be a real democrat. Therefore, we repeat what we have expressed several times before:
The State of Emergency should be urgently terminated;
The Government should respect the fundamental rights and freedoms;
Detained journalists should be immediately released, and arrested journalists should be discharged;
The ban on Ozgur Gundem should be lifted!
Human Rights Association
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey