Q&A: Two of Turkey’s Leading Journalists Speak From Jail

by    /  August 11, 2011  / No comments

Journalists Nedim Şener, center, and Ahmet Şık, third from left facing camera, wave upon arrival at an Istanbul courthouse in March. Photo:Reuters via CPJ

The arrest of Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener in March this year has put press freedom in Turkey under the international spotlight. Authorities said the journalists had not been detained because of their reporting but as part of an ongoing investigation into an alleged ultranationalist plot to overthrow the government known as “Ergenekon.” On a recent visit to Turkey, I sent written questions to the reporters in their Istanbul jail through their lawyers and they replied in writing.

Both men reject the claim of the prosecutor who ordered their arrest that they were detained because of the Ergenekon probe. Şık says he was picked up because of a book he was writing on the Gülen movement titled The Imam’s Army. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan compared the book, which has not been published, to a bomb.

Şener believes his arrest is linked to his books on slain Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink. Both journalists, who have been in pre-trial custody since early March, say they have not seen a shred of evidence to support the charge against them of “membership of the presumed terrorist organization Ergenekon.” They view their detention as a form of censorship. They have both filed cases with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for violation of freedom of expression and violation of personal freedom of security.

Şık has spent years reporting on the network of military officers and ultranationalist bureaucrats often referred to in Turkey as the “deep state.” Şener worked for the daily Milliyet. He received the International Press Institute’s “World Press Freedom Hero” award last year for his work on Dink. Şik says the Ergenekon probe started out as an investigation into perceived threats against the government but has now been turned into a tool to suppress political opposition.

Read the Q&A here

Originally published by CPJ Blog

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