The first hearing of Turkey’s biggest trial against members of the press started on Monday, involving 44 journalists, 36 of whom have been in pretrial detention since December, facing terrorism charges and accused of backing the illegal pan-Kurdish umbrella group, the KCK.
“This trial is clearly political,” said Ertugrul Mavioglu, an investigative journalist. whose terrorism charges for interviewing a member of the KCK – which includes the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) – were dropped last December. “The government wants to set an example, it wants to intimidate.”
More than 100 journalists are in jail in Turkey, more than in Iran or China, and many of these work for Kurdish media outlets. About 800 more face charges and numerous journalists have been fired or have had to leave their jobs because of pressure from the Turkish government.
In a recent speech, Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin compared writers and journalists to PKK fighters, saying that there was “no difference between the bullets fired in [the Kurdish southeast of Turkey] and the articles written in Ankara.”
The government said none of the journalists on trial had been arrested for their work as members of the press, but because of alleged terrorist offences. However, the 800-page indictment includes a charge of “denigrating the state” against one journalist who wrote about sexual harassment at Turkish Airlines.
Another is on trial for exposing sexual abuse of minors in Pozanti prison in Adana. Other offending articles include interviews with a leader of the pro-Kurdish Freedom and Democracy party, and reports on casualties in the conflicts between the PKK and Turkish armed forces.