Roughly 200 people from civil organizations, labor unions and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) gathered in İstanbul’s Taksim Square on Saturday in protest of the imprisonment of journalists on coup charges.
The protest was held on the first anniversary of the imprisonment of journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener who were jailed on charges of having links to the terrorist Ergenekon, a shadowy crime network with alleged links within the state and is suspected of plotting to topple the government.
The journalists were jailed following a raid on the Odatv news portal last year. A number of documents seized from the news portal include various strategies to manipulate the media and the public to get support for an anti-Ergenekon probe campaign. Şener and Şık are accused of establishing an armed terrorist organization, managing it, being a member of it, inciting hatred and animosity among the public, obtaining documents related to the security of the state, being in possession of documents that are prohibited from being revealed and violating private lives.
The march, from Taksim Square to Galatasaray High School, was also held to protest the relocation of journalists Mustafa Balbay and Tuncay Özkan who were imprisoned as part of the Ergenekon case to a single-person cell. The protestors carried banners that read: “Let jailed journalists be released,”and “We don’t want journalists in prison.” CHP deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Bihlun Tamaylıgil were among the participants of the protest.
The Turkish government dismisses claims that dozens of outspoken journalists who have been jailed were arrested or convicted because of their journalistic activities and have reiterated that the jailed suspects are accused of crimes not directly linked to their profession.
The Justice Ministry says 59 out of the 63 journalists currently in jail have been arrested or convicted because of criminal activities other than their writings. Zekeriya Öz, the former chief prosecutor in the investigation into Ergenekon, said in a statement following the detention of Şener and Şık that they were not detained because of their journalistic activities, as alleged by some, but due to evidence against them that cannot be made public because of the confidentiality of the ongoing probe.