[The following statement and call to action was issued by BirGün, an independent left daily newspaper in Turkey that is being prosecuted for covereage of then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan.]
On 2 June, a trial will begin in Caglayan Istanbul Second Criminal Court. Baris Ince, the editor-in-chief of the Turkish independent daily newspaper, BirGün, is being sued under Article 229 of the Turkish Criminal Code for “defamation of the President.”
The newspaper printed an acrostic to spell out the phrase “Thief Tayyip,” referring to the then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is a slogan chanted on the streets by millions of Turkish protestors. For printing this slogan, the prosecution seeks a five and a half year prison sentence for Baris Ince.
After the 1971 coup d’état in Turkey, veteran journalist Ilhan Selcuk (1925-2010) used an acrostic to spell out the sentence, “I am under torture.” The penultimate word of each sentence of his article began with the letters to spell out this sentence. İlhan Selçuk inaugurated this tradition of using an acrostic. Baris Ince honored that tradition with the phrase printed in BirGün.
Our Editor-in-Chief demonstrated that there are facts hidden in Turkey by the silence bought through political pressure. His act was a political criticism.
Political criticism should not earn a five and a half year prison sentence for a newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief. BirGün’s work honors the country with its contribution to the media. The prosecutor’s claim is not only unreasonable, but also unjust.
During the campaigns around corruption in Turkey, millions of people chanted the slogan—“Thief Tayyip”—in demonstrations. What BirGün did is not personal defamation. It reported the reaction on the streets to the corruption and bribery charges.
During the US invasion of Iraq, people around the world chanted against “Killer Bush.” This was not a personal defamation against George W. Bush, the US President. It was a political criticism to show that US policy depended on killing. Politicians have to tolerate criticism when people believe that they have done wrong.
The government did not accept BirGün’s right to report on these demonstrations. It targeted Baris Ince on purpose. This prosecution ignores freedom of speech and freedome of the press.
In defense of press freedom in a modern and democratic country, BirGün invites you to pay attention to the case against Baris Ince, which begins on 2 June in Caglayan, Istanbul.
BirGün’s veteran journalists, who defend people bravely and act with solidarity, need you today.
2 June 2015
İstanbul Second Criminal Court of First Instance