ORHAN KEMAL – Watchdog of state interests!

Watchdog of state interests!Another journalist, Mehmet Baransu from the Taraf daily, has been arrested. As far as I know, he has been taken into custody four or five times over the last year based on various accusations.

He has been irritating the government with his reports on corruption and other controversial issues.The official reason offered for his latest arrest is andldquoestablishing and heading a criminal organizationandrdquo and the andldquoacquisition, publication and destruction of confidential documents related to state security.

andrdquo He is the only one who has been arrested for being part of this so-called criminal organization. When it comes to andldquoconfidential documents,andrdquo the prosecutor is referring to a suitcase full of documents that led to the initiation of the Sledgehammer investigation and trial in which military personnel were among those accused of planning a coup.

If you follow current events in Turkey, you may know that there has been a serious debate about whether some of the evidence in the case, particularly some of the CDs, was fabricated. This discussion has even led some to argue that no plans for a coup ever existed.

However, some undisputed evidence, such as private audio recordings between military personnel, clearly showed that at least some of those investigated were making serious plans to stage a coup — talking about how they would arrest people, where they would put them and so on. If some evidence is not substantiated, has been distorted or has even been fabricated, that evidence should be taken out of the case files and those responsible should be held accountable for falsifying evidence.

Even if some evidence has been fabricated in this case, what does that have to do with a journalist? Baransu was the one who obtained these documents from an unknown source. He published them first and later delivered them to the prosecutors, which resulted in the Sledgehammer case.

It is hard to understand how they justify the arrest of Baransu. When they say andldquoillegally acquired documents,andrdquo you may get the impression that Baransu himself sneaked into the General Staff and stole these documents.

However, when we look at the questions the judge asked Baransu, we clearly see that they are trying to ascertain who delivered these documents to him In other words, they are trying to force Baransu to identity his source.Journalists cannot be coerced into declaring their sources.

Their right to conceal the identity of sources is one of the fundamental prerequisites of journalismThe second is that you cannot accuse journalists of revealing state secrets. Safeguarding of the state secrets is obviously the duty of the state.

The third issue is the question of how documents related to an alleged coup attempt can be labeled andldquoconfidential documents related to state security.andrdquo It is claimed that Baransu not only obtained the documents relating to the alleged coup but also other documents related to the tactics and strategies of the military.

As far as I know, no such documents have ever been published by the Taraf daily and even if they were published, it could not be a crime.The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) says in countless decisions that media and press act as a public watchdog.

It is obvious that there is tremendous confusion in this regard in Turkey. The government thinks journalists should not play the role of public watchdog, but should instead be the watchdog of the state and play the role of servants to the government.

Nowadays, defying this role assigned by the government may land you in jail.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman