P24 starts solidarity visits to imprisoned journalists at Silivri, publishes their letters

Ok met with Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar, the daily’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul, Taraf columnist Mehmet Baransu, Nokta magazine Editor-in-Chief Cevheri Guven and Nokta Managing Editor Murat Capan on Wednesday.

In his article, published on platform24.org, Ok stated that he cannot remember how many times he has been to Silivri Prison, saying: “I found myself coming here several times after a number of Kurdish journalists were arrested in operations linked to the Kurdistan Communities Union [KCK]. Unfortunately, Turkey hasn’t changed and journalists still get arrested for reporting the news.” The KCK is an umbrella organization that encompasses the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organization.

“My visit to the journalists began with Erdem Gul. Erdem came to the visiting area with a smile. We greeted and hugged each other. He was strong and cheerful. While this was a lawyer visit for him, we did not discuss rights at all. We were both aware that what is happening is something that cannot be explained by law, so we chatted and talked about journalism. ‘The law can wait, conversation is important,’ Erdem Gul wrote in my notebook,” Ok shared.

In his letter, Gul wrote: “We are rookies in prison. Neither Can nor I have experience being here. I am familiar with the walls of a prison, as my father was imprisoned in the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup. [Ok] came to visit us. We plan to have a discussion on legal issues but that might wait a while. A discussion [on life] is more important. I feel comfortable. Nowadays, being in prison is safer than being outside. I am concerned for those who are outside.”

Dundar also described his feelings in a letter he wrote: “I have tasted the poison that all journalists will finally taste. It is part of our career… I do not have many complaints at the moment, except [that I cannot read] P24. I hope to be released as soon as possible.”

Guven mentioned the allegedly unlawful rulings of the Penal Courts of Peace, formed in 2014, which, since their establishment, have made many controversial verdicts on critical voices against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

“The gears of these courts are continuing to devour and engulf journalists with each passing day, amid useless efforts to get rid of them. There is no possibility of estimating how much further this cruelty may go on for. Still, they have no power to squash or knock down those brave and independent journalists,” Guven said in his letter.

On Thursday, journalists Pelin Batu and Bulent Mumay became the latest prominent figures to take their turn in the “Wait for Hope,” a continuous protest outside the prison in which friends and high-profile supporters of the Cumhuriyet daily’s arrested editors conduct consecutive vigils.

In a statement to those present, Batu said Turkey is in the league of “worst countries” in terms of press freedom and has a record similar to underdeveloped countries like Afghanistan.

“Dundar and Gul have been in prison for 15 days. However, there are many other imprisoned journalists beside them. The number has surpassed that of both Russia and Iran. It is a real source of shame for Turkey. Both Dundar and Gul are good friends of mine as we worked together at Cumhuriyet for years. I have a lot of respect for both of them. There are other journalists who have been in prison for years and whose names we don’t even know. We cannot even hear about Kurdish journalists who have been jailed. It’s a situation that we all should be ashamed of,” Batu noted.

Veteran journalist Hasan Cemal wrote a letter to Dundar and Gul in his column on P24 on Wednesday and said, “Those dictators will not stay in power forever.”

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal said on Thursday many journalists are in prison for simply doing their job. Taking the floor in Parliament, Tanal said, “Turkey is among the worst countries in terms of the number of journalists in prison.”

Meanwhile, journalist Tuncay Ozkan tweeted on Thursday that Dundar and Gul, who are being held in separate cells, will be allowed to stay in the same cell in the coming days. Ozkan stated that he recently met with Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag to ask for this.