Saturday, April 21, 2007


"The Security organs of the State are buttressing the Gray Wolves and through the tolerance of the government, army and bureaucracy, fascism has been growing in Turkey in the last thirty years. Otherwise, how could in our days three million Kurds be uprooted with such ease from their homes and villages and be deported? We have to learn from history and avoid denying the past tragedies, which should cause shame in us. Otherwise, history is bound to repeat itself."
~ Ragip Zarakolu, Ulkede Gundem, 1997.

The recent murders of Christian publishers in Malatya are examples of the extreme forms of censorship to which the Turkish state has had recourse throughout its history, particularly since the September 12 coup. In light of this tradition of extreme censorship, it might be appropriate to discuss another publisher and his battles with the Ankara regime.

Ragip Zarakolu is one of those brave and noble Turks who has stood for justice since 1968 when he began writing. With the military coup of 1971, he began his long history of persecution by the Turkish state. At that time, he was tried and imprisoned for having "secret" relations with that well-known subversive organization, Amnesty International.

With his wife Aysenur Zarakolu, he founded Belge Publishing House in 1977. Together with Aysenur, through Belge, he published writings that other publishing houses would not have touched with the proverbial ten-foot pole, especially after the September 12 coup, writings about minorities in Turkey, the Armenian Genocide, the Kurdish situation, and the impunity of the state in its terrorism against the people. In 1986, he joined with others as one of the founding members of the Human Rights Association (IHD), which has had a number of incredibly courageous human beings associated with it such as Akin Birdal, Eren Keskin, and Osman Baydemir.

[Note: Sadly, Aysenur Zarakolu, a lion in her own right for justice and freedom, passed away in early 2002 from cancer. She should be remembered as the freedom-fighter she was.]

For more on Ragip's life, check American PEN, English PEN, and Wikipedia, at least for the moment.

Ragip has also been closely associated with Ozgur Gundem for many years. In this regard, Ragip has the following to say (from Peace in Kurdistan Campaign):

Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 13:02:35 -0400

Subject: my newspaper were closed

Dear Friends,

Kurdish and oposition press went under the pressures of militarism in Turkey. Newspapers were closed, editors were arrested.

I am writing for 16 years for Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem (Free Agenda) for human and minority rights, Armenian Genocide, inpunity of the state and freedom of expression.

I could not write any more during last 2 months because of bannings and closures. It is sad, because I could write there under the de facto war conditions after 1991.

Ozgur Gundem is the first newspaper, which dared to speak about Armenian Genocide, every 24th April, during last 10 years.

This year I prepared a serie "Armenian Genocide in German Documents, around Trabizond Region" for Ozgur Gundem, in memoriam Hirant Dink. Now I don't know where I can give it.

Now I lost my newspaper. And I am at the black list of Turkish main stream media, because I wrote on minorities, Armenian Genocide and Kurdish question.


Ragip Zarakolu

An attachment to the email describes the situation of Ozgur Gundem, and other newspapers in Turkey, today:

Newspapers' Situation in Turkey

It is known that freedom of press, which is one of the indispensable indications of democracy, has a close relationship with freedom of thought/expression as well as right to get news. It is an undeniable reality that implementation level of freedom of press, which has formed its universal principles through years, represents level of freedom in a country. In this context, policies within "security" perspectives, prohibitions (embargo) of publications, pressures/interventions within different levels, legal arrangements that make these interventions, which have been implemented during recent months, easier against newspapers in Turkey should be discussed. All of these interventions cause anti-democratic results. Indeed, serious violations against freedom of press and thought still continue in Turkey.

Number of publications, which subjected to decisions that restrict thought/expression and violate right to get news-information, are higher than past. Such a panorama is the Turkey's shame for democracy. In this respect implementations against Gündem (Agenda) Newspaper, during the last, month are enough to describe to the situation of newspapers in Turkey.

In its fifth day our newspaper, which started on 17th January 2007, was suspended for one month. There are 10 court cases and against the newspaper. Moreover; there are investigations against its 30 issues. After one month suspension, the newspaper restarted to publish, however; just after two days the newspaper was suspended once again for one month. All of these incidents are little samples of serious situation of newspaper in Turkey. Violation of freedom of press, which is sine qua non condition of sustainability of democratic life, through these open and absolute censorships implementations is shelving the projects in democracy process. Political character of legal grounds harms independent law mentality that based on rights and freedoms.

The summary table, which represents censorships-pressures even suspensions against Gündem and other newspapers have similar publishing policy, is enough to realize the situation clearly. Other newspapers, which subjected to pressures and censorships in recent months are the following; Yaşamda Gündem (Agenda in the Life), Güncel (The Temporary) and Azadiya Welat (Free Country).

Gündem Newspaper is suspended for one month


Gündem Newspaper is suspended for one month by two separate decisions by the 13th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul. The court reviews the application by Deputy-President of Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office and decides for one month suspension in accordance with Law on Press numbered 5287 and its article 25. The court shows the news, on 2nd March 2007, about poisoning of Ocalan as reason of the sentence. In its second decision of sentence; the court decides sentence to suspension, once again, for one month in accordance with Law on Press numbered 5287 and its article 25. The court shows the newspaper's issue dated 5th March 2007 as reason for sentence. Therefore; the same court gives two separate suspension sentences by showing the same law as reason in one day. In its decision statement, the court makes a political comment as the following: "in order to keep sustainability of democratic life in the society, intervention becomes necessary".

Gündem Newspaper is closed once again

09th April 2007

Gündem Newspaper, which was closed by 13th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul for one month by its decision dated 6th March 2007, restarted to publishing on 7th April 2007. However, Gündem Newspaper was closed, at this time by 11th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul, just after two days for 15 days. The Court shows almost every news, some advertisements and articles, which published on the issues dated 7th and 8th April 2007, as reasons for the closure decision. Advertisements, which published by Gündem Newspaper in the issued date 07th April 2007, on commemoration and marching to Amara (village of Abdullah Ocalan), to celebrate the birthday of Abdullah Ocalan, are some of the reasons for closure that given by 11th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul. Moreover; the news (again in the same issue 7th April 2007), which is statements by Ocalan, who made them in the meeting with his lawyer in Imrali Prison, are considered as "propaganda of PKK/Kongra Gel". Another reason for closure decision belongs to the news, of Newspaper's issue dated 8th April 2007, which is the continuation of Ocalan's statement. In the same issue Ali Haydar Kaytan's article, whose title is "barışa götürecek yol" (path that will bring peace), is showed another reason for closure. The court shows also commemoration advertisements as reasons for closure. The court, in accordance with numbered 5187 Press Law and its article 25/2, decides to confiscation and prohibition of selling/distribution of Gündem Newspaper's issued dated 7th-8th April 2007. Moreover; the court, in accordance with numbered 3713 The Prevention of Terrorism Act and its article 6/the last one, decided to suspension of Gündem Newspaper for 15 days, which begins at the 08.04.2007.

Immediate Censorship against Yaşamda Gündem (Agenda in the Life)

Mr. Zekeriya Ay, Public Prosecutor of Istanbul, orders confiscation for Yaşamda Gündem, which starts on 9th March 2007, issue dated 9th March 2007 (the day when it starts) to Istanbul Security Directorate on Security Unit (İstanbul Emniyeti Güvenlik Şube Müdürlüğü). Prosecutor Mr. Ay violates law by making decision to confiscation even the unpublished issues of the newspaper. The prosecutor makes decision arguing that Yaşamda Gündem Newspaper is the continuation Gündem Newspaper, which was suspended for one month at the 6th March 2007. Mr. Özcan Kılıç, lawyer of the newspaper, considers the implementation that based on arbitrary interpretation-thoughts as an "open censorship" and appeals the decision. Mr. Ahmet Abakay, President of Contemporary Journalists' Association (Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği) underlines the decision is contrary to national and international arrangements. Mr. Abakay states "the decision is shame of Turkey".

Distribution Censorship against Güncel (the Temporary) Newspaper by Merkez Distribution Company


Merkez Distribution Company, which is one of the big newspaper distribution companies, announces that it will not distribute the Güncel Newspaper, which starts on 19th March 2007, and Azadiya Welat the only Kurdish daily Newspaper in Turkey. Merkez Distribution Company stops the distribution, which continues for 7 months, on 21st March 20007 and requests information from Security General Directorate about distribution of Güncel Newspaper. The Company authorities announce that they will not distribute the newspaper till they get response from the Security General Directorate. It is argued that Security General Directorate orders not to distribute newspapers, which publish news related with Kurds. Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği (Contemporary Journalists' Association) considers 'censorship of distribution', which implemented by Merkez Distribution, as "an indication of police state mentality's placement into institutions".

15 Days Suspension against Güncel (Temporary) Newspaper


Güncel Newspaper, which started on 19th March 2007 and was not distributed by the distribution company, published just during 12 days. The 13th Heavy Penal Court of Istanbul sentenced to Güncel (Temporary) Newspaper for 15 days suspension that started at the 30th March 20007. The sentence is given in accordance with TCK (Turkish Penal Code) 215 and 3713 articles. "Propaganda of organization" is showed as the reason of the sentence.

Azadiya Welat is sentenced to suspension for 20 days


Azadiya Welat Newspaper, which is the only Kurdish daily newspaper in Turkey, is sentenced to suspension after its distribution was blocked. The 5th Heavy Penal Court of Diyarbakir sentences Azadiya Welat Newspaper to suspension for 20 days. The sentence is given in accordance with the Prevention of Terrorism Act numbered 3713 and its article 6. and the paragraph 5; "making propaganda of organization".

Attachment 2: General brief about implementations of censorships-pressures that Gündem Newspaper and other similar newspapers have faced during the 17 years and also samples of double standards against these newspapers.


Tradition of Gundem Newspaper, which decides/adopts its publishing policy as opposition and free newspaper process, has established 17 newspapers for 17 years. This tradition gives voice to an important witness through openly publishing realities of Turkey and in terms of freedom of the press/expression; represents an important historical period because of the pressures that faced. All of the 17 newspapers has faced suspensions, seize, confiscations, censorships and some similar pressures and also many of its employees have been killed during this 17 years period. Such practises are often seen during 1990s, however; we can argue the circumstances are same in the March of 2007. Actually; there is no during these long years. From 1st to 31st March the publications of Gündem (Agenda), Yaşamda Gündem (Agenda in the Life), Güncel (the Contemporary) and Azadiya Welat (Free Country) were suspended, many court cases opened against them and their distribution were blocked.

As Apê Musa, who is one of the veterans of the tradition and killed in this difficult struggle, says that Gundem tradition continues to become witness and accused of Turkey.

Tradition of Gundem starts with Halk Gerçeği (Truth of People) and Yeni Ülke (New Country), which are weekly magazines, in 1990s that armed conflict also on the increase. Publishing policy of Gundem is built up to decipher of pressures by the Turkish State, extrajudicial killings, burning of villages, similar human rights violations and to defend the democratic solution of Kurdish problem. Actually, in 1990s anybody could not dare to reveal these pressures by the State.

Pressures against Gundem Newspaper, which is the voice of opposite groups, also occurs just after the a few issues of the first newspaper of Gundem tradition. It can be said that murder of Cengiz Altun, correspondent of Yeni Ülke (New Country), is the starting point of pressures. Yeni Ülke is one of the important components (newspaper) of Gundem tradition. 26 correspondents, journalists and distributors, who work for the newspapers of Gundem tradition, are murdered in the period of 1990-1995.

Bomb attack to the Newspaper

Pressure policy against Gundem tradition becomes serious, intense between 1992 and 1995. During this period newspapers and magazines are seized, offices are raided; employees are taken into custody, subjected to torture and arrested. According to indefinite numbers just during this period; DGMs (State Security Court) make decisions to seize 443 publishing issues and to close down of 67 publications. Some of the newspapers, which are closed down by DGM, are; Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda), Özgür Ülke (Free Country), Yeni Politika (New Politics), Demokrasi (Democracy) and Ülkede Gündem (Agenda in the Country). Moreover; the main centre in Istanbul and two offices of Özgür Ülke, which is subjected to the most serious pressures are bombed, on 4th December 1994, by the command of Ms. Tansu Çiller that is the Prime Minister of the period.

Censorships of Page(s) in 1995

The publishing of the Newspapers cannot be blocked despite the all of pressures. Then censorship is applied to newspapers, subsequently; the newspapers are published with censored pages. Yeni Politika, which starts on 13th April 1995, has to publish its news, articles, photos, advertisements and caricatures with writing "It is censored" because of the censorships by public prosecutors of DGM.

Daily censorships starts

Ülkede Gündem, which starts on 7th July 1997, is also subjected to censorships applications. During the period, on which the newspaper is published its 57 correspondents and 10 distributors are taken into custody and subjected to torture. 278 court cases are opened against the newspaper and sentenced to suspension for 302 days. The newspaper's 125 news, 63 articles, 9 photos and 14 advertisements are censored. At the end, Ülkede Gündem is closed down by DGM decision on 23rd October 1998.

Prohibition of OHAL (Emergency State Governorship)

As its predecessors; entrance of Özgür Bakış (Free View), which starts on 18th April 1999, to OHAL region is prohibited. Confiscation decision is made against 22 issues of total 93 issues of Özgür Bakış newspaper. There are also many court cases against the newspaper. Moreover; arrest decision is given against the newspaper's editor, whose name is Hasan Deniz, on 4th June 1999. The editor is charged with the article 169 that is about "assisting and supporting an organization". Tradition of free newspaper continues with Yeni Gündem (New Agenda) in 2000. As a result of pressures, confiscations and OHAL prohibitions; this newspaper is closed down in 2001.

List of the newspapers, which established after Yeni Gündem, are in the following:

Yedinci Gündem (Seventh Agenda): Yedinci Gündem is published weekly between 23rd June 2001 and 30th August 2002. Newspaper's entrance to OHAL region is prohibited. It has 60 issues. The newspaper is sentenced to suspension for 15 days and its responsible editor is sentenced to money penalty whose amount is over 6 billions TL in total.

Yeniden Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda once Again): It starts on 2nd September 2002 and ends 28th February 2004. The newspaper is sentenced to suspension for 4 days during its 545 days period. Its editor is sentenced to imprisonment for 25 months and its license holder is sentenced to money penalty whose amount is 478 billions TL. There are 315 court cases against the newspaper.

Record numbers of court files

Ülkede Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda in the Country): The newspaper starts on 1st March 2004 and ends 16th November 2006. There are over 600 court cases against its responsible editor, some journalists and correspondents grounding different reasons. In total 102 resulted court cases that resulted in sentence; totally 344.964 YTL money penalty is given and Hasan Bayar, who is responsible editor, is sentenced to 15 years-11 months-10 days imprisonment. It is interesting that the second suspension decision, against Ülkede Özgür Gündem, is made 6 days later after Staff of General Yaşar Büyükanıt's statement: "its publications should not be permitted". Lastly, 120.000 YTL money penalties are given against Ülkede Özgür Gündem and Toplumsal Demokrasi (Social Democracy) under the 4 different courts of files. Moreover; Özlem Aktan, who is the responsible editor of Ülkede Özgür Gündem, is sentenced to one year imprisonment.

Toplumsal Demokrasi: the newspaper starts after Ülkede Özgür Gündem, which is sentenced to suspension, on 8th August 2006. After a short period Toplumsal Demokrasi stops its publication and restarts on 16th November 2007. At this time, Toplumsal Demokrasi is published for two months and during this short period there are many court cases against the newspaper. Toplumsal Demokrasi closes down itself on 5th January 2007.

Gündem (Agenda): It starts on 17th January 2007 and is published for 50 days. Gündem is suspended for a month on 6th March 2007. The suspension decision is given grounding news on poisoning Ocalan. Court give two different decisions for one month suspension in the same day. Actually, the two decisions on the same issue by the same court is considered as law scandal. There are also many investigations and court cases against the newspapers.
Yaşamda Gündem (Agenda in the life): It starts on 9th March 2007 but is published only for 3 days. Yaşamda Gündem is confiscated grounding that it is the continuation of Gündem newspaper. Actually, the confiscation decision is the one that has never seen. In accordance with censorship; it is decided that Yaşamda Gündem's probable forthcoming issues also will be confiscated.

Güncel (Contemporary): It starts on 19th March 2007 and is published for 12 days. Güncel is sentenced to suspension for 15 days. There is a new point in this suspension sentence. In the context of suspension the statement "Leader of Kurdish People" is regarded as crime however it is not regarded as crime until that time.


The newspapers, which are the successors of Gundem tradition that starts in 1990s, break grounds in the field of news. All methods are practiced to stop these newspapers. The newspapers, which are targeted by the army or the government authorities, are subjected to double standards as well as censorships.

* In a panel; Umur Talu, who is the journalist of Sabah Newspaper, states that his articles might be reason for closing down if he writes in Gündem, but; it is not problem since he writes in Sabah newspaper.

* In 19th July 2005; İlker Başbuğ, Vice-president of General Staff, targeted Ülkede Özgür Gündem Newspaper in a 3 hours briefing to the journalists that shape Turkish media.

* 10th November; Yaşar Büyükanıt, President of General Staff, implying with Ülkede Özgür Gündem states that "PKK's Daily Newpapers are being published. These should not be permitted". After the 6 days; the newspaper is sentenced to suspension for 15 days.

* 11th June 2006; In his speech at the General Assembly of Gazeteciler Cemiyeti (Union of Journalists) Cemil Çiçek, Minister of Justice, targeted openly Ülkede Özgür Gündem. Cemil Çiçek says "This newspaper should be stopped" with identifying the newspaper as "paper rag".

* There is decision, which states publishing statements of Murat Karayılan Executive Committee President of KKK (Democratic Confederation of Kurdistan) as news is not a crime, by ECHR and there is a sentence against Turkey regarding with this issue. On the other hand; courts continue practises that are contrary to the decision ECHR. In the court cases, which opened because of the statements by Murat Karayılan, license holder and editor of Ülkede Özgür Gündem and Toplumsal Demokrasi is sentenced to money penalties whose amounts are 120.000 YTL. In this context; the responsible editor is sentenced to one year heavy imprisonment.

* Ülkede Özgür Gündem newspaper makes speech of Mehmet Ağar Leader of DYP (True Path Party) headlines of the newspaper. Mehmet Ağar makes his speech at Habertürk TV on 13th November 2006. Although there is not any process against the TV Channel, the speech is used as reason for 15 days suspension of Ülkede Özgür Gündem.

* 30 October 2006; Ülkede Özgür Gündem newspaper publishes news, whose title is "Life story of a Swiss guerrilla is being recorded as documentary". The same news is published with the same photo under the title of "A Swiss in the PKK's Camps". Ülkede Özgür Gündem newspaper is sentenced to suspension for 15 days grounding the news, though there is not any court cases against the Hürriyet newspaper.

* Nokta, a weekly magazine, publishes news about newspapers that belong to Gündem tradition. After Güncel newspaper uses the news, an investigation is opened against the newspaper.

* In 1995 ANKA news agency makes news the interview of Ocalan to Med TV. Yeni Politika (New Politics) newspaper is subjected to censorship since it publishes the mentioned news by ANKA. The newspaper reveals the double standard with the title of "Special Censor against our Newspaper" in its issue of 23rd April 1995.

* Cumhuriyet (Republic) Newspaper publishes news under the title "Kurdistan Parliament Condemns" in its issue of 15th April 1995 and there is no process against the newspaper. After one day; Yeni Politika publishes the same news as Cumhuriyet publishes, but the former is confiscated. The newspaper reveals this situation under the headline "Scandal".

* A confiscation decision is made against Yeni Politika newspaper since it publishes news under the title "Pope said dialogue" in 18th April 1995. On the other hand; there are no process against Hürriyet (Freedom) and Milliyet (Nationality) newspapers, which publish the same news under the title "Pray for Kurds by Pope" (Hürriyet) and "Call for Kurds by Pope" (Milliyet).

* Yeni Politika newspaper is confiscated because of its news that is taken from BBC and whose title is "Complete Support for Kurds by Kaddafi". The same news are used also by many other newspapers.

* Yeni Politika newspaper is confiscated since the newspaper publishes an article by Ahmet Altan. The title of the article is "Atakürt" and published by Milliyet a few days ago.

* Yeni Politika newspaper is confiscated since it publishes news, which is done by Reuters, under the title "Call for interview by PKK Leader Abdullah Ocalan to Germany".

* Censorships against the newspapers are practiced also in distribution. Distribution companies that are not willing to distribute newspapers, which belong to Gundem tradition, are lastly seen in their attitudes against Güncel newspaper that starts on 19th March 2007. Merkez Dağıtım, which belongs to Sabah Group, states that it will distribute Günceş newspaper in accordance with the permission, which it gets from General Directorate of Security, otherwise it will not distribute the newspaper. Actually such a decision does not have any legal grounds. Then, the distribution decides not to distribute Güncel Newspaper.

So, now you know which newspapers have a history of speaking the truth. You might want to think about that the next time you go searching for news.

By the way, Ozgur Gundem has a list and photos of HPG's şehîds from this past week during TSK's operations in Dersim and Şirnex.

Şehîd namirin!

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