Saturday, April 21, 2007



Ragıp Zarakolu

Chair of Freedom to Publish Committee of Turkish Publishers Association. Executive member of International PEN’s Turkish Section

In Memoriam Hrant Dink, the courageous defender of freedom of expression

2006 was one of the least succesful years for freedom of expression and publishing and unfortunately things are continuing into 2007. Perhaps the most disheartening of these developments is the level of violence that has crept into the system and the fact that these groups that are bringing about this violence have also started affecting the Judiciary. The murder of Hrant Dink this year proved only tragically to the government, the judiciary and the press that it has to be very cautious about allowing those who express different thoughts and supports different view to be targeted. January started with cases filed against Taner Akcam and Aydin Ergin and the government has refused to alter article 301 of the penal code and all of these early developments in are indicators that 2007 is going to problematic in terms of freedon of expression and publishing.

Although things had seemed to be getting better during the previous 2 years concerning the question of the freedom to publish, the current year has seen an aggravation. The reason behind the earlier improvement was, of course, the willingness of the government to comply with EU demands. But unfortunately it did not continue.

According to data provided by the Ministry of the Interior, 290 books were confiscated between 2000-2006. In the aftermath of the recent amendments in the law, the ban on 49 of these have been lifted, while 241 continue to be banned.

According to the data of Independent Communication Network BIA, last year 293 writers, journalists, publishers, intellectuals, translators and human rights activists had to face the Courts because of their expressions. Last year this number was 157.

According to the data of Initiative for Freedom of Expression, there were 59 acquittals for 172 trials of last year; 15 convictions and the other files were at the Appeal Court. On the base of Article 301 of TPC, there were 72 trials; and there were 20 acquittals, 8 convictions. On the base of Article 312 of TPC, 35 trials were going on and there were 21 acquittals, 3 convictions.

According to the data of Platform for Journalists in Prison, editors and correspondent of opposition press are prison during 2006.

During last year, 25 publishing houses, 42 writers, 5 translators and 45 books were prosecuted. 10 of these court cases ended in acquittals, another 13 in convictions, while 5 were dismissed. The trials for the remaining 17 are pending.

Bans on books have become rare since October 2004. However, books, writers and publishers are still prosecuted on grounds of “defamation”, “denigration”, “obscenity”, “separatism”, “subversion”, “fundamentalism” and “blasphemy”. In addition, a negative development is that translators will be held responsible for the books they have translated. However, publishers’ legal liability continues regarding only the books whose author lives abroad.

Unfortunately, the new Turkish Criminal Code, which has received the seal of approval of the EU, has provided new avenues for the prosecution of writers and publishers. Warnings to this end by the Publishers Union, as well associations of writers and of journalists, before the passing of the law went unheeded. The greatest damage was done to the democratic reforms, which were geared to the process of harmonization with the EU. One of the tragic developments during this past year is undoubtedly the trying of translators. During this past year writers, reporters and publishers were faced with violence from ultra nationalist groups in addition to their trials. [emphasis of this paragraph: Mizgîn's]

Certain developments this year are also of a novel nature. The Publishers Union’s right to represent Turkey at the Frankfurt Book fair was taken away and handed over to a group with political and ideological biases.


The most striking feature of this new period is an explosion in the number of cases started against writers, journalists and publishers as a result of complaints filed by ideologically motivated circles. These cases were based on the grounds of “defaming Turkishness, the Turkish Armed Forces, the Republic, the memory of Ataturk etc.” Many convictions were handed down in these cases.

More serious still, Orhan Pamuk, Perihan Magden, Murat Belge, Ismet Berkan, Hasan Cemal, Elif Safak and other writers and journalists were attacked physically before or after the hearings. Elif Safak, along with her publisher Semih Sokmen of Metis Yayinlari, has recently been added to the list of writers of international fame prosecuted as a result of such ideologically motivated complaints for “defaming Turkishness”. (Elif Safak was acquitted, but violence again accompanied during the hearings.) On the basis of these complaints, the courts are being transformed into a platform for a chauvinistic ideological group. Concerning these cases, it must be said that the Ministry of Justice has not risen to the task of guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary. This situation should be compared to the fact that a plethora of complaints regarding violations of human rights have constantly gone unheeded by public prosecutors. Had public prosecutors not taken these ideologically motivated complaints seriously and not prosecuted the writers in question, the impact of this small but cantankerous group would have dwindled to insignificance. ( And more tragically, at the end of the hate speeches of ultra-nationalist groups, which based on these provocative trials, the courageous defender of civil rights, Hrant Dink was killed 19th January.)

On the other hand, many writers who criticized these cases were themselves prosecuted for “attempting to influence the course of trials pending”. Some of the cases on such charges were thrown out, while Hirant Dink, editor-in-chief of Armenian language weekly Agos, his son Arat Dink, Serkis Seropyan and Aydin Engin were prosecuted on these grounds. They had to face attempted violence and insult from a chauvinistic group during the hearings.

Altogether 12 journalist were accused “to intervene in justice”, as a result of complaints fired by ultra-nationalist groups. But nearly all of them were acquitted. But there is a conviction for Ilhan Selcuk, of Cumhuriyet daily, because of a news about the torture.


The current year has seen an increase in the number of cases against the press. Bans were imposed once again after a respite on the dailies Birgun, Evrensel and Ozgur Gundem. Lastly Kaos GL,review of gays and lesbians, was banned.

A total of 530 cases have been filed against Ozgur Gundem and its editors. Of these 104 resulted in convictions and 22 in acquittals. The owner of the daily was sentenced to an overall fine of 192,755 new Turkish lira (approximately 125 thousand US dollars). The editor legally responsible was sentenced to a prison term of over 15 years, and was also fined a total of 134 thousand New Turkish Liras (around 90 thousand US dollars).

ıEditors and correspondents of the daily Cumhuriyet, including Ilhan Selcuk, owner of the newspaper and famous columnist, were convicted for a news article titled “Acquittal for Torture”. Journalists of establishment daily Hurriyet are being tried on charges of violating article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law. Huseyin Aykol, of Ozgur Gundem and Memik Horuz, of Isci-Koylu were tried with the same reason, “to interview the Kurdish guerillas." Mehmet Ali Birand, a famous anchor and show host, is in court under the same charges for having interviewed the attorneys of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK. The same charges were levelled against Nese Duzel of the daily Radikal for her interview with former Kurdish MP Orhan Dogan. Ahmet Kahraman, a journalist in exile was accused also, because of his book, ‘Kurdish Rebelions” with editor of Evrensel Publishing, Ms. Songul Ozkan.

Writer Emin Karaca was convicted for defaming the army in an article on the military coup of 1971. A writ of arrest in absentia was aimed at co-author Dogan Ozguden, an old hand of Turkish journalism for the same article. A journalist of Turkish Daily News, an Istanbul English-language daily, was convicted for contempt of court.

The new Anti-Terror Law, with its extremely lax definition of offences and the authority to be accorded to public prosecutors to stop the publication of periodicals indefinitely, poses a potential threat to the freedom of expression, freedo of the press and the freedom to publish. Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem was closed for two months and the editors of Atilim weekly and Free Radio were arrested after new Anti-Terror Law passed. They were placed in isolation wards in Type-F Prisons. As a negative trand, the Criminal Courts began to trail again the books about socialist theory and practice in 2007, with the example of Ms. Songul Ozkan’s trial, editor of Evrensel Publishing House. She was accused under new Anti-Terror Law, because of the memories of a socialist worker, named Imran. It was the third edition of the book. And 2 earlier prints of the book were not accused.


A trend that had started earlier continued into the current year: the abuse of civil law for the purpose of restricting the freedoms of expression and of the press. When it is not a question of defaming a certain institution, the road chosen is to claim defamation of persons. Politicians are deemed above criticism. A series of professions (ranging from medical doctors to superintendents of buildings) have claimed to be insulted by works of fiction or TV shows. Many publishers were sentenced to heavy compensation and at least one of them had to close down his publishing house. There have been cases of writers being taken to court with a demand for compensation because of their criticism of another writer or journalist’s ideas.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself has resorted to the same methods against many criticisms. He took cartoonist Musa Kart of the daily Cumhuriyet to court for having depicted him as a cat entangled in a web of yarn. Another case filed against the very popular humoristic magazine Penguen for having depicted him in the form of various animals was rejected by the court. Overall 59 cases were filed on the grounds of defamation against the Prime Minister, of which 28 are still pending. Among the 31 cases already decided 21 rulings were in favor and 10 against Erdogan.

Michael Dickinson, a British cartoonist and lecturer was arrested and deported, because of his cartoon about Prime Minister Erdogan, which depicted the Prime Minister as President Bush’s dog.

The editor of Pencere Publishing House, Muzaffer Erdoğdu have been taken to court with a demand for compensation, because of the introduction written by Taner Akcam in the turkish edition of Blue Book concerning the Armenian Deportation in 1915, which was published by Erdogdu. Senator Sukru Ekedag accused Profesor Taner Akcam and the editor, for defaming his personality as deputy of Turkish Parliament.


Last year during the deliberations on the new Turkish Criminal Code, the Publishers’ Union drew attention to Article 301. Thi article stipulates up to three years of imprisonment for denigration of “Turkishness, the Republic, parliament the government, the judiciary, the armed forces or the police”.

Because of Article 301, 72 persons were tried last year.

For last ten years, books on the Armenian question had not been subjected to legal persecution, but within the current year new prosecutions have been started on this issue, connected with Article 301. To define Armenian deportation in 1915 as “genocide” may be viewed as “defaming Turkishness”. The first conviction on these grounds was handed down recently. Erhan Akay of the review Cagri was convicted to five months of prison for his article entitled “Time to Confront the Armenian Question After 90 Years”.


The moral integrity of Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic, is protected through a special law. Many cases have been fined during the current pastyear on the grounds of defaming of Ataturk. Even an Istanbul City Guide, prepared by Master Card, was prosecuted on theses grounds.

This is in fact in article 301 of the TPC, and the special law regarding the “defamation of Ataturk”, which formed the foundation for cases lanched against many writers, academics and publishers were prosecuted, including novelist Orhan Pamuk, the Armenian journalist Hirant Dink, Ibrahim Kaboglu and Baskin Oran, two professors who, as members of the Advisory Board of Human Rights at the Prime Minister’s Office, proposed reforms in the state’s attitude to the Kurdish question and minority rights, Halil Altindere, one of the curators of the Istanbul Biennial, Murat Pabuc, a retired army officer, Eren Keskin, vice-president of the Human Rights Association, Ragip Zarakolu, of Belge International Publishing House, Ahmet Onal, of Peri Publishing House, Fatih Tas, of Aram Publishing House, Rahmi Yildirim, a journalist, Erol Ozkoray, a journalist and author of Totalitarian Farm of Turkey, Fatih Tas, editor at Aram Publishing House, researcher Osman Tiftikci and his publisher Sirri Ozturk of Sorun Publishing House, Osman Pamukoğlu, a retired-General, the Iraq kurdish leader Mesut Barzani, EU commissioner and dutch MP Joost Lagendjik, sociologist Ismail Besikci, who received a great deal of attention for his researches on Kurdish situation , Karekin II, the Pope of Armenian Apostical Church, Michael Dickinson, a british cartoonist and lecturer, Ipek Calislar, author of Ataturk’s wife Latife Hanim, Abdullah Dilipak and Mehmet Sevki Eygi, both islamist journalists, Yalçın Ergündoğan and Ibrahim Cesmecioglu, editors of Birgun daily, Professor Attila Yayla, director of Liberal Thought Association, Belma Akçura, Cuneyt Arcayurek and Tuncay Ozkan, mainstream journalists, Perihan Magden and Elif Safak, novelists and essayists, Taner Akcam from Minnesota University ( in January 2007) and translator Attila Tuygan. A Greek novel by author Mara Meimaridis, “The Witches Of Smyrna” was also indicted under article 301. And editor Mehmet Ali Varış, of Tohum Publishing House was also convicted two times and sentenced 1 and half year to prison under article 301 and Defamation of Ataturk Law, like another Kurdish Publisher Ahmet Onal of Peri Publishing House.


In closing, we must stress even further the comment made in last year’s report. The new Turkish Criminal Code creates a potential threat to the freedoms of thought, expression, of the press and to the freedom to publish. The increase in the number of cases filed on the grounds of denigration of Turkishness, “public denigration of the armed forces”, and ”defamation of Ataturk” can be viewed as an indicator of this. Many articles of the Criminal Code must undergo comlete revision. Now, to this threat is added the dangers created by the new Anti-Terror Law. The ıprotection and enhancement of the freedom of expression is the duty of not only for the legislative branch of the political system, but also of the judiciary and executive branches.


Publishers Author Book

Aram Timur Şahan “İtirafçı/ Bir Jitemci Anlattı” (An Informer) …………

Aram Kayhan Adnut “Tufanda 33 Gün” / 33 Days in Deluge (Acquitted)

Aram Fatih Taş “Kayıpsın Diyorlar” (Convicted)
(They Told You are Missing)

Aram John Tirman “Savaş Ganimetleri”/Spoils of War (Acquitted)

Aram Noam Chomsky “ Kitle Medyasının Ekonomi Politiği” (Acquitted)
(Political Economy of Mass Media)

Aykırı Seyfi Öngider “İki Şehrin Hikayesi/ İstanbul-Ankara” (dismissed)
(Story of Two Cities / Istanbul and Ankara)

Belge George Jerjian “Gerçek Bizi Özgür Kılacak” …………
(Will Free All of Us)

Belge Dora Sakayan “Bir Ermeni Doktorun Yaşadıkları” …………
(Armenian Doctor in Turkey)

Belge Peter Balakian “Kaderin Kara Köpeği” (dismissed)
(Black Dog of the Fate)

Belge Zülküf Kışanak “Yitik Köyler” (Convicted)
(Lost Villages)

Bilge Karınca Cemal Anadol “İsrail ve Siyonizm Kıskacında Türkiye” (Acquitted)
(Turkey under the Yoke of Israel and Zionism)

Bora Derleme “Tecritte Yaşayanlar Anlatıyor” ………
(Testimonies from the Cells in Isolation)

Bora Senay Dönmez “Yaşatmak İçin Öldüler” ……….
(They Died to Keep Alive)

Doz Mesut Barzani “Barzani ve Özgürlük Hareketi” …………
(Barzani and Freedom)

Doz Mustafa Balbal “Ararat’taki Esir General” (Convicted)
(General Captived in Ararat)

Evrensel Ahmet Kahraman “Kürt İsyanları” …………
(Kurdish Rebelions)

Evrensel Zeynep Ozge “Imran, Bir Isyan Andi” …………
(Imran, A for the Rebelion)

Güncel Ersin Kalkan “Katille Buluşmak / Musa Anter Cinayeti” …………
(Appoinment with the Killer)

Güncel Belma Akçura “Derin Devlet Oldu Devlet” (Convicted)
(Deep State Became State)

İnkılap Osman Pamukoğlu “Unutulanlar Dışında Yeni Bir Şey Yok” …….
(There is Nothing to Tell, only the Fogottens)

İstanbul Bienali Halil Altıntepe “9. Bienal Kataloğu” ……………
(Catalog of Istanbul 9th Art Bienal)

Kaynak Muazzez İlmiye Çığ “Vatandaşlık Tepkilerim” (Acquitted)
(My Reactions as Citizen)

Literatür Mara Meimaradi “İzmir Büyücüleri / Witches Of Smyrna (Acquitted)

Mastercard Özlem İmece “İstanbul Şehir Rehberi/Istanbul’s City Guide” …….

Mektup Emine Şenlikoğlu “Burası Cezaevi /You are in Prison” (Convicted)

Merkez Yay. Perihan Mağden “Hangimiz Uğramadık ki Haksızlıklara” (Acquitted)
(None of Us were Free From Injustice)

Metis Elif Şafak “Baba ve Piç/Father and Bastard” (Acquitted)

Pencere Toynbee “Mavi Kitap / Blue Book” …………

Peri M. Erol Coşkun “Acının Dili Kadın” (Convicted)
(Woman as Tongue of Grief)

Peri Evin Çiçek “Tutkular ve Tutsaklar ” (Convicted)
(Passions and Captives)

ıPeri Hejare Şamil “Diaspora Kürtleri” …………
(Kurds in Diaspora)

Peri Munzur Cem “Dersim’de Alevilik” (Convicted)
(Alewi Belief in Dersim Region)

Peri Mahmut Baksi “Teyre Baz / Hüseyin Baybaşin” (Convicted)
(A Kurdish Businessman)

Peri Hejare Şamil “Öcalan’ın Moskova Güleri” (dismissed)
(Ocalan’s Days in Moskow)

Say Yalçın Pekşen “The Türkler” (dismissed)
(The Turks)

Sel Metin Üstündağ “Pazar Sevişgenleri” (Acquitted)
(Making Love Sundays)

Sel Enis Batur “Elma / Apple” (Acquitted)

Sol Murat Pabuç “Boyalı Bank Nöbetini Terk Etmek” (Dismissed)
(To Leave Guarding Painted Bench)

Sorun Osman Tiftikçi "Osmanlı'dan Günümüze Ordunun Evrimi" ………..
(Evolution of Turkish Army)

Sorun Talat Turan “Mehmet Eymur, Bir MIT’cinin Portresi” (Convicted)
(Portrait of an MIT Agent)

Tohum Mehmet Ali Varış “Kuzey Batı Dersim: Koçgiri” (Convicted)
(North West of Kurdish Region Dersim)

Tohum Mehmet Ali Varış “Kemalizm” (Convicted)

Tohum Aytekin Yılmaz “Çok Kültürlülükten Tek Kültürlülüğe Anadolu” ……..
(Anatolia from Multiculturalism to Mono Cultur)

Sweden Publ. Astid Lingrens “Pippi” (Kurdish edition) (Confiscated at Post)

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