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On 23 December, 36 journalists were remanded in custody on the allegation of membership of the KCK terrorist organisation. In this article, which appeard in Radikal on 25 December 2011, columnist Yıldırım Türker describes his reactions as he looks at the pictures of two young journalists included among those detained. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton.

  • LIST OF ALL OF THE JOURNALISTS WHO WERE REMANDED IN CUSTODY ON 23 DECEMBER: Ramazan Pekgöz (Editor of DIHA -Diyarbakır), Mazlum Özdemir (DIHA reporter-Diyarbakır), Fatma Koçak (Editor in Chief, DIHA -Istanbul), Kenan Kırkaya (DIHA Ankara Correspondent-Ankara), Sadık Topaloğlu (DIHA reporter-Urfa), Semiha Alankuş (Editor of DIHA -Diyarbakır), Çağdaş Kaplan (DIHA reporter-Istanbul), Ömer Çelik (DIHA reporter-Istanbul), Zuhal Tekiner (DIHA Accountant-Istanbul), Zeynep Kuray (reporter for Birgün Daily Newspaper and ANF), Nahide Ermiş (Member of Editorial Board of monthly Özgür Halk and Demokratik Modernite ), Berxwedan Yaruk (Staffer of Demokratik Modernite), Davut Uçar (Manager of Etik Agency), Ömer Çiftçi (Licencee of Demokratik Modernite Monthly Magazine), Hüseyin Deniz (Reporter for Evrensel daily), İsmail Yıldız (former reporter of DIHA), Dilek Demirel (Izmir), Sibel Güler (Former employee of the daily Özgür Gündem), Cihan Albay, Ertuş Bozkurt (Former employee of Fırat Distribution), Çağdaş Ulus (Reporter of Vatan daily), Nevin Erdemir (Employee of the daily Özgür Gündem), Nurettin Fırat (Commentator of the daily Özgür Gündem), Ayşe Oyman (Özgür Gündem), Yüksel Genç (Özgür Gündem), Çiğdem Aslan, Oktay Candemir (Former employee of DIHA), Ziya Çiçekçi (Publisher and Managing Editor and Licensee of Özgür Gündem), Haydar Tekin (Former employee of Fırat Distribution), Safiye Torman (Demokratik Modernite Dergisi Van employee), Selahattin Aslan (Demokratik Modernite employee), İrfan Bilgiç (Former staffer of Fırat Distribution), Şeyhmus Fidan (Fırat Distribution Staffer Istanbul), M. Emin Yıldırım (Chief Editor Azadiya Welat daily Kurdish Newspaper), Cihan Albay, Saffet Orman.

Zeynep, Çağdaş and the others

YILDIRIM TÜRKER

Both Zeynep and Çağdaş give me security. The other detained journalists are ready witnesses.

Sooner or later, their turn was sure to come. Come it did. These are young people who are hard-working to the point of stubbornness, passionate to the point of stubbornness, stubborn to the point of stubbornness – all in the interest of keeping tabs. I took a long look at Zeynep’s picture. The crazy girl is smiling so beautifully. This is no festive occasion! What a cheek – it is as though she is saying “Nobody can take my smile away from me” and she is greeting us. She is a picture of spiteful indifference; I mean, it isn’t even a grin.

There is nothing that reproaches or challenges her enemies in that smile.

Zeynep is smiling at us. It is though at the last minute before she was detained she had heard some extremely auspicious news to which we are not privy. It is though she is dying to tell us all about it. It is though she has just hit on what needs to be done in the face of so much death, so much oppression, so much injustice. She has suddenly realised how we can stand together in the face of all of the poverty of our life. All at dawn break.

Zeynep is a cat-like young woman who at demonstrations, camera in hand, scrambles up electricity poles or trees – always to the highest place. You can’t keep up with her energy. She gets everywhere. You see her at the entrance to every court. So as to break the news on stories that she is investigating, she has been known to rush back and forth to get them into the mainstream media. She gets out of breath from telephoning. She is always on edge. She hunts down the news 24-7. She conducts interviews.

For example, most recently she exposed the way that Mehmet Güneş, who was detained on 12 December accused of being a member of the Revolutionary Headquarters organisation, had been subjected to torture and duress in Tekirdağ Prison Number 2.

Getting the story

Çağdaş is a DİHA reporter. He is another young man I know from demonstrations. We are not acquainted, but we know one another well. I keep track of him, and I guess that he does the same with me.

He reports on labour issues. He is a court reporter. His reporting is detailed and meticulous.

We are no strangers. We are part of a group that keeps tabs on and tries to oppose the way that, in this country, people find themselves isolated as they become lost, torn away from life, have their labour exploited and are stripped of their rights. Both Zeynep and Çağdaş give me security. The other detained journalists are ready witnesses. I know that if, on this soil, somebody out of the blue finds themselves in bother, these fearless, resolute young people will not let the oppressor get away with it.

Now the independent, exalted Turkish judiciary is preparing to portray these young people to the world as terrorists. The stony-eyed anti-terror team does not care that they are journalists and were doing their job.

They showed the young journalists their photographs taken at demonstrations. All with the aim of declaring them to be demonstrators and linking them with terror. It would appear that they were caught with cameras in their hands practising the profession known as journalism. The photographs that they sent to one another for the sake of the story became the subject matter of interrogation. What a serious offence it apparently is for journalists to send photographs to one another.

We are a little more alone

Galatasaray University student, Cihan Kırmızıgül, who has been detained on trial for 22 months for wearing a pushi [traditional Kurdish scarf], has been included among the prosecutor’s incriminating evidence. The sharp-witted prosecutor asked Çağdaş Kaplan about his telephone number which was detected on Kırmızıgül’s telephone line. When Kırmızıgül was arrested, Kaplan’s number was among those found on his telephone. “Why did your telephone number appear on Kırmızıgül‘s phone?” What a brilliant question for a journalist to be asked, what a blinding clue, don’t you think?

Zeynep was asked why she was smiling. She was heard to utter, “Smiling is an ideological prerogative.”

This affair is quite obviously not going to get her down.

The young journalists’ turn has come in the programme to eliminate every last witness. We are now a little more alone in front of the courts and everywhere where there is protest. We will not see Zeynep for a while with her camera astride some tall pole. We will not see Çağdaş noting every statement at a hearing, allowing us to breathe more easily.

But we will not leave them alone. We will come; we are dependent on them so that we may feel even a little secure in this country. We will also take their places. To the extent that we can.

Just take a look at those photographs.

You will see just how difficult it is going to be for those who detain them and for those who would lock them up away from life and turn them from witnesses into accused.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton