Will Turkey release other journalists too?

The international attention for worsening press freedom in Turkey has been enormous the last couple of months. That had everything to do with the arrest of Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, two well known in investigative journalists. This Monday both gentlemen were released after more than a year imprisonment. Good news for them personally, bad news for their dozens of colleagues who are still in jail.

Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener were behind bars because they were supposedly the ‘media wing’ of a network within the state and the army that allegedly wanted to topple the AKP government of PM Erdogan. How ridiculous that accusation was, was already clear because of the fact that both journalists were actually writing revealing articles and books about networks within the state. During the hearings as expected no evidence whatsoever came to the table. De case is however nto closed yet: Sik and Sener weren’t acquitted, only their remand was ended.

Established media order

Because of the subjects they wrote about – like the controversial islamic Gülen movement, and the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink – Sik and Sener could count on the support of their colleagues, first mainly in Turkey and later also abroad. They were and are part of the established media order, have many well known friends in the media who in their turn again easily got attention from the foreign press.

The result: world wide attention for press freedom in Turkey, and PM Erdogan was confronted with it often. Great, because that meant not only a lot of attention for Sik and Sener, but also for the reason why there are dozens of journalists in jail in Turkey: terrorism laws that are too vague and broadly interpretable. The network that Sik and Sener were supposedly part of, is qualified as terrorist. The same goes for the PKK and the related organisation the KCK, with which many Kurdish journalists in jail have alleged ties with. In Turkey, ‘writing about’ means ‘having ties with’. Its like locking up a crime journalist because he has ties with organized crime.

PKK smell

Seen in this light, it’s very smart to release Sik and Sener. It’s a guarantee that the attention for the bad record of Turkey when it comes to press freedom, will disappear like snow in the sun. Now there are no more journalists jailed who can count on the unconditional support and effort of their Turkish colleagues. Who will go to every hearing to tweet like crazy and poke up the fire again for national and international media.

Most journalists in jail are Kurds. They don’t write about subjects that excite their Turkish colleagues. On the contrary: for the majority of Turks, also for journalists, there is always this suspect PKK smell to Kurdish journalists, even if their only weapon is a pen. Kurdish journalists don’t have well known, influential friends, and they are not based in modern Istanbul but in far away cities like Diyarbakir, Van and Hakkari. No Turkish journalist travels there to make an uproar around a court hearing, no international medium gives space to the fate of journalists who don’t appeal to their imagination.

With the release of Sik and Sener the hype around press freedom in Turkey is over. Bad luck for the outcasts of Turkish media, who will not taste freedom any time soon.

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