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Turkish journalists sentenced to life in prison, accused of membership in Marxist party

Demonstrators stand in support of jailed journalists in Turkey.
Demonstrators stand in support of jailed journalists in Turkey.


Journalists are not terrorists - this is the powerful message the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is sending to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Stand Up for Journalism Day following the life sentences given to six Turkish journalists yesterday.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined the EFJ to demand an urgent appeal against the life sentences given to Füsun Erdoğan and five other journalists.

According to local media, ETHA, journalists Füsun Erdoğan, Ziya Ulusoy, Bayram Namaz, Arif Çelebi, Ibrahim Cicek and Sedat Şenoğlu were accused of being members of a Marxist organisation (MLKP) that is banned under Turkish anti-terror laws. Erdoğan was accused of being the leader of MLKP as she is the founder of the radio station Özgür Radyo which is critical of the government.

On top of the life sentences, each journalist was also given extra punishments which mean that, in total, the life sentences amount to 3000 years.

"This is completely absurd. The verdict is a disgrace to the Turkish judicial system and an expression of the absolute power of the government. It further shows that the regime does not tolerate any criticism," said Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, EFJ President.

''We demand an urgent appeal of the verdict,'' said Beth Costa, IFJ General Secretary. ''The international journalist community is saddened by the court decision that is misguided by political influence.''

"We share our solidarity with Erdoğan and the other journalists and will continue putting pressure on the Turkish government." added Mogens Blicher Bjerregård. "It may well be that Prime Minister Erdogan will not officially bow to the pressure. Nonetheless, the pressure from international journalist community and civil society organisations will reach new heights after this outrageous decision."

The IFJ/EFJ, together with their Turkish affiliate, the Turkish Union of Journalists (Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikasi TGS), is taking action today against the decision. The TGS, and the Freedom for Journalists Platform (FJP-GÖP), are taking part in a March for Justice now towards Taksim Square in Istanbul. The TGS has called upon all journalists, including those who are currently in prisons and their families, as well as all the press workers, writers, intellectuals, artists, lawyers, trade unionists, students, and citizens, to Stand Up For Journalism, and for press freedom in Turkey.

In the coming days, the EFJ, with its Turkish colleagues, will discuss ways to fight back. This treatment of critical journalists is a huge setback for the already heavily beleaguered freedom of the press in Turkey. The EFJ will pressure on European institutions to react to the situation.

For more information, please see the observer report by the EFJ representative Esben Ørberg on 30 October. To know more about our on-going campaign, visit the Set Journalists Free in Turkey campaign site.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • Three journalists given life sentences on subversion charges

    "These extremely harsh sentences have ended a trial marked by violations of defence rights and unacceptably long pre-trial detention for the main defendants,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Despite a grave decline in her state of health, Füsun Erdogan spent more than seven years in prison before being sentenced. So did Bayram Namaz. What happened to the presumption of innocence?"

  • Füsun Erdoğan receives life sentence

    The verdict was issued around 2 am in the morning local time. The court convicted defendants Ali Hıdır Polat, Naci Dayser, Ziya Ulusoy, Bayram Namaz, Arif Çelebi, İbrahim Çiçek and bianet writer Füsun Erdoğan to life sentence. The aforementioned defendants were also convicted up to 3,000 years of prison for getting involved in 155 incidents within MLKP. They also received an addition of 24 years for various charges.

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