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Home arrow newsitems arrow CoE Press Freedom Rapporteur Johanson to EuroFora.+Turkey slamed on Persecution/Impunity/Web blocked

CoE Press Freedom Rapporteur Johanson to EuroFora.+Turkey slamed on Persecution/Impunity/Web blocked

Written by ACM
Wednesday, 05 October 2011

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*Strasbourg/Angelo Marcopolo/- While CoE's Commissioner on Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg is due to visit next week Turkey, the only State receiving some 1 Billion € in Grants from EU Taxpayers' money each year, despite having a Record-High number of Journalists persecuted or even already jailed in Prison, in addition to other serious Violations of Human Rights, including outstanding cases of scandalous Impunity even for cold-blood Murders of Journalists, Web access blocked, etc., that various recent Reports and/or MEPs denouncent, Ankara may soon realize that it cannot behave like ...far away African Eritrea vis a vis its Commitments to the CoE and the EU :


Indeed, CoE's new Rapporteur on Freedom of Media, mainstream Swedish MEP Mats Johansson, speaking to "EuroFora", stressed a strong will to boost a permanent Monitoring of Journalists' core freedoms and foster systematic Europe-wide Debates with several concerned Organizations and personalities in order to efficiently monitor still on-going or any forthcoming serious violations of their basic Human Rights and/or attempts to Muzzle Critics, both before and after CoE Assembly may adopt his 1st Report, scheduled for June 2012.
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     - "This" debate on Press Freedom monitoring throughout all Europe "should be done on a Regular basis, and not only once a Year", Johansson energetically stressed from the outset.

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    - "But, the Big thing is to get MPs here, because it's naturally important to have here the (International Human Rights and/or Journalists') NGOs, but, out there (i.e. in CoE Assembly's Plenary) there are some 600 Politicians (from all over Europe) and they should be informed on the breaches" of Press Freedom. "Not only those who are in the Committee on Medias, but all of them", Johansson pointed out. "But, there are a lot of them (MPs) who don't want to go forward, because they feel that this is a Sensitive thing for their Country". Another lot of them are not interested because they have no background, they don't understand what it means". "So, let's try to move on, on a Regular basis", even if sometimes in a "simplified" way, f.ex. "on the sidelines of CoE Assembly's Plenary", he agreed with "EuroFora". At any case, "it should be done Regularly", and "if it really means something to the CoE, then we have to move it in the Forefront !", he  stressed with resolution.


+ "If anybody might like to Stop me, I'm glad to take up that Discussion !", Johansson warned.,=> At any case, "whenever really needed, I'll be present on-line", f.ex. at CoE's website, he promissed.

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But we should speak more about real and concrete cases, not only about general theories, he advised.


F.ex., a concrete case interesting particularly my country, Sweden, is that of jailed Journalist Dawit Isaak, who is being held, without trial, for more than 10 Years imprisoned in a secret place in Eritrea. He was arrested back on 2001 together with 11 other People, 9 of which are now Dead. He is simply accused to be politically opposed to the President of Eritrea, and, as long as they keep staying in conflict with Ethopia, they don't want to let him go. We have tried everything in order to free him, even offered Money, or asked France's help, without result. Even when former EU Commissioner Michel had visited Eritrea, they laughed at him when he asked for Isaak to be liberated.


Nevertheless, EU Parliament recently started to move with a call launched in Strasbourg, and now there is also a fresh Motion signed by some 20 MPs in CoE's Assembly.  Pointing at a "recent appeal for Dawit Isaak to the Eritrean High Court by a group of European Human Rights lawyers, supported by a wide range of Publishers from all over Europe", the written Declaration lodged this week in Strasbourg by more than 20 MEPs from the 2 Biggest Groups of the PanEuropean Organization's Assembly ChristianDemocrats/EPP, Socialists and Liberals, from more than 12 different European Countries, (such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belgium, Monaco, Moldova, Germany, the UK, etc), denounces the fact that "the treatment of Dawit Isaak contravenes the Eritrean Criminal Procedure Code", and "also runs counter to International law and conventions signed by Eritrea, such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the UN Declaration on Prison Conditions and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners", being "a matter of Universal respect for the Principles of political and Human rights, so dearly protected by the CoE".


 => "Therefore" the Declaration which has just started to be put into circulation inside CoE, "asks member and observer Governments of the CoE to use their international and bilateral relations to help Dawit Isaak receive Justice after his Disappearance in prison in Eritrea a decade ago", during which, "No charge has been made, no trial held, no visits allowed", while even "his location is unknown to this day".


However, a main problem is that there are not operational Links between EU and Eritrea, except from Humanitarian Aid, but we don't want to cut f.ex. Food for Poor People, who are also innocent, Johansson added to "EuroFora". So the Government of Eritrea "doesn't care"...
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+ Scandalous Impunity for Adali Murder case, despite 2005 ECHR Judgement condemning Turkey for lack of Investigation : Same Year as in Gongadje case, where some progress was made by Ukraine, on the contrary..
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Could and should it be Easier than ..Eritrea, when it comes to a neighbouring Country as Turkey, which receives almost 1 Billion € each year in Grants from the EU ?


"EuroFora" informed CoE's Rapporteur on Press Freedom, about the exceptional case of the still totaly Unpunished cold-blood Murder of dissident Turkish Cypriot Journalist Kutlu Adali, with 5 bullets fired at his Head in front of his Family Home in the Territories of Cyprus Occupied by Ankara's Invasion Army.

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Adali was known as a Critic of Ankara's policy to systematically import Turkish Settlers from Anatolia in Cyprus' Occupied Territories, from which Greek Cypriot inhabitants had been brutally chassed away and still hindered to return, contrary to ECHR's case law, with the Threat to alter the Demographic Structure of the area, transforming real Turkish Cypriots into a Minority even at the Northern part of the island, so that a Political Obstacle risked to be added against a Peaceful ReUnification of Cyprus, as CoE's Assembly and Ministerial Committee had both denounced.


ECHR condemned Turkey for a total lack of any efficient Investigation to find and punish those Responsible for Adali's murder, the same year (2005) that EuroJudges also condemned the former Ukranian Government for insufficiently investigating the famous brutal Murder of critical Journalist Gongadje.


But, while Ukraine notoriously started to try to investigate Gongadje's Murder, arresting and condemning to jail already 2 or 3 People, accepting to cooperate with Foreign (USA) Experts, etc., under the continuing Supervision of CoE's Committee of Ministers, responsible for monitoring of ECHR Judgements' implementation,


on the Contrary, in the Adali case, Turkey was practically absolved, in silence, by CoE's Committee of Ministers, even without ever finding anyone among those responsible for the Brutal Murder of the Journalist, since the relevant ECHR's judgement was suddenly erased from CoE's Committee's list, without any Debate, on June 2010, i.e. precisely when Turkey had started to take over the Rotating Chair of CoE's Ministerial Committee on Human Rights' issues, ("EuroFora" found", thanks to converging Statements by several CoE's Officials, and relevant CoE Documents : See previous "EuroFora"s Publications on that issue).


=> A simple Comparison between these 2 landmark ECHR Judgements of 2005 on Journalists' Adali and Gongadje's Murders clearly reveals, thus, a blatant "Double Standards" treatment, Scandalously exploited by the Turkish Government without any known Justification at all, (See supra). A fact which obviously threatens to seriously undermine CoE's credibility on Press Freedom...


=> In consequence, Johansson asked for more concrete data on Adali's case, and promissed "EuroFora" that he will  "look at it", in order to find out what really happened, and what can and/or should be done.
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 + Hrant Dink's Murder : Impunity + Persecutions persist even after ECHR's 2010 Judgement condemning Turkey, Armenian MEP + CoE's Rapporteur on On-line Media Freedom denounces, and COE's Committee of Ministers promisses "Serious" Reply..
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    * Meanwhile, during Monday's Questions to the Chairperson of CoE's Committee of Ministers, ChristianDemocrat/EPP Armenian MEP Ms Zaruhi Postanjyan, asked Ukranian Foreign Minister Konstantn Gryshchenko "what Measures" will take CoE's body in charge of ECHR Judgements' execution in order to Stop the "outrageous Persecution" against "Freedom of Expression, which continues after Journalist Hrant Dink's Murder in Turkey, extending even against the Victim's Son as it is well known, and many other persecuted Journalists.

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ECHR's Judgement on Hrant Dink's murder case, condemned Turkey on October 2010 mainly for its reluctance to search, find and punish various persons apparently involved, who may have Instigated, Planned, helped, and/or Covered up the real dimension of the Journalist's cold blood killing, (See "EuroFora"s detailed analysis of ECHR's 2010 Judgement).


    - Persecutions against Critical Journalists as murdered Hrant Dink, his son and others in Turkey "are an Issue that deserves obviously a great Attention", replied CoE's Chairman in office.

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     - "But, these Issues need also to be throroughly analyzed and reviewed", Gryshchenko carefully added, (after looking also at an experienced on Turkey CoE's Committee of Ministers' Official next to him, who didn't make any move, remaining inexpressive). Therefore, "when the (CoE's) Committee of Ministers' decision will be taken" on the way Turkey implements ECHR's Judgement on Hrant Dink's Murder case, then, "I'll be Ready to Reply" to such Questions "in Detail", he promissed for later-on, (perhaps a little bit too optimistically)...
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    However, the surprising attitude of a Turkish Establishment's Media correspondent, close to the Governing Party AKP of Mr. Erdogan, during a CoE Assembly Debate on Press Freedom, organized on the sidelines of the weekly Plenary Session in Strasbourg, obviously didn't leave hopes for positive Changes in the short term :

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    - Accusing CoE's Human Rights Commissioner, together with OSCE's representative on Medias' Freedom, etc., to issue .. "Thousands of Pages" on Turkey's violations, which "make Readers sceptical", as he claimed, the Turkish pro-Government "Journalist" also criticized CoE's Officials for allegedly provoking Turkish Judges' Negative Reactions, because they would think that ECHR's judgements and/or statements "try to Influence the (Turkish) Courts", or even "violate the Privacy (sic !) in on-going cases", as he curiously said.


    + Moreover, advancing further on a Specific issue, the same Turkish Establishment Media's Correspondent expressed Doubts even on whether it was "Ethical", or not, for CoE/OSCE a.o. Critics of the Turkish Government to denounce Ankara's authorities also for the jailing of certain Journalists under "Charges for Conspiracy" (reportedly accused to plot, together with f. Turkish Army Officers, Businessmen, etc., to provoke Bomb Terrorism disguissed as "Leftist" or "Kurdish", etc, in a failed attempt to violently overthrow the current Government), i.e. for something which "had Nothing to do with Freedom of Media" activities, as he said.

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    - Without limiting the Debate only to this special case, CoE's Commissioner on Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, observed, smiling, that such reactions from the Turkish Establishment revealed, in general,  "quite a Challenge for me", as he said apparently in relation also to his forthcoming visit to Turkey next week..


    - "In Turkey there is a Problem, there", particularly concerning "Journalists' Freedom to ask Questions", almost "as it had been in the Past even in the U.K. during the years of Conflict on Ireland, when, f.ex. Journalists had difficulties to speak to some Groups, etc., replied, calmly but sharply, the experienced, f. long-time Secretary General of the European/International Federation of Journalists, Aidan White.

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    - In particular, it's a fact that "too Many Journalists are in Jail today in Turkey", he denounced, agreeing with several other European/International Officials (see Supra), apparently because the (Turkish) Government believes that they ask the "Wrong" questions..


    - But, "all (and mainly, more or less Investigative) Journalists need to ask Questions Freely, in any Area of Frozen Conflicts", stressed White. Therefore, the issue is "how to enable an Environment which would really allow Journalists, during their professional activities, to ask Governments, International and/or local actors. - "This is not just a Theoretical but also a Serious, practical issue : We need to Open up a Debate, whenever a Government intervenes to hinder Journalists to ask Questions, the experienced IFJ/EFJ long-time Head concluded.


    + Moreover, in this as also in other similar cases, "we need to Protect People who haven't been Killed yet", another participant in CoE Assembly's debate added.

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    - As for OSCE's Representative on Media Freedom, Dunja Mijatovic, she criticized the fact that, in addition to the great Number of Journalists jailed in Turkey, (see also infra), there is also the "Chilling Effect" provoked by a persisting failure to "DeCriminalize Libell" and so-called "defamation" of Turkish Authorities (or even of the so-called "Turkiness" !)..


    + "In Turkey,... there have been cases (of "Journalists Murdered") that must not be forgotten". F.ex. "the Murder of Hrant Dink,.. a Turkish-Armenian Journalist who was shot in 2007, has raised Many Questions about Freedom of Expression and the Rights of Journalists", observes a recent Report on "Protection of Journalists from Violence", prepared by OSCE's Representative on Media Freedom, Dunja Mijatovic, and published by the experienced CoE's Commissioner on Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, in Strasbourg on October.


    + F.ex.; "it is Suspected that", "a then 17 year old ...arrested for confessing the Murder-and recently ..convicted for the assassination", ".. merely pulled the trigger", while "Questions linger about the Real MasterMinds behind Dink's Death, as the trial deepens", OSCE's Key Official notes.


    - But "No effort must be spared to apprehend and bring to Justice, not only the actual Killer, but also those who Ordered this Murder", particularly given that "Attacks against one Journalist have the Devastating effect of Silencing Many Others", the Mijatovic - Hammarberg Issue Paper adds as a matter of Principle.


    + "Hrant Dink in Turkey" is among "the most Leading Investigative Journalists (who have fallen Victims to the most Brutal Killing" "in recent years", together with "Anna Politofskaya in Russia, ... Georgyi Gongadze in Ukraine and Elmar Huseynov in Azerbaijan", OSCE's Media Freedom Representative observed.


    - Unlike Turkey, in Russia, not only, "soon after the Murder of Anna Politofskaya, the suspected Killer was Identified" and "recently arrested", but also, "Several others accused of Involvement in the Murder had been Apprehended Earlier", as , f.ex., "2 Brothers and a former officer from the Organized Crime Squad (who) went on Trial, accused of having helped to organise the Killing", while "the Prosecution also alleged that a serving Officer from the FSB, the Russian Intelligence service, had played a Major part in Planning Politofskaya's assassination". "In February 2009, all Four were acquitted", but "the Prosecution objected", and "later the same year, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the Prosecution's complaint and ordered a New Trial". Meanwhile, moreover, even "the suspected MasterMind of Anna Politofskaya's Murder, a former Interior Ministry Official, was Arrested in August this year" (2011), Mijatovic notes in comparison.


    Thus, "in Russia ... it is especially Heartening to learn that Authorities at the Top Level of Government are taking a Proactive Role in Solving Murder Cases against Journalists" : "Another Encouraging example is that Aleksandr Bastrykin, the Head of the Investigative Committee, ordered a Review of ALL  Criminal Cases opened in relation to Attacks against Media", and "instructed his staff to pay a special Attention to Cases that were Closed or Suspended before the Creation of the Committee he heads". Moreover, "the Sentencings of the Killer of Journalist Igor Domnikov .. and of the Murderers of Journalist Anastassia Baburova, .. and Human Rights Lawyer Stanislav Markelov, are Welcome", because "the Verdicts give Hope to Society as a whole and prove that Crime will NOT go Unpunished. This is the Right Way Forward", praises the October 2011 OSCE-CoE Paper.  


    - Also "in Ukraine, ...it is Commendable that there have been Renewed Efforts to Investigate and Punish All those Involved" in "Georgiy Gongadze's Murder" (2000),  the OSCE-CoE Paper observes on October 2011. This is in Addition to at least 2 Persons arrested and condemned to more than 10 Years in Prison each, and a 3rd Suspect more recently apprehended, as well as Foreign Experts' (including even from USA's FBI) help welcomed in the Investigation, as CoE's Committee of Ministers had previously noted, "EuroFora" understands.


    - But, on the Contary, on Turkey, "in 2010 the European Court of Human Rights issued a Judgement in the case of Dink v. Turkey", where "the Court concluded (inter alia, also)  that by Abandoning the Criminal Proceedings against the Responsible Policemen (for Negligence in the Protection of Hrant Dink's Life), the (Turkish) Government had been in Breach of its Obligation to Protect Dink's Right to Life", the OSCE-CoE Paper distinguishes. "More recently, six Officers.. of the Turkish Gerndarmerie were Sentenced for Negligence and Failure to act on intelligence on Dink's potential Assassination", Mijatovic added, while ECHR has also denounced the fact that Noone among even known to the Police suspects for Planning and/or Instigating Hrant Dink's Murder was ever found and caught by Turkish Police, (See relevant, previous "EuroFora"'s detailed NewsReport on ECHR's 2010 landmark Judgement).
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    + The current situation of Press Freedom in Turkey was strongly criticized also by various key-MEPS at a CoE's Hearing, earlier in Stockholm on September, according to an Official CoE's transcript which circulated in Strasbourg this week :


    - Brittish Socialist MEP Michael Connarty, reportedly denounced that he was "Shocked by the reaction of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, when he had been questioned on persons jailed in his country. In such blatant cases of human rights violations, silent diplomacy is not enough", he regretted.


    - CoE's standing Rapporteur on Press Freedom, Swedish ChristianDemocrat MEP Mats Johansson, reportedly replied  that he "shared the views of Connarty on the behavior of Erdogan in front of CoE's Assembly".


    Erdogan had in substance tried to justify the Censorship of a Book at the Internet and even a "preventive Arrest" of its Author, denounced by the President of the Liberal Group of MEPs, Anne Brasseur from Luxembourg, and, when her criticism was suported also by the President of the Group of the Left, Dutch MEP Tiny Cox, the Turkish Prime Minister reacted by claiming that all jailed Journalists in Turkey could simply do as he had done himself in the Past, when, after a short imprisonment of only 2 Months for controversial Statements, he co-founded the now-governing Party AKP, winning afterwards many Elections until he became Head of the Turkish Government !


     + William Horsley, European Journalists Association's representative for "Press Freedom", also found "the situation in Turkey particularly Alarming, because of the Great Number of jailed Journalists, and of the Gravity of Criminal Sanctions imposed for Libell".


    - "In Turkey, (even) the Government acknowledges that over 60 Journalists are being held in Jail, charged or convicted of Criminal offenses, mostly accused of terrorism-related offenses. Some have received sentences of over 100 Years (sic !), and say they have been Punished for Writing about matters of evident Public Concern", AEJ Media Freedom Representative stated during CoE's latest Hearing.            


    - When Turkish MEP Mehmet Tekelioglou reacted by claiming that "if Journalists supportent Terrorist Oganizations' acts", then it was "legitimate" for the Turkish "Forces of Order to launch Investigations against them, and to Persecute them", AEJ's Horsley replied that there were "Doubts on whether all those Numerous Jailings  of Journalists operated in Turkey these last years were really due to Terrorist Activitiess. The fact that one of them was Condemned to ...138 Years in Prison, merely for having made Propaganda in favour of the PKK, is at least Extraordinary !", Horsley denounced.


    + "In Turkey, Human Rights Defenders were, this year again, Persecuted because of their legitimate activities of Monitoring and Denouncing alleged Violations of these Rights. Persons expressing Dissident views were always exposed to Criminal Prosecutions and to various Intimidation manouvers", denouced "Amnesty International"'s Annual Report for 2010.


    + OSCE's Representative on Media Freedom, Mrs Dunja Mijatovic, also denounced during CoE's recent hearing (See supra) the fact that "Press Freedom in Turkey is a matter of Concern : ... In this country, 80 Journalists are imprisoned just for having said some things", she criticized.


    - "A very Worrying Trend", "observe(d) more and more often", is, indeed, "the Imprisonment of Journalists based on Political Motivations", and, "althrough this trend is ot Common practice in Europe, Opposed to many Other parts of the World", nevertheless, f.ex. "the Number of Journalists imprisoned in Turkey has Increased" in 2011, while "there are also Hundreds of on-going Trials against Journalists that can result in Imprisonment", Dunja Mijatovic revealed.


    - "Most Journalists are imprisoned based on provisions of Turkey's anti-Terror Law and the Turkish Criminal Code", but "it's very Important that Authorities protect objective Repoting even on Sensitive Topics such as Terrorism or National Security", also because "the Public's Right to Know includes such issues", OSCE's Representative pointed out.

=> Could the Turkish Government persist to practically ignore such CoE/OSCE/AI/EFJ and MEPs' strong criticism and denonciations of serious Violations of European and International Rules on Press Freedom, as the far away ....Eritrea's rulers did until now in the Dawit Isaac case (See supra) ?... 

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WWWeb Media Freedom : "Blocked" !
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    + Moreover, "the 1st OSCE-wide Study on Internet content regulation, .. launched on July" 2011, revealed "a New Trend ...which seems to be Blocking Access to content if State Authorities are not in a position to reach the perpetrators for prosecution". But, normaly, States should Refraain from using Blocking as a Permanent Measure, or as a Means for Punishment", OSCE's Representative for Media Freedom, Dunja Mijatovic stressed.


    - Nevertheless, "Turkey provides the Broadest legal Measures for Blocking Access to Websites, by specifying 11 Content-related Crimes", and "Turkish Authorities have Not (even) Revealed the Number of Websites Blocked using that legislation", the OSCE's Senior Representative denounced.


    + Such issues are going to be examined by another, specific forthcoming CoE Report on "the Protection of Freedom of Expression and Information at the Internet and in the On-line Medias", due to be drafted by Armenian ChristianDemocrat MEP, Ms Zaruhi Postanjyan.

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    CoE's Rapporteur on Press Freedom for On-line Media, Zaruhi Postanjjyan, speaking to "EuroFora", explained that she had been hindered to go to the Stockholm CoE's meeting on September, but promissed to inform "EuroFora" on the forthcoming progress of her Report that she's determined to push forward, with her usual voluntarist temper.  (See also Supra her Question to the CoE's Committee of Ministers on Hrant Dink's murder etc).

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(NDLR  : Includes Fast Translations from originals in French. "DraftNews", as already sent earlier to "EuroFora"s Subscribers/Donors. A more accurate, complete, Final Version is due asap.)

***
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