“Forgotten” journalists pen letter from prison

Nineteen Turkish journalists who fear they have been forgotten in prison have penned a letter to call attention to their plight and demand justice.

The 19 journalists held in Silivri prison are among the hundreds held in Turkey, which this year remained the world’s most prolific jailer of journalists.

The journalists were charged with membership of the outlawed Gülen religious movement, which the Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) blames for carrying out the July 2016 coup attempt.

“(We) have been held in Silivri Prison for more than two years. We, who have no job other than journalism, want to say we wish to be remembered and we expect justice,” the journalists said in their letter.

The nineteen, most of whom are reporters with little public exposure, are still being held pending appeal after two years in prison. They were among a group of 26 journalists arrested in 2016 for alleged links to Gülen who were released by a court in March last year before being detained again on the same night.

However, while five journalists have been released, pending appeal or due to health concerns, the 19 have had to remain behind bars.

“There are no concrete charges in our files. That we were released after our first hearing in court demonstrated this fact. However, we have not been released although we received lesser sentences during our last hearing,” they said.

"As ‘forgotten journalists’ who are mostly reporters and who are not well known by the public, we have been held in Silivri Prison for more than two years. We, who have no job other than journalism, want to say that we want to be remembered and that we expect justice," said the journalists.

Turkey’s press was declared “not free” by the Freedom House organisation in its 2017 report, after harsh crackdowns under a post-coup attempt state of emergency that saw hundreds of journalists arrested and a significant number of press outlets shut down. Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 157th out of 180 countries in its 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

The 19 signatories of the letter are: Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Bayram Kaya, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cuma Ulus, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habip Güler, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, M. Sait Kuloğlu, M. Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer,  Seyit Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız.


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