The Cumhuriyet Trial Coordination Group is coordinating activities in conjunction with the trial in which our newspaper’s editorial policy has been targeted and five of our columnists and managers are in detention on unfounded and illogical charges. We asked representatives of the group that embraces a great variety of political structures such as the CHP, TKP, EMP, People’s Democratic Congress, People’s Houses and United June Movement, “What is the thing that is keeping you all together?” They explained to Cumhuriyet that what motivated them to stick together was the fight to obtain news and stand up for the right to learn the truth.
Not just an issue for journalists
Elif Ilgaz, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Timur Soykan from the Journalists on the Outside group played a leading role in fostering coordination around the Cumhuriyet trial. Ilgaz described how they came together as follows: “First a request for a meeting came from Alper Taş and Canan Kaftancıoğlu. They said they wished to give support to this trial, they wanted to give support to the trial as the June movement and, not restricting themselves to support, wanted to be participants and wanted this to amount to taking responsibility for the trial and being part of all preparations, over and above support. They proposed expanding this onto a wider platform and this was greatly to our liking, too. We made contact with friends from other various political groups. We came together with the TKP, EMEP, CHP, United June Movement, People’s Houses, sendika.org, Justice Watch and Contemporary Jurists Association and we scheduled a meeting immediately for the next day. Everyone was very enthusiastic and everyone was most resolute about playing a part.” Ilgaz, stressing that the issue of press freedom was not just an issue for journalists, said, “We thought that the whole of society needs to stand up for this, because tens of thousands of people have fallen victim to decrees with the force of law. We are unable to see reports about them. Today, the freedom to obtain news is basically under threat, like all freedoms to obtain information. I think that all political platforms are aware of this.”
Resistance in the face of justice that is being destroyed
As to journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, he stressed that the issue of standing up for journalists who have been incarcerated for sticking to the truth and facts is not just an issue for journalists, said, “This is because the issue called the truth is the people’s issue. So, this constitutes the infrastructure whereby other sensitive people, groups and political forces strive to play a part in this issue. That is, it is a matter of standing up for the people’s right to obtain news and learn the truth. Because none of these are things that are just the business of a group of journalists in Turkey, other political groups, formations and structures have seen the special importance of the Cumhuriyet trial and have resolved to play a part. The coordination around the Cumhuriyet trial is a mode of resistance in the face of the blocking of justice that is being destroyed in Turkey, freedom of expression whose ending is sought and the truth.” Mavioğlu said that one of the good components of this coordination that made for a strong possibility of its being carried into the future period was that, rather than bringing stale internal issues to the fore, it brought points of unity to the fore. Mavioğlu said, “Such a model may meet the need for a social stance around the trials into Soma, Berkin Elvan, Ali İsmail Korkmaz, Ahmet Atakan and the Gezi resistance, the Özgür Gündem trials and all events and issues in which there is inequity and injustice.”
The distinction between right and left has retained no importance
Nesrin Arslan of the People’s Democratic Congress: We are creating and producing here as people having different political views. The reason for this is that I also know from my past experiences that at times when there is a yearning for justice there remains no importance as to who is from which group or identity. Even the distinction between right and left retains no importance.
Ceren Özmen, Deputy Chair with responsibility for Institutional Communications and Media Relations from the CHP Istanbul Provincial Chairship: As a party which argues that justice and democracy are the basic axis of society and fights for this on every platform, we do not accept and cannot tolerate the unfounded accusations that they are today trying to pin on Cumhuriyet newspaper, which has been known for more than ninety years for its principled approach to news reporting and its enlightened, secular and progressive line. We have in the past stood by those who have suffered inequity and injustice and have sought justice, and will continue to do so in the future. Consequently, the Cumhuriyet newspaper trial is for us the struggle in the quest for an enlightened, secular and democratic society. Additionally, journalism is not a crime.
Shoulder to shoulder against injustice
Levent Turhan Gümüş on behalf of the United June Movement: Our involvement with the ideology and practice of the Cumhuriyet Trial Coordination essentially came in the wake of the Justice March. There was certainly more than one reason why we were not numerically strong in front of the court, but we managed to set about the business with what could be done first hand and by standing together shoulder to shoulder against injustice. We have shared this idea of ours since the outset of the trial with the friends, jurists, writers and intellectuals from the Journalists on the Outside who have been the voice of the friends on the inside and political structures and entities that have concerned themselves with fighting injustice, and as a result of all these negotiations, we saw that we were not alone. The greatest accomplishment from our point of view is to have gained the experience that we are not alone and can do this together.
Beyza Metin from the EMEP: In a country in which with more than 160 detained journalists half of the detained journalists in the world are to be found we have no other option apart from putting all distinctions to one side and creating channels of joint struggle. We are instilled with hope and belief that the unity and collective endeavour we are forging here will also continue in the Özgür Gündem trial and the trials of the employees of BirGün and Evrensel newspapers.
Freedom of expression cannot be impeded
Ayşegül Tözeren from the Writers’ Union and Turkish Medical Association: I have two identities. One is as a physician and one as a literarian. Previously, as a physician, I have had experience of a justice watch in the trial of Şebnem Hoca, one of the editors-in-chief on Özgür Gündem’s solidarity watch. Then I had experience of the long freedom watches and hearings in the trials of Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya. Essentially, this experience has motivated me. As we cannot distinguish between the freedom of speech trials either brought against Cumhuriyet newspaper or brought against BirGün newspaper or the one brought against Özgür Gündem newspaper, the fundamental impossibility of impeding freedom and the heat and fire of the struggle waged against this have motivated me.
Çağla Akdere from the People’s Houses: I as a citizen seek my right to acquire news and it is not necessary to be a journalist to do so. I think this will impede the system they are trying to set up from manipulating many facts. This is why I find engaging in coordination to be valuable.
Ali Demirhan, editor of sendika.org: Social opposition and journalism are not very mutually distinct things. We stand at the point where they converge. There is a need from the point of view of journalistic activity and social opposition for support to be lent to symbolic trials such as the Cumhuriyet trial. It is a duty for us and a culture of solidarity that is incumbent on us to raise many issues that focus on collective resistance. If there is to be freedom of expression and if it is to be possible to conduct journalism in this country, it will be thanks to this culture of solidarity. It is only such horizontal, mass, anonymous, collective efforts that can shoulder the burden of such trials.