Using Terror Charges to Stifle Independent Reporting

May 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

May 10, 2012, J. David Goodman

Friday 10:02 a.m. | Updated Prosecutors in the eastern African nation of Burundi are seeking a life sentence for 23 journalists, including one working for Radio France International, who have been charged with “participating in acts of terrorism,” according to Reporters Without Borders and local journalists.

The sentences were among the harshest punishments threatened during a disquieting spate of prosecutions using terror laws to quash independent reporting and stifle dissent.

In Ethiopia, a verdict was expected on Friday in the case of a prominent journalist and blogger, Eskinder Nega, who was arrested last year during a crackdown on journalists that saw broad antiterrorism laws applied to at least 11 reporters there. But the court in Addis Ababa said it would postpone the decision until next month.

Mr. Nega, who won a prestigious press freedom award this month, could face the death penalty if convicted of aiding terror groups with his reports, though his wife, speaking to The New York Times last week, said that such a severe outcome was unlikely. No journalist has been sentenced to death in Ethiopia, though several have received harsh prison terms, including two Swedish reporters sentenced to 11 years for their reports from a restive region of the country.

In Burundi, prosecutors said on Tuesday that if convicted, Hassan Ruvakuki, who works for the Swahili branch of Radio France International, and 22 others would face life sentences for charges stemming from reports on a violent rebel group.

Journalism advocates have questioned the basis of the charges and the impartiality of the judicial proceedings. “Conducting an interview is not an act of terrorism,” said Tom Rhodes, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement. “Burundian authorities are misusing the law to punish a journalist for airing material they did not like.”

A majority of the journalists, including Mr. Ruvakiki, refused to enter a plea, saying the trial was not being conducted under proper procedures. The others pleaded not guilty.

Similar charges have been brought against journalists in Turkey, as The Times reported earlier this year.

Nedim Sener, a veteran investigative journalist there who was looking into a terror network plotting against the government, found himself accused of abetting the very same terrorist organization, arrested and put on trial along with another reporter, Ahmet Sik, and several editors. The two reporters are now free on bail but still facing long prison terms if convicted.


OSCE media freedom representative calls for legal reforms after study shows 95 journalists imprisoned in Turkey

April 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, Bonn, 20 June 2011. (Deutsche Welle/K. Danetzki)

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, Bonn, 20 June 2011. (Deutsche Welle/K. Danetzki)

VIENNA, 2 April 2012 – Dunja Mijatović, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, today presented an updated analysis on imprisoned journalists in Turkey and called for immediate reform of the nation’s media laws.

“The number of imprisoned journalists in Turkey has significantly increased in the past year,” Mijatović said. “This is worrisome and demands the immediate attention and swift action of the authorities.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey: The Powerful And The Paranoid

April 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Jess Hill
POLITICS   |   March 27, 2012
Turkey: The Powerful And The Paranoid
Turkey is powerful, prosperous and stable. So why is it locking up so many of its intellectuals?
“ We know that terrorist cells might include a university chair, an association or a NGO.” « Read the rest of this entry »


March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment


Reporters Without Borders warmly welcomes the release on bail of the investigative journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener and the OdaTV news website columnists Muhammet Sait Cakir and Coskun Musluk. However, their release should not hide the fact that dozens more media workers are still held.

“Naturally, our thoughts are with those journalists and their friends and families, who can finally see an end to their absurd nightmare after more than a year,” the press freedom organization said. « Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey’s enlightenment languishes, like the journalists in its prisons

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

, March 13, 2012

The record number of reporters imprisoned in Turkey threatens to extinguish the flame of democratic reform.


Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik (C) hugs his friends after he being released from prison in Istanbul. Photograph: Sinan Gul/Anadolu Agency/EPA

A year ago, police burst into the homes of two of Turkey’s best investigative journalists, Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik, and carted them off to prison where they remained until last night, charged with crimes so nebulous even prosecutors can’t explain them. « Read the rest of this entry »

Press-ganging the Turkish Media

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Andrew Finkel, March 13, 2012

ISTANBUL — The British say it about the police force, but the same may be true of the press: that a country gets the one it deserves. Woe is Turkey.

Turkey recently marked the 15th anniversary of what pundits call the “postmodern coup”: the military’s success at pushing out the Islamist-led coalition that was in power back then. The generals managed that in large part by press-ganging the print media, even forcing newspaper owners to fire prominent columnists who did not support their campaign to discredit the government.

The tables have since turned. Now the politicians have the military in retreat. Some 15 percent of senior officers are on trial for participating in the Ergenekon conspiracy, an alleged campaign of really dirty tricks intended to force the ruling AK Party out of office. « Read the rest of this entry »

Turkey’s Jailed Journalists

March 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

Dexter Filkins,March 9, 2012

Quick: What country jails the most journalists?

If you guessed China, you were close, but no cigar. Twenty-seven reporters are in prison there, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. If you guessed Iran, you’re getting warmer—forty-two in prison there—but you’re still off. « Read the rest of this entry »