“The root of the problem is badly written laws,” declared Ercan Ipekci, president of the union. For several years, Ipekci said, his group has sought without success to meet with the government to discuss the problems. But his union doesn’t wield much clout; only 5 percent of Turkish journalists are members. “I have no hopes,” he admitted. “The government really doesn’t want to improve the situation.”

Turkish officials say they believe in a free press and deny the “myth” of imprisoned journalists, instead accusing those detained of “participating or praising violence and terrorism.” They similarly refute the recent CPJ report, calling it “one-sided,” according to Today’s Zaman newspaper.

Yet in November, Turkish officials said they would soon present a proposal to the parliament that would reform the ways journalists are treated. And officials have been quoted in Turkish newspapers predicting that these reforms will reduce the cases against Turkey filed with the European Court of Human Rights.

At a court appearance 10 months after his arrest, Ahmet Sik denied the charges against him and also took the opportunity to indict the system that imprisoned him. His courtroom statement was a lecture on journalism that ran 12 typewritten pages. “What is being subject to prosecution and trial today is the journalism profession itself,” he said. “It is yet another breach of expression, covered up with a fig leaf.”

Upon his unexpected release in March 2012, Sik’s fury was undiminished. “The police, prosecutors, and judges who plotted and executed this conspiracy will enter this prison,” he told reporters outside the jail. “Justice will prevail when they enter here.”

But his words had a different result. In July, a court ruled that his comments outside the prison had “insulted public officials,” among other violations, and thus added three to seven years to the sentence he is facing.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting supported this reporting effort.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.


More in Feature

Staying alive

Read More »

Stephen Franklin is a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, The Philadelphia Bulletin, the Miami Herald, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, he has trained journalists in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, and Pakistan. He is currently the ethnic and community media director for the Community Media Workshop in Chicago, a nonprofit organization that helps Chicago's diverse communities and nonprofit organizations tell their stories. He is working on a book about his longtime bond with the Middle East, Captured by the Light.