Last July, we commented as far as we felt we could on an on-going court case in Adana. Our summary of the case was “gimme a break,” a phrase we judged to be within the bounds of Turkish press law. The case centered on the so-called “Adana 22,” members of a group alleged to be part of an illegal party for their participation in a few protest rallies and possesion of four tambourines.
Today, we must say, “gimme a break all over again.” Again, commenting on a case-in-progress is something that lands Turkish reporters in court. So our reaction is thus limited in response to our report yesterday of 46 people, members of the Socialist Platform of the Oppressed. This group is charged with illegal activities on behalf of something called the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. In this case, police again found tambourines to back up their suspicicions. Also a movie on Che Guevara, and evidence that members had attended rallies where members shouted, “Long live socialism!”
So just what can we say? Speaking generally and generically, of course. We believe that Turkey is and should be a country ruled by law. This does not mean a country ruled by lawyers, who can be capricious and arbitrary. This does not mean a country ruled “under the color of law,” to steal a phrase from Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence. It means a single standard of law, and adherence to common and agreed-upon principle. That’s our first point.
Our second would be that, following on this pursuit of principle, freedom of thought and freedom of expression are not rights to be extended only to those with whom one is in agreement. There are, for example, among the team at the Daily News at least one colleague who believes that the world was created 6,000 years ago. Most of us don’t share this view but we support our colleague’s right to think so. We have an editor quite taken by Rastafarianism, an obscure set of beliefs invented in Jamaica. Some of his T-shirts are pretty cool, but that’s as far as most of us go. We even have a disciple here of Osho, the Indian mystic also known as “Bhagwan Shree Rajnash.” None of us feel particularly threatened by this.
Similarly, as is the case at most Turkish newspapers, a few die-hard Marxists work here. Most of us expect no rising up of the proletariat any time soon but those colleagues who actually believe this are welcome to work among us. In short, we all have a job to do and personal beliefs are expected to be held in professional abeyance. This, we think, is the standard of any civilized democracy.
We of course will not comment on an on-going case, or the allegations that the suspects in Bursa shouted “Long live the brotherhood of people.” But we do hope that advocates of democracy in Turkey and advocates abroad of a democratic Turkey take note of this case. Trial begins Oct. 30 in Istanbul’s 10th Criminal Court.