The court’s decision yesterday came as a breath of fresh air at a time when independent journalists in the Turkish Cypriot community and the Turkish Cypriot press face pressure from everywhere, encounter interventions, and are being intimidated and silenced.
At the same time, it clearly demonstrated the need to support the independence of our courts so that they can make fair decisions without fear.
Yesterday’s decision also showed one more thing:
That the struggle can still be won!
The Özgür Gazete-Ersin Tatar trial went on for nearly 3 years. The fear and panic that engulfed those who were taken down a notch with our “Here are the Photos of the Intervention” report became evident in the insults and targeting directed against us. [Translator’s note: Özgür Gazete published a report with photos alleging that a team of experts from Turkey worked with Tatar ahead of elections in 2021.] At the time, the Prime Minister, who is now the appointed President, Ersin Tatar, was slandering our newspaper and its employees from his armchair.
According to him, we were agents, conspiring with outside forces, betraying our country, and collaborating with foreign intelligence organizations.
Of course, collaborating with someone from outside to betray one’s own people was something only he could know best.
And based on the fact that “everyone sees others as they are”, this is how he accused and insulted us, making false allegations against us and setting us up as a target for his fanatic supporters.
Perhaps he was aiming for another January 22 Afrika incident. [Translator note: Attack on Afrika newspaper on January 22, 2018, by a mob protesting a satirical cartoon of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.]
But it didn’t turn out that way.
Yes, we were threatened.
Yes, there were days when we couldn’t go to our newspaper.
Yes, we were afraid, of course, we were concerned for our safety.
But the difference between us and him was this; we only looked to ourselves for strength, and despite all these feelings, we were not going to give up.
And that’s exactly what we did.
Against Tatar’s poisonous language that targeted us, we initiated a legal battle for the safety of journalists, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press.
This case was neither mine nor Özgür Gazete’s case.
Our goal was not to win a hefty compensation or anything like that.
We had only one objective; to make sure politicians could not target the press from their comfortable seats because of reporting and journalists they did not like.
In fact, such a ruling should emerge so that all politicians, including Tatar, learn a lesson from it and get their act together.
The trial lasted for nearly three years, and Tatar did not appear in court once; his lawyer represented him [in his absence].
In their defence, they couldn’t come up with and present a single witness.
I will explain in detail what happened during the trial process in another article because even the verdict read yesterday took a full 1 hour and 10 minutes.
The judge approached this case with such care and worked meticulously to ensure justice that it far exceeded our expectations.
In summary, the court rejected almost all of the defence’s arguments.
The verdict clearly stressed that the statement [by Tatar] was a form of targeting and that it could jeopardize the lives and professional careers of journalists.
And our independent Courts ruled against Tatar, an incumbent President, and in favour of a newspaper and journalist!
Of course, the commendable performance and dedication of our attorney, Mine Atlı, had a significant impact on this verdict.
We are very proud.
For a reason which goes far beyond just winning a case.
It is because we were able to set a significant precedent for the community and for our friends in the free and independent Turkish Cypriot press. [The verdict] means that politicians can no longer act as comfortably as they previously could, and we have been able to prove that the lives and safety of journalists are as valuable as those of politicians…
By the way, yes, as I mentioned before departing from the court building, we will donate the compensation we will receive to animal shelters.
Perhaps, thanks to us, Tatar will contribute something positive to this community.
Long live justice!
Long live independent Turkish Cypriot courts!