Fourth hearing of trial against executives of shuttered TV station Hayatın Sesi held at Istanbul courthouse 

The fourth hearing of the trial against the executives of the shuttered Hayatın Sesi TV station was held at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on April 24, 2018.

Three managers of the channel – owner Mustafa Kara, his partner İsmail Gökhan Bayram and the responsible managing editor Gökhan Çetin – each face up to 13 years on the charge of “conducting continuous propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

All three delivered their final defense statements during Tuesday’s hearing, monitored in the courtroom by P24 and representatives from the Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS) and the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey’s Press Union (DİSK Basın-İş). The court adjourned the trial over the lawyers’ request for additional time and set September 19, 2018, as the date of the next hearing, in which the panel of judges is expected to pronounce its verdict.

“We have always defended the right to information”

Gökhan Çetin rejected accusations that the TV station praised violence and terrorism. “Hayatın Sesi has been against violence and terrorism since the day of its foundation until the day it was closed,” he told the court. “On the contrary, we have always defended human values in accordance with our editorial guidelines. We have adopted editorial guidelines that oppose violence, suffering and death.”

Çetin said violent incidents were covered as part of journalistic work. “We have always defended the right to information. I don’t think this justifies us being on trial.”

The owner Mustafa Kara told the court that there was no proof that the broadcasts shown as evidence in the indictment were linked to him. “The law doesn’t give me any responsibility regarding the broadcasts. Why am I expected to bear a responsibility that is not conferred by the law” he asked the court.

His partner İsmail Gökhan Bayram said accusations of “conducting propaganda” on behalf of three different organizations didn’t make any sense. “The broadcasts contained in the indictment are broadcasts that served public interest. All our broadcasts are exercises of freedom of expression and thought,” he told the court.

“Punished for using freedom of expression”

Taking the floor after the defendants, lawyer Devrim Avcı told the court that people were being “punished for using their right to freedom of expression.”

“Criticizing the government is not a crime. It is part of freedom of expression. This trial reflects how the government doesn’t want any criticism but only applause,” she said.

Avcı also gave the example of Ayşe Çelik, a young teacher who was sentenced and sent to prison for protesting the war during a live phone connection to a popular TV programme aired on Kanal D. Çelik’s conviction had stirred outrage across the country, but no executives from the channel were put on trial. “The same should be applied here,” she said.

Avcı demanded additional time for the defense, upon which the court decided to adjourn the trial until September 19.

Founded as Hayat TV (Life TV) in 2007, Hayatın Sesi was a left-wing channel with programs on both political and cultural matters, particularly focusing on labor issues, women’s rights, youth’s issues and the environment. It was shut down by a statutory decree on September 29, 2016, along with several other TV and radio stations.