In a strong showing for media freedom and the need to uphold the Fourth Estate’s rights, a prominent journalist who was assassinated twelve years ago has been remembered.
Hrant Dink, the former editor-in-chief of Agos, was assassinated in front of his newspaper building in Sisli, Istanbul on January 19, 2007.
Agos, is a bi-lingual daily published by the Armenian minority in Turkey. The commemoration was hosted by the newspaper in front of a large crowd on Saturday, after 3 pm.
On the day of the commemoration, Turkish security forces blockaded the street leading to the media entity’s former building. There was also a riot control vehicle, two armoured police vehicles and three police buses in the area, according to a report by the independent Bianet.
Dink was a prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist, writer, and defender of human rights. Dink’s photo hung on the walls of the building with those attending holding up a banner reading: “We demand justice,” “We don’t give up Ahparig (Brother in Armenian),” and “For Hrant, For Justice.”
Dink’s wife Rakel and children Arat, Delal and Sera along with various significant names from Turkey’s politics, media and art world were in attendance.
Filiz Ali, daughter of a famous Turkish poet and writer Sabahattin Ali, who was killed in a politically-motivated assassination on April 2, 1948, delivered a commemorative speech.
“My dear brother Hrant. Murdered journalists, artists have left deep wounds in the society,” she said.
“It has been 70 years since my father was killed and through 70 years, injustices and unlawfulness have increased,” Ali added.
Ali reminded law enforcement agencies that neither his father’s nor Dink’s murderers have been revealed so far and blamed the ruling AK Party for not shedding light on the assassinations.
Ogun Samast, Dink’s assailant, was arrested soon after the murder but his photo with a Turkish flag in between two policemen drew anger. “Country’s land cannot be left to its fate,” was a message written on a banner in the background of the photo.
The connections of the 17-year-old killer who was praised by some ultra-nationalist people and his interactions with state officials who hid the intelligence from security forces remain a mystery.
Turkish law enforcement agencies and some politicians are blamed for turning a blind eye when threats were made against Dink’s life.
Ali, lashing out at the arrests and a mass crackdown on journalists, said: “I would really want to give you good news about the last years, but I cannot. Journalists, writers, politicians are being held in prison cold rooms without knowing why they are being held.”
A letter penned by Osman Kavala, a jailed human rights activist, philanthropist, and businessman was read out during the ceremony.
“I couldn’t attend the commemoration as I am in Silivri but my heart is there. I am unable to be with Dink’s friends today, which pains me. Dink’s murder makes us think more about how a child can turn into a murderer,” the letter, written from prison, read.
Kavala is the founder of a Turkish civil society group called Anadolu Kultur, that aims to promote cultural and artistic understandings through exchanges.
However, the Turkish government accused the civil society group of trying to “overthrow the government” in connection with the mass demonstrations in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013.
The European Parliament called on the European Commission to formally suspend Ankara’s accession talks on November 2018, referring Kavala’s arrest along with many other human rights abuse.
Hundreds of high-profile activists and academics are in prison, accused of seeking to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.