In the fourth episode of #DefendingTheDefenders we talk about the situation of lawyers in Turkey with VEYSEL OK. He is an attorney in Istanbul and the Co-Director of the Media and Law Studies Association, a non-profit which monitors and defends freedom of expression cases against journalists. Veysel has defended high-profile cases such as those against the journalist Deniz Yücel and the novelist Ahmet Altan. Following his work as an attorney in these cases, he has been subject to harassment and prosecution himself. In this episode we discuss how the Turkish government tries to get rid of independent lawyers altogether – and the brave struggle by attorneys in Turkey who fight for those that are being prosecuted for political reasons even though the consequences may be grave. We also talk about what the European Union and its member states need to do in their relations with Turkey to support the fight for the rule of law and democracy.
VEYSEL OK is a leading lawyer for freedom of speech and media based in Istanbul. He defends media and journalists. Previously, he worked as a lawyer for the now-defunct Taraf newspaper, and then went on to start the non-government organization “Media and Law Studies Association” (MLSA), which provides pro-bono legal support to writers and journalists who have been subject to intimidation, surveillance, smear campaigns and legal harassment. Throughout his career, he has defended more than 100 journalists regardless of their ideological, political and ethnic backgrounds, or popularity level. He has defended writers and journalists vilified by the Turkish government, such as Ahmet Altan, the novelist, and Deniz Yücel, the Die Welt correspondent. Outside the courthouse, Veysel Ok has been leading advocacy campaigns for those writers, journalists or dissenters wrongfully imprisoned for expressing their free opinions. Veysel Ok has himself faced surveillance and legal harassment for standing up for freedom of press. He was awerded a Thomas Dehler medal in 2018 and an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award in 2019.