Special Reports


Turkey's Press Freedom Crisis

Appendix I: Journalists in Prison

CPJ research identified 76 journalists imprisoned in Turkey as of August 1, 2012. After examining the government’s evidence, reviewing other public records, and speaking with defense lawyers involved in the cases, CPJ concluded that at least 61 detainees were being held in direct relation to their journalism.

After careful examination of the 15 other cases, CPJ was unable to determine whether the individuals were being held in direct reprisal for their journalism. In many of these cases, authorities have also cited the individuals’ political activities as evidence. CPJ continues to investigate these cases and will reassess them as new information emerges.

CPJ’s previous surveys of journalists imprisoned in Turkey, including one conducted in December 2011, identified far fewer individuals in detention. The 2011 survey, which identified eight individuals jailed in direct relation to their journalism, was also much lower than many other independent estimates, prompting criticism from some journalists and press freedom defenders.

CPJ said at the time that it could not make appropriate judgments without a close review of the evidence in each case. Because of the political nature of the press in Turkey, the line between journalism and activism can be difficult to determine. The complexity and opaqueness of the Turkish legal system, especially in cases in which terrorism and sedition is alleged, also pose unique challenges.

Beginning in early 2012, the organization undertook a thorough case-by-case review, led by a team of Turkey-based researchers. That research has led to the following capsule reports on all journalists imprisoned as of August 1, 2012. The reports are grouped in two categories, “Imprisoned for Journalism” and “Imprisoned: Circumstances Under Investigation.”

 

Imprisoned for Journalism

CPJ has determined that these journalists were jailed in direct connection to their work.

Hatice Duman, Atılım
Imprisoned: April 12, 2003

Duman, former owner and news editor of the socialist weekly Atılım (Leap), was serving a life term at Gebze M Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges of being a member of the banned Marxist Leninist Communist Party, or MLKP, producing propaganda, and “attempting to change the constitutional order by force.”

The ruling was pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals in mid-2012. 

As evidence, authorities cited Duman’s attendance at MLKP demonstrations and the testimony of confidential witnesses.

Defense lawyer Keleş Öztürk told CPJ that his client was targeted because Atılım had opposed administration policies.


Mustafa Gök, Ekmek ve Adalet
Imprisoned: February 19, 2004

Gök, Ankara correspondent for the leftist magazine Ekmek ve Adalet (Bread and Justice), was serving a life prison term at Sincan F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of “attempting to change the constitutional order by force.” He faced an additional prison term of five to 10 years on a pending charge of being a member of the outlawed Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi-Cephesi, or DHKP-C.

Defense lawyer Evrim Deniz Karataş told CPJ that the evidence against Gök consisted of his news coverage and attendance at political demonstrations. He said Gök had been targeted for his reporting on politics and human rights, along with his beliefs as a socialist. Karataş said his client suffers from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which has led to a loss of sight and balance.


Fusün Erdoğan, Özgür Radyo
Imprisoned: September 8, 2006

Erdoğan, former general manager for the leftist Özgür Radyo (The Free Radio), was being held at the Kocaeli T Type Prison on charges of helping lead the banned Marxist Leninist Communist Party, or MLKP. She faced a potential life prison term. Authorities alleged she used radio station assets to support the MLKP.

Zulfü Erdoğan, the journalist’s lawyer and sister, told CPJ that the main evidence against her client was a 40-page document that supposedly included names and personal information for MLKP members. Zulfü Erdoğan questioned the authenticity of the document, saying it was not seized from her client’s home or office and that no evidence connected her client to it. She also noted that court proceedings had yet to result in a verdict after six years, an extraordinarily long period that is the subject of a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights. The lawyer said the case against Erdoğan had been fabricated because the journalist and her news outlet had opposed the administration. She added that Erdoğan suffered from a thyroid disease and needed medical attention.


Sedat Şenoğlu, Atılım
Bayram Namaz, Atılım
Imprisoned: September 8, 2006

Şenoğlu, former general coordinator of the weekly socialist newspaper Atılım (Leap), and Namaz, a columnist for the weekly, faced charges of possession of dangerous materials, possession of unregistered weapons, forgery of official documents, and attempting to eliminate the constitutional order. They were being held at Edirne F Type Prison.

Atılım is affiliated with the Socialist Party of the Oppressed, or ESP, which is a lawful organization. Gülizar Tuncer, a lawyer for the defendants, told CPJ that the state considers the paper and party to be fronts for the illegal Marxist Leninist Communist Party, or MLKP. In an indictment, authorities said the two were arrested with others at a house in Aydın’s Nazilli district in western Turkey, where the fourth general congress of the MLKP was held. Şenoğlu and Namaz said they were picked up by police at another location and brought there.

Authorities alleged that two documents seized from the Nazilli house name Şenoğlu as an MLKP operative, and that Atılım has printed the MLKP’s claims of responsibility for armed actions. The indictment alleged that Namaz possessed a fake ID and that IDs belonging to Namaz were found in an MLKP house in Kayseri Province. As evidence against Namaz, authorities also cited a 2005 article about an MLKP conference that was published in a Kurdish-language journal. Tuncer said her client was not the author of the article.

Tuncer said her clients had been working under constant police surveillance for years, making it impossible for them to lead a secret life as members of an illegal organization. In a March 2012 letter from prison published on the independent news portal Bianet, Şenoğlu said the allegedly incriminating documents had been manufactured by police and that he was imprisoned because of his political ideas and journalistic work.

Şenoğlu was acquitted of similar charges in 1997, Tuncer said.


Faysal Tunç, Dicle News Agency and Özgür Gündem
Imprisoned: April 5, 2007

Tunç, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency and the daily Özgür Gündem (The Free Agenda), was serving a sentence of six years and three months on charges of producing propaganda and being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. He was transferred in 2011 to the Rize Kalkandere L Type Prison, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

After disposition of the case, Tunç’s lawyers were themselves imprisoned as part of an investigation into the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, an umbrella group of pro-Kurdish organizations that includes the PKK.

In March 2012, Tunç sent a letter to the independent news portal Bianet in which he alleged that authorities set him up for a false arrest. In April 2007, he said, he offered a woman he believed to be a member of the Democratic Society Party, a legal entity that was the forerunner of today’s Peace and Democracy Party, some assistance in finding lodging. Tunç said he did not know the woman and now believes she acted as an agent of the police. Within days, he said, he was detained on charges of aiding a member of a terrorist group.


Mustafa Balbay, Cumhuriyet
Imprisoned: March 5, 2009

Balbay, a columnist and former Ankara representative for the leftist-ultranationalist daily Cumhuriyet, was detained as part of the government’s investigation into the alleged Ergenekon plot, a shadowy conspiracy that authorities claim was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup. 

Balbay was initially detained on July 1, 2008, brought to Istanbul, and questioned about his news coverage and his relations with the military and other Ergenekon suspects. Police searched his house and the Ankara office of Cumhuriyet, confiscating computers and documents. Released four days later, Balbay was detained a second time in March 2009 and placed at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul pending trial. He was moved to solitary confinement in February 2011. His lawyers have filed complaints with the European Court of Human Rights alleging violations of due process. Despite being imprisoned, Balbay was elected a parliamentary deputy on the Republican People’s Party ticket in Izmir province in the June 2011 election.

The charges against Balbay include being a member of an armed terrorist organization; attempting to overthrow the government; provoking an armed uprising; unlawfully obtaining, using, and destroying documents concerning government security; and disseminating classified information. The charges could bring life imprisonment, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The evidence against Balbay entails documents seized from his property and office, the news stories he produced, wiretapped telephone conversations, and secretly recorded meetings with senior military and government officials. Balbay has denied the government’s accusations. In columns written from prison and in court hearings, he has repeatedly said that the seized notes and recorded conversations related to his journalism.

In its indictment, the government said Balbay kept detailed records of his meetings with military and political figures. Authorities alleged Balbay erased the notes from his computer but technicians were able to retrieve them from the hard drive. The notes—some of which dated back to the period before the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won power—show military officials discussing how they can alter Turkish politics. For example, in notes dated April 6, 2003, a general identified as Yaşar asked the columnist: “Tell me, Mr. Balbay, can a coup be staged today with this media structure? It can’t. You cannot do something today without the media backing you. You are the only one entreating secularism. The other papers are publishing photographs of women with covered heads every day, almost trying to make it sympathetic.”

In public comments, Balbay said he had been keeping the notes for journalistic purposes, including potential use in a book. He said the government’s indictment quoted excerpts out of context and in a way that made him appear guilty. In the indictment, Balbay was quoted as saying that he erased the files after concluding their use would not be right.

Participants in the conversations included İlhan Selçuk, the now-deceased chief editor of Cumhuriyet and an Ergenekon suspect before his death in June 2010; generals Şener Eruygur, Aytaç Yalman, and Şenkal Atasagun; and former president Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The indictment identified Selçuk as a leader of Ergenekon and accused Balbay of acting as secretary in organizing meetings and keeping notes under cover of journalism. Military officials considered Cumhuriyet a favorite because they shared the paper’s positions on secularism and the Kurdish issue.

The government also said it found classified documents in Balbay’s possession, including military reports on neighboring countries and assessments on political Islam in Turkey. Balbay said news sources had provided him with the documents and that he was using them for journalistic purposes.

Two taped conversations at the gendarmerie headquarters—dated December 23, 2003, and January 5, 2004—were also cited as evidence. The government alleged that, among other topics, Balbay and other participants discussed whether political conditions would allow a coup. Balbay said such discussions were theoretical and constituted no criminal intent.

The government also cited Balbay’s news coverage, including a May 2003 story headlined, “The Young Officers Are Restless.” The headline phrase had been used previously in Turkish politics and was seen as code for a potential military coup. The story claimed that Hilmi Özkök, then the military’s chief of general staff, had warned Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about perceived anti-military pressure from the ruling Justice and Development Party. Özkök denounced the story as false at the time. Authorities claimed that Balbay’s own notes show that Atilla Ateş, then commander of Turkish land forces, congratulated him for the piece by saying, “You did your duty.” 

The İKMS Law Firm, which represents Balbay, did not respond to CPJ’s questions seeking further information about Balbay’s defense.


Ahmet Birsin, Gün TV
Imprisoned: April 14, 2009

Birsin, general manager of Gün TV, a regional pro-Kurdish television news station in southeastern Turkey, faced trial for assisting an offshoot of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, attending PKK events, possessing PKK documents, and assisting the PKK in its press work, according to Justice Ministry documents. His lawyer, Fuat Coşacak, told CPJ that the charges were retaliatory and without basis.

Birsin described his arrest in a May 2009 letter published in the daily Gündem. He said police came to his office on the night of April 13, searched the building, and confiscated archival material, computer hard drives, laptops, cameras, and other broadcast equipment. Birsin, imprisoned at Diyarbakır D Type Prison, faces up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.


Deniz Yıldırım, Aydınlık
Imprisoned: November 8, 2009

Yıldırım was the chief editor of the ultranationalist-leftist Aydınlık (Enlightment), then a monthly, when detained by the police at his house in Istanbul as part of the government’s investigation into the alleged Ergenekon plot, a shadowy conspiracy that authorities believe was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup.

He was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization, violating privacy rights, and disclosing state secrets. According to the indictment, Yıldırım received a recording from Ergenekon conspirators and published its contents. The recording purported to include a 2004 phone conversation between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in which the two discussed the sensitive issue of Cyprus’ political status. It also purportedly included a conversation between Erdoğan and businessman Remzi Gür.

As evidence, authorities cited Yıldırım’s published work and other recordings allegedly found during a police raid of Aydınlık offices. Yıldırım, who faced up to 57 years in prison, said he had no ties to Ergenekon. Mehmet Aytenkin, a lawyer for Yıldırım, told CPJ that his client was arrested because his news outlet was critical of the government.


Seyithan Akyüz, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: December 7, 2009

Akyüz, Adana correspondent for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was serving a term of nine years and three months at Kürkçüler F Type Prison in Adana on charges of aiding the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, an umbrella group of pro-Kurdish organizations that includes the Kurdistan Workers Party. Authorities cited his possession of banned newspapers and his presence at a May Day demonstration in İzmir.

The trial in Adana made national news when the judge refused to allow Akyüz and other defendants to offer statements in their native Kurdish. A report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also found that court officials withheld case documents from Akyüz’s lawyer for more than a year.

Legal representation for Akyüz and other detained Azadiya Welat journalists recently changed. The new defense lawyer, Cemil Sözen, who is representing Akyüz on appeal, said he could not comment because he was not yet familiar with the case.


Kenan Karavil, Radyo Dünya
Imprisoned: December 7, 2009

Karavil, editor-in-chief of the pro-Kurdish radio station Radyo Dünya in the southern province of Adana, was being held at Adana F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, and the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. He faced up to 25 years in prison upon conviction.

As evidence, authorities cited news programs that Karavil produced, his meetings with members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, and his wiretapped telephone conversations with colleagues, listeners, and news sources, defense lawyer Vedat Özkan told CPJ. In one phone conversation, the lawyer said, Karavil discussed naming a program “Those Who Imagine the Island.” He said the indictment considered this illegal propaganda because it referred to the imprisonment of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who was being held in a prison on İmralı Island. 

In a letter to media outlets, Karavil said authorities had questioned him about the station’s ownership and the content of its programming. Court officials refused to allow Karavil to give statements in his native Kurdish language, Özkan said.


Bedri Adanır, Aram and Hawar
Imprisoned: January 5, 2010

Adanır, owner of the pro-Kurdish publishing house Aram and editor-in-chief of the daily Hawar, faced trial on charges of spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in books and articles published by his company, Justice Ministry records show. Adanır, who was being held in Diyarbakir D Type Prison, was rebuffed in his requests to be released on bail while his case was pending. The charges could bring 50 years in prison upon conviction.

In 2009, a trial court sentenced Adanır to a 15-month prison term on similar propaganda charges, although the case remained under review by the Supreme Court in mid-2012, the semi-official Anatolian Agency reported. The 2009 case stemmed from a book published by Aram and written by imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, titled Kültür-Sanat Devrimi Üzerine (On the Revolution of Culture and Art), according to the independent news portal Bianet.


Erdal Süsem, Eylül Sanat Edebiyat Dergisi
Imprisoned: February 10, 2010

Süsem, editor of the leftist culture magazine Eylül Sanat Edebiyat Dergisi (September Arts Literature Magazine), was being held at Edirne F Type Prison on charges of helping lead the outlawed Maoist Communist Party, or MKP. Authorities alleged that Süsem’s magazine produced propaganda for the party.

In a letter published in February 2012 by the independent news portal Bianet, Süsem said the evidence against him consisted of journalistic material such as books, postcards, and letters, along with accounts of his newsgathering activities such as phone interviews. Süsem made similar statements in a letter to the Justice Ministry that has been cited in news accounts.

Süsem had started the magazine during an earlier imprisonment at Tekirdağ F Type Prison. The magazine featured poems, literature, and opinion pieces from imprisoned socialist intellectuals. After producing the initial four editions by photocopy from prison, Süsem transformed the journal into a standard print publication after his 2007 release from prison, circulating another 16 issues.

Süsem’s earlier imprisonment stemmed from March 2000 allegations that he stole a police officer’s handgun that was later used in a murder. (He was not directly charged in the murder.) Süsem pleaded innocent to the gun theft charge during proceedings that were marked by a number of questions. No forensic evidence tied Süsem to the weapon, and witness descriptions of the suspect did not match the journalist. A criminal court convicted him on the theft charge and sentenced him to life imprisonment, a ruling that was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2007. In 2011, the Supreme Court reversed itself, reinstating the theft conviction.


Ali Konar, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: May 27, 2010

Konar, the Elazığ correspondent for Azadiya Welat, Turkey’s sole Kurdish-language daily, was serving a term of seven years and six months at Malatya E Type Prison on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party is part.

In a January 2012 letter published by the independent news portal Bianet, Konar said his published news reporting and his interactions with colleagues were cited as evidence of criminality. Authorities also cited his visits to his jailed brother as evidence that he was a prison liaison for the KCK, he said.


Ozan Kılınç, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: July 22, 2010

Kılınç, editor-in-chief of the Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat, Turkey’s sole Kurdish-language daily, was serving a sentence of more than 32 years at Diyarbakır D Type Prison after being convicted under the country’s anti-terror law on charges of spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

Twelve news stories published in Azadiya Welat were used as evidence against him, news accounts said. Two other chief editors of Azadiya Welat—Tayip Temel and Mehmet Emin Yıldırım—were imprisoned on similar charges when CPJ conducted its August 1, 2012, survey.


Hakan Soytemiz, Red
Imprisoned: September 21, 2010

Soytemiz, a columnist for the leftist political monthly Red (Rejection), was being held at Tekirdağ F Type Prison on charges of being a member of Devrimci Karargah, or Revolutionary Headquarters, which the government designates as a terrorist organization, and possessing a false identity card. He faced 15 years upon conviction.

As evidence, the indictment cited Soytemiz’s 2004 interactions with a reputed Devrimci Karargah member named Ulaş Erdoğan. At the time, the indictment said, Soytemiz had enlisted Erdoğan’s help in selling a publication named Haziran (June). The indictment also cited as evidence Soytemiz’s shipment of packages, but it does not describe the content of the packages or their relationship to the case. The recipients were identified by name but their role in the case was not explained.

Prosecutors also alleged that Soytemiz was linked to another journal, Demokratik Dönüşüm (Democratic Transformation), which they considered to be a publication of Devrimci Karargah. Authorities said Soytemiz’s name appeared on bills connected to the journal.

Authorities also cited as evidence Soytemiz’s attendance at rallies of the Communist Party of Turkey, which is a legal entity, his use of a mobile phone registered in someone else’s name, and unspecified phone conversations. Authorities also alleged that he possessed an identity card in his brother’s name. A previous conviction on charges of aiding an armed terror organization, the Turkey Revolution Party, was also used as evidence against him. Soytemiz served nearly four years in that case.


Sinan Aygül, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: January 19, 2011

Aygül, Bitlis reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, was being held at Muş E Type Prison on charges of being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. Aygül, who faced up to 15 years in prison, has denied the allegations.

Authorities cited the editor’s wiretapped telephone conversations as evidence that he had engaged in “organizing” on behalf of the PKK. Books, magazines, and digital material confiscated from his house, confidential witness testimony, and police surveillance photographs of political rallies were also cited as evidence. Defense lawyer Murat Timur told CPJ his client was targeted because he was a political reporter working for a Kurdish news outlet that opposes the administration. “The documents in the dossier are the news stories that he wrote,” Timur said, noting for example that authorities portrayed his client’s coverage of a press announcement as actual participation in a banned group’s activities. “What are on trial are acts of journalism.”


Soner Yalçın, Odatv and Hürriyet
Barış Pehlivan, Odatv
Barış Terkoğlu, Odatv
Imprisoned: February 14, 2011
Yalçın Küçük, Odatv and Aydınlık
Imprisoned: March 7, 2011

Several members of the ultranationalist-leftist news website Odatv were arrested in February and March 2011 on charges of having ties to the alleged Ergenekon plot, a shadowy conspiracy that authorities claim was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup. Authorities charged all of the staffers with propagandizing on behalf of Ergenekon, lodging additional charges against some.

Odatv features news and commentary that promotes an ultranationalist agenda from a Kemalist perspective and is harshly critical of its perceived opponents. The targets of its attacks include the ruling Justice and Development Party, the Fethullah Gülen religious community, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and liberals. Much of Odatv’s critical commentary involves highly personal attacks.

Yalçın, owner of the site and an opinion writer for the daily Hürriyet (Freedom), and Pehlivan, the site’s chief editor, were also charged with attempting to influence court proceedings, inciting hatred, and violating privacy rights. Authorities charged Yalçın with disclosing classified military and intelligence documents as well. Held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul pending trial, both Yalçın and Pehlivan denied the accusations and said the evidence against them amounted to the website’s published material and their professional phone conversations.

Terkoğlu, the news editor, was also charged with inciting hatred and was being held at Silivri F Type Prison pending trial. Terkoğlu said he was behind all of the news stories published by Odatv, whether written by him or not, but that none had criminal content. He said Odatv’s reporting on the Ergenekon case, for example, was based on public indictments and court sessions. “There are press laws in the country. The prosecutors could have filed cases if what we write is wrong. But that did not happen; our news was considered a so-called terror crime,” Terkoğlu said in court.

Küçük, an opinion writer for the site and for the daily Aydınlık, was also accused of being a leader of the Ergenekon organization, inciting hatred, violating privacy rights, and disclosing classified military and intelligence documents. In court, Küçük said the charges were without basis.

As evidence, authorities have cited wiretapped phone conversations between staffers in which coverage was discussed. In one conversation, authorities allege, Yalçın directed a columnist to write a piece suggesting that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was forcing the military’s hand to stage a coup. 

Authorities also cite as evidence a series of digital documents found on Odatv computers during a police raid on the news outlet. The authenticity of the documents has been challenged by the defense. A team from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, which examined the evidence at the request of the defense, found that the computers contained Trojan files that left the machines vulnerable to outside manipulation. The team also found that the documents themselves were altered on the day of the police raid, further raising the possibility that the files could have been planted or manipulated.

Authorities said the documents included an Ergenekon media strategy memo, an ultranationalist text describing the AKP as dangerous; and directions on covering the PKK, AKP, army generals, and the Ergenekon investigation.

Authorities also cite two documents claiming that the well-known investigative reporter Nedim Şener had helped a former regional police chief, Hanefi Avci, write a 2010 book alleging that the Gülen movement had infiltrated the police force. Another document claimed Şener was also helping investigative reporter Ahmet Şık write a book about the Gülen movement. Authorities used those documents to link Şener and Şık to the Ergenekon plot. The two were jailed for more than 12 months before being freed pending trial; they continued to face anti-state charges related to the plot.


Ahmet Akyol, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: May 6, 2011

Akyol, an intern reporting for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, DİHA, in the southern city of Adana, was being held at Ceyhan E Type Prison on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, an umbrella group of pro-Kurdish organizations that includes the Kurdistan Workers Party. He faced up to 25 years in prison if convicted of the charges, which also include producing propaganda for the group.

Defense lawyer Vedat Özkan said wiretapped telephone conversations were used as evidence against his client. Akyol’s conversations with his editor at DİHA, another reporter, and a news source were cited in particular, he said. The indictment also cited his presence at political rallies. Akyol told authorities that the phone conversations and his attendance at rallies were related to his work as a reporting intern.

Akyol, a student at Çukurova University, was arrested during a police operation targeting university students.


Turhan Özlü, Ulusal Kanal
Imprisoned: August 21, 2011

Özlü, chief editor for the ultranationalist-leftist television station Ulusal Kanal (National Channel), was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of participating in the Ergenekon conspiracy, a shadowy plot that prosecutors say was aimed at overthrowing the administration. Özlü faced up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.

According to the government’s indictment, the channel aired an audio recording made by Ergenekon conspirators. The recording purported to include a 2004 phone conversation between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in which the two discussed the sensitive issue of  Cyprus’ political status. It also purportedly included a conversation between Erdoğan and businessman Remzi Gür.

The indictment identified Ulusal Kanal as a media arm of Ergenekon.


Aydın Yıldız, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: October 1, 2011

Yıldız, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, was detained by police in Mersin. He was being held at Gaziantep H Type Prison awaiting trial on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. Yıldız faced up to 20 years in prison upon conviction.

Authorities said they had photographs of Yıldız attending demonstrations of civil disobedience and the funerals of PKK members. Defense lawyer Berivan Özpolat told CPJ that her client was covering the events and that Yıldız had been targeted because he was a Kurdish journalist working for an outlet that opposes the administration.


Tayip Temel, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: October 3, 2011

Temel, a former editor-in-chief and columnist for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was being held at Diyarbakır D Type Prison on charges of being a member of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. He faced more than 22 years in prison upon conviction, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

In a January 2012 letter to the independent news portal Bianet, Temel said he was being targeted for his journalistic activities. As evidence, the government cited wiretapped telephone conversations he had with colleagues and with members of the Pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Temel said. He said the government had wrongly described his work-related travels to Iraq as related to attendance at PKK meetings. “My articles, correspondences, headline discussions, and requests for news and visuals from reporters were defined as ‘orders’ and ‘organizational activity’ and I am accused of organization leadership,” Temel wrote, describing the government’s indictment.

Two other chief editors of Azadiya Welat—Ozan Kılınç and Mehmet Emin Yıldırım—were imprisoned on similar charges when CPJ conducted its August 1, 2012, survey.


Murat Aydın, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: October 20, 2011

Aydın, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, was detained by police in Muş and was being held in mid-2012 in Bayburt M Type Prison on charges of being a member of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. A formal indictment had not been filed as of mid-2012. Defense lawyer Halil Kartal told CPJ that his client had been abused during his arrest and detention.

During questioning, prosecutors cited Aydın’s phone conversations with his employer and other media outlets as evidence of criminality, Kartal said. In particular, prosecutors cited a conversation in which the reporter relayed an announcement from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party to the pro-PKK satellite station Roj TV.

In an open letter published by the independent news portal Bianet, Aydın said authorities focused exclusively on journalism during their questioning. He also described a harrowing arrest in 2011: “During the raid at my house, I found myself lying face down being kicked and struck with the butts of guns by heavily armed, masked special operations officers. At that time, they put the barrels of the guns to my head, which they were stepping on with their feet. A police chief shouted at an officer who was recording this operation: ‘Do not record this.’”


Hasan Özgüneş, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: October 28, 2011

Özgüneş, a veteran journalist and a columnist for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of helping lead the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. He was also charged with producing propaganda and taking part in illegal demonstrations.

Özgüneş has written columns for Azadiya Welat on political, social, cultural, and economic issues since 2007 after writing for Kurdish magazines such as Tiroj and Zend since 1993. He is also a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.

Authorities would not allow Özgüneş to give statements in his native Kurdish, news accounts said. During questioning, authorities sought information about Özgüneş’ lectures at a BDP political academy, his conversations with the pro-PKK satellite station Roj TV, and his presence at a political demonstration, according to the indictment.


Mehmet Güneş, Türkiye Gerçeği
Imprisoned: December 6, 2011

Güneş, a publisher and columnist for the socialist political monthly Türkiye Gerçeği (Turkey Truth), was being held at Tekirdağ F Type Prison on charges of being a member of Devrimci Karargah, or Revolutionary Headquarters, which the government designates as a terrorist organization. Güneş faced 15 years in prison upon conviction, according to a report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The indictment, which said police had conducted surveillance of Güneş and had tapped his phone, cited the journalist’s interactions with defendants facing similar charges as evidence of a crime. Authorities also alleged that a publication named Devrimci Dönüşüm (Revolutionary Transformation), which was seen as close to the Devrimci Karargah, shared a mailing address with Güneş’ office.

Authorities said they seized documents about Devrimci Karargah from Güneş’ office. The documents included articles about Devrimci Karargah, along with information on lawsuits and police operations against the organization, the indictment said. Among the documents were articles written by Orhan Yılmazkaya, the Devrimci Karargah leader killed in a police operation in central Istanbul in 2009.

Güneş was abused in Tekirdağ Prison, defense lawyer Ercan Kanar told reporters, citing an episode in which the defendant was stripped and beaten. Police also seized a computer and documents belonging to Güneş’ wife, lawyer Gülizar Tuncer. She said the seized documents concerned unrelated cases she had been handling as a lawyer.


Abdullah Çetin, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: December 16, 2011

Çetin, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, in the southeastern province of Siirt, was being held at Diyarbakır D Type Prison on charges of aiding the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. Upon conviction, he faced up to 15 years in prison, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The ETHA news agency said Çetin was accused of organizing anti-government demonstrations. The government’s indictment also cited Çetin’s professional phone conversations as evidence, the Bianet independent news portal said. Çetin told authorities that he attended demonstrations for journalistic purposes, Bianet said.


Ziya Çiçekçi, Özgür Gündem
Turabi Kişin, Özgür Gündem
Yüksel Genç, Özgür Gündem
Nevin Erdemir, Özgür Gündem
Dilek Demiral, Özgür Gündem
Sibel Güler, Özgür Gündem
Nurettin Fırat, Özgür Gündem
Imprisoned: December 20, 2011

At least seven editors and writers associated with the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem (The Free Agenda) were among 27 journalists still being held in August 2012 after being arrested in a massive government sweep on December 20 and 21, 2011. Authorities said the roundup was related to their investigation into the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. According to the indictment, all of the main pro-Kurdish media and news agencies in Turkey are directed by the KCK.

Çiçekçi, publisher and news editor, was being held at Kandıra F Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges of helping lead the KCK press committee, which allegedly orchestrated coverage that would further the organization’s goals. The indictment accused Çiçekçi of setting his news agenda in conformance with organization orders and participating in press committee meetings in Iraq. As evidence, authorities cited books, magazines, a computer hard drive, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, bank account books, handwritten notes, letters, and a copy of Özgür Gündem. One of the electronic documents, the indictment said, included video of PKK and KCK events.

Kişin, Özgür Gündem editor, was being held at Kandıra F Type Prison on charges of being a leader of the KCK press committee and taking orders from the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan that were sent via email from defense lawyers. As evidence, authorities cited three pro-Kurdish newspaper stories, one written by Kişin and two in which he was the subject. The prosecution also cited wiretapped telephone conversations in which Kişin spoke to people who wanted him to run obituaries for PKK members—Kişin declined because of legal constraints—and contributors seeking to publish articles in his newspaper. Kişin said his newspaper is a dissident publication but did not take orders from the KCK.

Genç, a columnist, was being held in mid-year at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the press committee of the KCK. Authorities, citing statements from other suspects, alleged that Genç was a “high-level” member of the KCK press committee and had participated in committee meetings in northern Iraq. Authorities also cited as evidence Genç’s notes about ethnic conflicts in Spain, South Africa, and Bolivia, along with her phone conversations with other journalists. Genç’s request that a writer do a piece about a World Peace Day demonstration in Turkey, for example, was considered by authorities to be an order serving the PKK. Genç said she did not participate in the KCK press committee, and that her communications with other journalists were professional in nature.

Erdemir, a reporter and editor, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges that she helped lead the KCK’s press committee. Citing passport records and the statements of confidential witnesses, the government alleged that Erdemir participated in a KCK press committee meeting in Iraq in 2009. The indictment also cites as evidence her participation in a press conference in which Özgür Gündem editors protested police operations against Kurdish journalists, and an interview she conducted with a leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Erdemir disputed the charges.

Demiral, a former editor, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee and producing propaganda for the organization. Citing passport records and the statement of a detained PKK member, authorities said Demiral participated in a 2005 KCK press meeting in Iraq. Authorities also cited the seizure of digital copies of banned books, and a speech Demiral gave at a memorial ceremony that cast a deceased PKK member in a favorable light. Demiral denied any ties to the KCK and said she had traveled for journalistic purposes.

Güler, a former editor, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. Citing passport records and documents seized from an accused KCK member, the government alleged that Güler participated in the organization’s press committee meetings in Iraq in 2003 and 2005, and had met with KCK leader Murat Karayılan. Güler told authorities she did not participate in any KCK meetings.

Fırat, an editor and columnist for the paper, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a leader of the KCK press committee. Citing passport records, organization records, and the accounts of confidential witnesses, authorities alleged he participated in committee meetings in Iraq in 2003, 2005, and 2007. Authorities, who tapped Fırat’s phone conversations, said the journalist printed an article by KCK leader Karayılan, applying a penname that he devised in conspiracy with another journalist. Fırat said his travel was for journalistic purposes and that he did not participate in KCK activities.

In most cases, the journalists faced up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.


Zuhal Tekiner, Dicle News Agency
Semiha Alankuş, Dicle News Agency
Kenan Kırkaya, Dicle News Agency
Ramazan Pekgöz, Dicle News Agency
Fatma Koçak, Dicle News Agency
Ayşe Oyman, Dicle News Agency
Çağdaş Kaplan, Dicle News Agency
Ertuş Bozkurt, Dicle News Agency
Nilgün Yıldız, Dicle News Agency
Sadık Topaloğlu, Dicle News Agency
İsmail Yıldız, Dicle News Agency
Ömer Çelik, Dicle News Agency
Mazlum Özdemir, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: December 20, 2011

Thirteen editors, writers, and managers with the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, were among at least 27 journalists still being held in August 2012 after being arrested in a massive sweep on December 20 and 21, 2011. Authorities said the roundup was related to their investigation into the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. According to the indictment, all of the main pro-Kurdish media and news agencies in Turkey are directed by the KCK.

Tekiner, chairwoman of the DİHA board, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being an “administrative” member of the KCK press committee, which allegedly orchestrated coverage that would further the organization’s goals. The indictment cited Tekiner’s contribution to DİHA’s account of a 2010 May Day rally as evidence that she was producing propaganda. Authorities, who tapped Tekiner’s phone, also cited a conversation she had with an accused PKK member who had sought news coverage of a press conference. Tekiner denied any links to the KCK.

Alankuş, a translator and editor, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the press committee of the KCK. Authorities alleged that Alankuş participated in a meeting of the KCK press committee in northern Iraq in September 2009, and used her position as a DİHA editor to broadcast directions from the PKK. Possession of banned magazines and books was also cited as evidence. Alankuş said she did not participate in the press committee meeting.

Kırkaya, DİHA’s Ankara representative, was being held at Kandıra F Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges that he helped lead the KCK press committee. Authorities cited the statements of two confidential witnesses as evidence. The government also cited as evidence news reports by Kırkaya, including pieces about PKK militia allegedly killed by chemical weapons, articles addressing the Kurdish issue, and stories critical of the government. Calling Kırkaya a “so-called journalist” who worked under orders from convicted PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, the indictment alleged that his reporting had furthered the aims of the KCK and had sought to manipulate public opinion. Kırkaya told authorities he had no connection to the KCK.

Pekgöz, an editor, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges that he helped lead the KCK press committee. Citing passport records and the statements of confidential witnesses, the government alleged that he participated in two KCK committee meetings in Iraq and that he met with KCK leader Murat Karayılan. Pekgöz said he met with Karayılan for journalistic purposes; he denied the government’s allegations. Authorities, who tapped Pekgöz’s phone conversations, accused the editor of following KCK directives and relaying the organization’s orders to other journalists. The indictment said Pekgöz directed a pro-KCK agenda when he served as news editor for Günlük, the daily now known as Özgür Gündem. The indictment cited as evidence a phone conversation between Pekgöz and columnist Veysi Sarısözen concerning potential column topics, and Pekgöz’s efforts to recruit a writer to discuss the potential unification of socialist and leftist parties. The indictment said convicted PKK leader Öcalan supported the unification of the parties.

Koçak, a news editor, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. Koçak’s phone conversations with news sources and reporters were cited as evidence. Tips to DİHA about pro-Kurdish demonstrations, for example, were cited as evidence. The indictment asserted that “a normal journalist” would not receive such tips, and it faulted Koçak for not relaying information about the events to authorities. The indictment also faulted Koçak for receiving information by phone about fatalities among guerrillas in eastern Turkey, and fielding a request from German ZDF TV for video of PKK-army clashes and the funerals of PKK fighters. Stories Koçak wrote about democratic autonomy were also considered evidence. Koçak disputed alleged ties to the KCK.

Oyman, a reporter, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. Among the cited evidence were phone conversations with reporters in the field, banned books and magazines, and the news stories that she produced for DİHA. The indictment labeled her reporting as propaganda aimed at causing “disaffection for the state and sympathy for the organization.” Citing passport records and the accounts of two confidential witnesses, authorities also alleged that she participated in a KCK press committee meeting in Iraq in 2003 and had contact with İsmet Kayhan, a Fırat News Agency editor wanted by the government on charges of leading the KCK’s press committee in Europe. Oyman, who also worked as a reporter for Özgür Gündem, disputed the allegations.

Kaplan, a reporter for DİHA, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. The indictment cited as evidence Kaplan’s news coverage and phone conversations in which he relayed information to the pro-PKK satellite station Roj TV. The indictment said Kaplan’s stories distorted the facts, reflected the official perspective of the KCK, and presented “police operations against the KCK as operations against the Kurdish people.” For example, the indictment said a report about the funeral of a PKK member “tried to draw conclusions in favor of the organization.” Kaplan was also accused of having contact with Fırat’s Kayhan.

Bozkurt, an editor in DİHA’s Diyarbakır office, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of helping lead the KCK press committee. As evidence, the indictment cited phone conversations in which Bozkurt relayed information to Roj TV. Authorities described Bozkurt’s reports as “false,” provocative, and designed to further the KCK’s aims. The indictment also faulted Bozkurt for ensuring news coverage of pro-Kurdish demonstrations, and for providing German ZDF TV with video of a PKK fighter’s funeral and army movements in southeast Turkey. Citing passport records and the account of a confidential witness, authorities alleged that Bozkurt took part in a KCK press committee meeting in Iraq in 2007 and had contact with Fırat’s Kayhan. Authorities said they seized banned books by convicted PKK leader Öcalan, along with photographs of PKK guerrillas and Turkish military intelligence. Bozkurt told prosecutors that his activities were journalistic and that he had no ties to the KCK.

Nilgün Yıldız, a reporter, was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK’s press committee. Citing passport records and the account of a confidential witness, authorities allege that Yıldız participated in KCK press committee meetings in Iraq. Authorities also cited her news coverage as evidence. The indictment pointed to a story that recounted a Kurdish youth setting himself on fire to protest Öcalan’s imprisonment, which authorities called propaganda, and a piece that referred to a memorial service for a PKK member, which authorities said constituted a call for organization members to gather. Photographs of a PKK member’s funeral, taken from her confiscated flash drive, were also cited as evidence. Yıldız denied any wrongdoing.

Topaloğlu, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. As evidence, the indictment cited phone conversations in which Topaloğlu relayed information to Roj TV. The indictment also faulted Topaloğlu for fielding phone tips about press conferences and other news events, and for seeking information from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s Antep branch about a local police crackdown against the party. Authorities alleged his reporting was aimed at humiliating the government, furthering the KCK’s aims, and provoking “innocent Kurdish people against their state.”

İsmail Yıldız, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK’s press committee. As evidence, authorities cited his news coverage of demonstrations, his telephone conversations at DİHA offices, and information he relayed to Roj TV. The indictment also detailed an episode in which Yıldız was among the first at the scene of an explosion in a trash container; authorities allege his quick arrival meant that he had prior knowledge of the bomb. Banned books and magazines on the Kurdish issue, digital equipment, and CDs featuring interviews with PKK sympathizers were among the items seized from Yıldız.

Çelik, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. Authorities faulted Çelik for biased coverage of a university dispute and other news events, labeling his reporting of an earthquake, for example, as “black propaganda.” They also cited as evidence phone conversations in which Çelik received tips about press conferences and other news events, and a conversation in which he relayed information to Roj TV. His coverage of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party was in itself considered evidence of a crime. Çelik denied any wrongdoing, telling prosecutors he was not a member of the KCK press committee.

Özdemir, a reporter, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of helping lead the KCK press committee. Citing passport records, email traffic, and the accounts of confidential witnesses, authorities alleged that Özdemir attended KCK committee meetings in Iraq, had contact with the Fırat editor Kayhan, and produced journalism that cast the group in a favorable light. Authorities said they intercepted encrypted electronic messages showing that Özdemir handled financial transfers for the KCK. Authorities also cited Özdemir’s news stories as evidence of culpability. Özdemir told authorities that his email messages involved news reporting and personal matters. Authorities confiscated books, CDs, a hard drive, cell phone, and a hunting rifle. Defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç told CPJ that the weapon was an antique handed down by his client’s grandfather; Özdemir was not charged with a weapons violation.

In most cases, the journalists faced up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.


Çağdaş Ulus, Vatan
Zeynep Kuray, Birgün, Fırat News Agency
Hüseyin Deniz, Evrensel
Nahide Ermiş, Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite
Selahattin Aslan, Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite
Oktay Candemir, Prestij
Imprisoned: December 20, 2011

Editors and writers representing a variety of pro-Kurdish news outlets were among the 27 journalists still being held in August 2012 after being arrested in a massive sweep on December 20 and 21, 2011. Authorities said the roundup was related to their investigation into the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. According to the indictment, all of the main pro-Kurdish media and news agencies in Turkey are directed by the KCK.

Ulus, a reporter for Vatan, a nationalist daily that opposes the PKK, was being held at Maltepe L Type Prison in Istanbul. He faced charges of being a member of the KCK press committee, which allegedly orchestrated coverage furthering the organization’s goals. Authorities cited as evidence wiretapped phone conversations with two other journalists, one of them İsmet Kayhan, a Fırat News Agency editor wanted by the government on charges of leading the KCK press committee in Europe.

Photographs of Kurdish parliamentarians in demonstrations, videos, and pictures of other demonstrations, and an article about Abdullah Öcalan, the convicted leader of the PKK, were cited as evidence against Ulus. Prosecutors also accused Ulus of participating in KCK press committee meetings in June 2005 in Iraq, and writing two articles for Fırat under the penname Bahoz Deniz. Defense lawyers said that conversations with other journalists concerned news stories and that Turkish passport records show Ulus was not in Iraq during the time of the supposed KCK meetings. Ulus said he knew nothing about the press committee of the KCK.

Kuray, a reporter and photographer for the leftist daily Birgün and an occasional contributor to Fırat, was being held in mid-year at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the press committee of the KCK. As evidence, authorities cited photos and stories by Kuray, along with wiretapped phone conversations with Kayhan. Prosecutors alleged her work served as propaganda for the PKK, particularly in coverage of the alleged use of chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey, and police operations against Kurdish politicians and lawyers for Öcalan. Police photographs of Kuray at Kurdish demonstrations were also presented as evidence.

Deniz, a reporter for the socialist daily Evrensel, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges that he helped lead the KCK’s press committee. Citing passport records, authorities alleged Deniz participated in KCK press committee meetings in Iraq in 2003, 2005, and 2009, and had met with KCK leader Murat Karayılan. The indictment said authorities had also seized news reports, documents, and banned books from Deniz that allegedly linked him to the group. The indictment described one of the documents as a “report of the publishing board” of the daily Özgür Gündem, an internal document that authorities said had cast Öcalan in a favorable light and had described efforts to further the aims of his organization. Deniz, who had once worked for the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem, denied participating in KCK meetings and said his travel was for journalistic purposes.

Ermiş, a member of the editorial board of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish opinion magazine Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite (The Free People and Democratic Modernity), was being held at Bakırköy Prison for Women and Children in Istanbul on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. Citing passport records, the indictment said Ermiş participated in a 2009 KCK press committee meeting. The government also said it had seized notes from her property that cast Öcalan and other PKK members in a favorable light. The indictment considered those notes as being taken during organizational training. Ermiş disputed the charges.

Aslan, editor for the now-defunct, pro-Kurdish opinion magazine Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK’s press committee. As evidence, authorities cited seized text messages and tapped phone calls concerning published stories, distribution of the periodicals, and police efforts to block distribution. Authorities also said they found one of Aslan’s fingerprints at his office, citing that as evidence that he worked for “the terrorist organization’s media organ.” Citing passport records, authorities alleged that he participated in KCK press committee meetings in Iraq. Aslan has disputed allegations of KCK ties.

Candemir, a reporter for the Van daily Prestij (Prestige) and a former staffer for Dicle News Agency, was being held at Kocaeli F Type Prison on charges of being a member of the KCK press committee. As evidence, authorities cited his communications with Fırat editor Kayhan. Authorities also seized notes and published news accounts on the Kurdish issue, human rights, border smuggling, and the PKK.

In most cases, the journalists faced up to 15 years in prison.

Mehmet Emin Yıldırım, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: December 21, 2011

A court in Diyarbakır ordered that Yıldırım, editor-in-chief of the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, be held as part of an investigation into the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. Authorities allege that the KCK directs all of the main pro-Kurdish media and news agencies in Turkey.

Yıldırım was being held in Kandıra F Type Prison in Kocaeli on charges of following the directives of the KCK press committee. As evidence, authorities cited conversations in which Yıldırım relayed information to the pro-PKK satellite station Roj TV. The indictment also faulted Yıldırım’s news coverage for being critical of police operations against the KCK, for insulting the government, and for provoking Kurds to oppose the state. Authorities claimed notes and email traffic showed that he executed orders from the KCK. For example, a list of toiletries and other items—shaving blades, a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a digital radio, and batteries—was cited as evidence that Yıldırım was providing supplies to the PKK.

Authorities would not allow Yıldırım to give a statement in his native Kurdish, which defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç said was a violation of a defendant’s rights but one common in political cases. “They bring in a translator for cases such as narcotics trafficking, but they do not for these cases,” he said.

Two other chief editors of Azadiya Welat—Tayip Temel and Ozan Kılınç—were imprisoned on similar charges when CPJ conducted its August 1, 2012, survey.


Aziz Tekin, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: January 28, 2012

Tekin, Mardin correspondent for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was being held at Mardin E Type Prison on charges of aiding and producing propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. He faced up to 20 years in prison upon conviction.

Authorities alleged that Tekin had visited a “condolence tent” that had been set up for the family of a deceased PKK member, and that he had attended demonstrations denouncing police actions against Kurds. Tekin’s defense lawyer could not be located. Menderes Özer, acting news editor for Azadiya Welat, told CPJ that the paper did not know who was representing Tekin.


Gülsen Aslan, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: February 21, 2012

Aslan, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, in the southeastern city of Batman, was being held in Batman M Type Prison on charges of being a member of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. She faced up to 15 years in prison upon conviction, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Police first detained Aslan in a February 4, 2012, operation that swept up 44 people on suspicion of KCK involvement. Aslan was soon released, only to be detained again on February 21, the OSCE said. Aslan was re-arrested because she did not halt her critical journalism, colleague Güler Can said in a press conference dedicated to detained journalists, the daily Özgür Gündem reported. Aslan mainly wrote about prison conditions and alleged violations of human rights in prison, the Bianet independent news portal said. Defense lawyer Kezban Yılmaz did not respond to requests seeking further information on the case.


Özlem Ağuş, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: March 6, 2012

Ağuş, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, who helped expose the sexual abuse of juvenile detainees at an Adana prison, was being held at Karataş Women’s Closed Prison. Ağuş faced allegations that she was a member of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part. She faced up to 22 years in prison upon conviction.

Defense lawyer Vedat Özkan told CPJ that authorities had questioned his client about her published news coverage and her newsgathering practices. Authorities focused particularly on her coverage detailing the abuse of minors being held at Pozantı M Type Juvenile and Youth Prison in Adana. On March 1, 2012, DİHA published an interview Ağuş conducted with a 16-year-old detainee who described being abused by adult prisoners. The government said it would investigate the abuse allegations.

Özkan said his client was targeted because she works for a news outlet that focuses on the Kurdish issue and reports critically about the administration. He said the government’s accusations of criminality were baseless.


Şükrü Sak, Baran
Imprisoned: April 20, 2012

Sak, an opinion writer and former chief editor for the Islamist weekly Baran, was summoned to serve a term of three years and nine months on charges of aiding the outlawed İslami Büyük Doğu Akıncılar Cephesi, or Islamic Great East Raiders Front.

A veteran editor and writer for Islamist publications, Sak was summoned to prison in April 2012 after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a conviction that dated back to 1999. Defense lawyer Güven Yılmaz told CPJ that authorities cited as evidence Sak’s handwritten notes and the content of Akıncı Yol, the magazine he was editing at the time.


Gülnaz Yıldız, Mücadele Birliği
Imprisoned: April 26, 2012

Yıldız, news editor for the communist magazine Mücadele Birliği (Struggle Unity), was serving a sentence of three years and nine months at Bakırköy L Type Prison in Istanbul after being convicted on charges of producing propaganda for the banned Communist Labor Party of Turkey-Leninist. Yıldız’s coverage of political rallies was used as evidence against her, defense lawyer Sevinç Sarıkaya told CPJ.

Sarıkaya said her client had been convicted six previous times on propaganda charges, including one instance in which authorities found that a column on prison hunger strikes constituted “encouragement to commit crimes.” The lawyer said she planned to appeal the current conviction to the European Court of Human Rights.

 

Imprisoned: Circumstances under Investigation  

CPJ research could not determine whether the following individuals were being held in direct relation to their work. CPJ continues to investigate the basis for these detentions.

Bayram Parlak, Gündem
Imprisoned: July 6, 2007

Parlak, Mersin correspondent for the pro-Kurdish daily Gündem, was serving a sentence of six years and three months at Ermenek M Type Prison in Karaman after being convicted on charges of being a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, according to news reports.

Now known as Özgür Gündem, the paper has been targeted in numerous other prosecutions, according to CPJ research. The pro-PKK Fırat News Agency reported that authorities cited Parlak’s news coverage as evidence against him. Current Özgür Gündem journalists said they did not know details about the case, although the paper listed Parlak as among its imprisoned staff members in a January 2012 article.


Sebahattin Sümeli, Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite
Imprisoned: November 25, 2007

Sümeli, editor for the now-defunct pro-Kurdish opinion magazine Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite (The Free People and Democratic Modernity), was serving a sentence of 14 years and nine months at Tekirdağ F Type Prison after being convicted on charges of possessing explosives, being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), producing PKK propaganda, attending banned demonstrations, and possessing a false identity card.

Defense lawyer Hacer Çekiç said her client attended PKK demonstrations for news purposes. Sümeli denied all of the government’s other accusations and said he was targeted for being a Kurdish journalist, according to the lawyer.


Hikmet Çiçek, Aydınlık
Imprisoned: March 28, 2008

Çiçek, Ankara representative for the ultranationalist-leftist journal Aydınlık and press supervisor for the ultranationalist-leftist Workers Party, or İşçi Partisi, was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of participating in the Ergenekon conspiracy, a shadowy plot that prosecutors say was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup. Çiçek faced up to 40 years in prison upon conviction.

As evidence, authorities cited documents seized during raids of the Workers Party building. Authorities alleged that one document described “headquarter houses,” or secret meeting places where party members, military officers, and Alevi sect members would discuss political aims. The government said it also seized building plans for the Supreme Court of Appeals, which it said could have been used in plotting an attack, and CDs containing classified military documents. In statements to authorities, Çiçek denied involvement in an anti-government plot or knowledge of any purportedly anti-government documents. Çiçek said he never saw the document describing “headquarter houses,” and that the other records were gathered for news purposes. Authorities also questioned Çiçek about Aydınlık news coverage of the Ergenekon investigation. Defense lawyers declined to discuss details of the case.


Ömer Faruk Çalışkan, Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite
Imprisoned: July 19, 2008

Çalışkan, a senior editor for the now-defunct pro-Kurdish opinion magazine Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite (The Free People and Democratic Modernity), was serving a sentence of six years and three months at Kandıra F Type Prison in Kocaeli, according to accounts by the Dicle News Agency and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Details of his conviction, including the precise charges, were not reported. In mid-2012, he faced another pending charge of producing propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, according to the independent news portal Bianet. CPJ could not locate Çalışkan’s defense lawyer for comment, and no indictment was available for review.


Tuncay Özkan, Kanal Biz and Kanaltürk
Imprisoned: September 23, 2008

Özkan, former owner of Kanal Biz and Kanaltürk television stations and a former leader of the New Party, or Yeni Parti, was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul on charges of being involved in Ergenekon, an alleged underground network of ultranationalist, secular military officers and civil servants plotting to overthrow the government. He faced two life sentences without the possibility of parole, along with another sentence of up to 30 years. Özkan has been a journalist since 1981, working in both print and television as an investigative reporter, columnist, and manager. He is also the author of 17 books on politics, security issues, and his own imprisonment.

In comments sent to CPJ through his lawyer, Özkan said he was being persecuted for his journalistic and political activities. “I have been targeted because I was breaking news on the corruption of the prime minister and ministers, opposing the leading administration, and taking activist positions,” Özkan told CPJ. He said he’d been held in isolation for more than a year.

In 2007, Özkan organized a multimedia campaign opposing the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and helped launch a series of anti-government demonstrations known as “Republic Rallies” in Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, and other cities. The rallies, which drew hundreds of thousands, portrayed the AKP as a threat to secular governance and the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Some speakers made explicit or veiled calls for military intervention; such sentiments were seen on banners as well. Among the co-organizers of the rallies was a retired general named Şener Eruygur, then head of a Kemalist association, who was implicated in the Ergenekon plot. Özkan also founded the Yeni Party and was elected its first leader in June 2008.

Özkan told CPJ that the government’s accusations were unsubstantiated. He said he asked the government to specify the evidence against him, but authorities were unresponsive. At the request of his defense lawyers, the European Court of Human Rights agreed in February 2012 to hear his complaint about an unduly long detention without verdict.

The government’s indictment accused Özkan of meeting with alleged Ergenekon conspirators, including politicians and high-level military officials, with the goal of using his media properties to sow chaotic conditions conducive to a military coup. As evidence, the government cited a CD seized from the retired general Eruygur, which portrays Özkan as part of the “ultranationalist media” and Özkan’s wiretapped phone conversations, including ones related to the opposition “Republic Rallies.” Özkan said the meetings and conversations were part of his journalistic activities. Authorities said they also seized grenades, guns, and ammunition from a warehouse that also housed some of Özkan’s belongings. Özkan said the warehouse was rented by Kanaltürk colleagues while the station’s offices were being moved. He said he had no involvement in the warehouse.

Özkan said he was forced to sell Kanaltürk because advertisers faced political pressure to drop their business with the station. His other station went out of business after his arrest.


Hamit Duman Dilbahar, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: February 13, 2010

Dilbahar, a columnist for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was serving a 16-year term at Erzurum H Type Prison on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK. Apart from being featured on the imprisoned journalist lists of independent news portal Bianet and others, little is known about Dilbahar.

Legal representation for Dilbahar and other detained Azadiya Welat journalists recently changed. The new defense lawyer, Cemil Sözen, who is representing Dilbahar on appeal, said he could not comment because he was not yet familiar with the case. Azadiya Welat News Editor Menderes Öner also declined comment, citing the legal complexities.


Miktat Algül, Mezitli FM and Ulus
Imprisoned: May 17, 2010

Algül, editor of the Mersin radio station Mezitli FM and a writer for the local newspaper Ulus, was being held at Adana Kürkçüler F Type Prison on charges of extortion, threatening, and establishing a criminal organization, according to a report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Algül faced more than 15 years in prison upon conviction.

In a special supplement titled “Arrested Newspaper,” written by jailed journalists and distributed by several dailies in July 2011, Algül said he had been targeted because of his recent reporting on the Fethullah Gülen religious community. Algül said the government’s indictment had misrepresented as extortion his efforts to collect advertising fees from local companies and his reporting on an automobile company.


Sevcan Atak, Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite
Imprisoned: June 18, 2010

Atak, an editor for the now-defunct pro-Kurdish opinion magazine Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite (The Free People and Democratic Modernity), was serving a sentence of seven years and six months on charges of producing propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The case was pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals in mid-2012. The pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency said Atak had been transferred to Şakran Prison in İzmir.

CPJ could not locate Atak’s defense lawyer for comment on the case, and the indictment was not available for review.


Şahabettin Demir, Dicle News Agency
Imprisoned: September 5, 2010

Demir, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, in the eastern city of Van, was serving a sentence of 11 years and one month at Bitlis E Type Prison on charges of attempted murder, assault with a weapon, and trespassing. The case was pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals in mid-2012.

Demir was convicted along with two of his brothers after a reported fight with two relatives, according to defense lawyer Aydoğan Yolyapan. A cousin of Demir and the cousin’s wife suffered injuries in the altercation.

Several aspects of the case were in dispute at trial, according to Yolyapan and court records. Demir not only denied involvement in the altercation, he said he was not present at the scene. One brother also denied involvement; the second acknowledged being at the scene but denied any criminal culpability.

The cousin and his wife gave shifting and contradictory statements to authorities over time, court records show. In his initial statement to police, the cousin did not identify Şahabettin Demir as an assailant, although he later named the journalist in a statement given to the prosecutor. At trial, the couple said the brothers had not attacked them.

The extent of the injuries was also in dispute at trial. Authorities introduced a medical report that described the cousin’s injuries as life-threatening, although the defense disputed the accuracy of the account. (The cousin’s wife, by all accounts, suffered minor injuries.)

Despite the inconsistencies, the court found all three brothers guilty. In its ruling, the court cited a wiretapped phone conversation between Demir’s two brothers in which they referred to having been involved in a physical altercation.

Yolyapan said his client believes he was targeted in reprisal for his reporting, which included coverage of four police officers accused of raping a girl in Erciş. Police, he said, threatened Demir with retaliation after the story was published. Demir had been previously convicted of producing propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, and sentenced to four years. That case was also pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals.


Abdülcabbar Karabeğ, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: September 13, 2010

Karabeğ, Mersin correspondent for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was serving a seven-year sentence at Mersin E Type Prison on charges of aiding and spreading propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK.

Authorities accused him of distributing leaflets that urged opposition to a referendum concerning constitutional changes, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Legal representation for Karabeğ and other detained Azadiya Welat journalists recently changed. The new defense lawyer, Cemil Sözen, who is representing Karabeğ on appeal, said he could not comment because he was not yet familiar with the case. Azadiya Welat News Editor Menderes Öner also declined comment, citing the legal complexities.


Ferhat Çiftçi, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: February 16, 2011

Çiftçi, Gaziantep correspondent for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was serving a term of 21 years and eight months at Gaziantep H Type Prison on charges of being a member of the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, and producing propaganda for the organization.

Legal representation for Çiftçi and other detained Azadiya Welat journalists recently changed. The new defense lawyer, Cemil Sözen, who is representing Çiftçi on appeal, said he could not comment because he was not yet familiar with the case. Azadiya Welat News Editor Menderes Öner also declined comment, citing the legal complexities.


Ruken Ergün, Azadiya Welat
Imprisoned: May 23, 2011

Ergün, publisher and news editor for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, was serving a sentence of six years and five months on charges of producing propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The OSCE report said she was convicted in April 2011 and imprisoned the following month.

Accounts differed as to where she was being confined. The OSCE report said she was being held at Karataş Women’s Prison in Adana; the Dicle News Agency said she was confined at Gaziantep H Type Prison. Defense lawyer Cemil Sözen confirmed his client’s sentence but did not respond to CPJ’s requests for details on the case.


Fatih Özgür Aydın, Muhendislik, Mimarlik ve Planlamada artı İvme
Imprisoned: July 22, 2011

Aydın, news editor for the magazine Muhendislik, Mimarlik ve Planlamada artı İvme (Positive Acceleration in Engineering, Architecture and Planning), was being held at Tekirdağ F Type Prison pending trial. The journal, considered leftist, features articles critical of the government’s actions and oversight concerning development. He faced up to 53 years in prison upon conviction on charges of collaborating with a banned organization, producing propaganda, and violating other anti-state laws.

Authorities alleged Aydın worked in support of the banned Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi-Cephesi, or DHKP-C. Three days before his arrest, Aydın took part in an anti-government protest in Istanbul. Aydın told his publication that he believes his participation may have contributed to his arrest.


Cengiz Kapmaz, Özgür Gündem
Imprisoned: November 22, 2011

Kapmaz, a columnist for the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem (The Free Agenda) and a spokesman for the law firm that represents convicted Kurdistan Workers Party leader Abdullah Öcalan, was detained in Istanbul as part of an investigation into the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK. Held at Kandıra F Type Prison in Kocaeli, Kapmaz faced at least 10 years in prison upon conviction on charges of helping lead the KCK, a group that authorities say has worked for Öcalan’s “health, security, and freedom.”

Kapmaz and several of Öcalan’s lawyers were accused of relaying orders from the PKK leader to the organization. They say Kapmaz participated in meetings and phone conversations with the lawyers, and used a special email account and protocols to relay Öcalan’s wishes. As evidence of criminality, the indictment also cited stories that Kapmaz wrote for the Fırat News Agency, which authorities say worked under the orders of the KCK, and his book about the PKK leader, titled Öcalan’s İmralı Days. Stories quoting Kapmaz as spokesman for the law firm were also cited as evidence.

In a column sent to Özgür Gündem, Kapmaz said the government’s allegations of criminality were baseless. He said authorities “want me to pay a price” for being a journalist who writes about the Kurdish issue and the Öcalan case.

In a twist, some media reports alleged that Kapmaz was actually an intelligence officer working undercover for the National Intelligence Agency. Those reports cited a document supposedly found on Kapmaz’s computer. Defense lawyer Özcan Kılıç dismissed such claims.


Sultan Şaman, Rengê Hêviya Jinê
Imprisoned: February 4, 2012

Şaman, editor of the now-defunct Kurdish-language women’s magazine Rengê Hêviya Jinê (The Color of Woman’s Hope), was being held at Batman M Type Prison on charges of being a member of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, of which the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is part, according to the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency.

CPJ could not locate Şaman’s defense lawyer or former magazine staffers for details on the arrest. A Kurdish reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity said the magazine recently shut down and its journalists had gone into hiding for fear of legal reprisal. CPJ research shows that previous staffers had been convicted of similar charges in the past.

(Photo by Reuters)


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October 22, 2012 12:01 AM ET |

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