Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of March 13

Prosecutors preparing charges against media owner, pro-government newspaper says
Turkish prosecutors are preparing a case against media owner Aydın Doğan and his daughter, Hanzade Doğan Boyner, claiming they ran a fuel-smuggling ring, the pro-government daily newspaper Akşam said in a front-page story yesterday. Akşam said prosecutors were seeking a 23-year sentence against the businessman, whose company, Doğan Holding, owns the leading daily newspaper Hurriyet and the television channels CNN Turk and Kanal D.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Akşam also said Isbank — Turkey’s largest bank, which is 28-percent owned by the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) – was accused of financing the smuggling ring. Both Doğan Holding and Isbank denied the allegations, and neither have received formal notice of an investigation, Reuters reported.

Doğan Holdings sold the newspapers Milliyet and Vatan to businessmen with ties to the government in 2011. The government levied a massive tax fine against the group in 2009.

The rumored case against Doğan follows recent government moves to take control of leading media groups. Police on March 4 raided the offices of the Feza media group, which owns Zaman, Turkey’s largest-circulation newspaper, hours after a court mandated the government’s takeover of its editorial and management boards. In October 2015, police raided the offices of television stations, radio stations, and newspapers owned by Koza İpek Holding, following a court order allowing the government to take control of the company. The companies on March 1 filed notice with the stock exchange that they were closing because of financial losses, according to press reports.

[March 18, 2016]

Authorities block news websites
The pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) on Thursday reported that their website was blocked in Turkey for the 33rd time.

The news agency has had many troubles with the government recently: According to CPJ research, at least two of its reporters — Feyyaz İmrak and Nedim Oruç— are currently jailed for doing their jobs, and CPJ is currently researching whether four more were arrested in the course of reporting. At least seven ethnic-Kurdish journalists have been arrested in Turkey since December 1, according to CPJ research.

The news website Demokrat Haber, which has often been critical of the government, on Thursday also reported that its website had been blocked in Turkey, for the second time.

CPJ was unable to access either website Thursday night, using the country’s leading Internet Service Provider, Turk Telekom, or mobile data browsing, using the mobile phone operator Turkcell.

Turkey’s telecommunications regulator, the TİB, has repeatedly blocked access to news websites since fighting between the government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the government classes a terrorist organization, resumed in July 2015, CPJ research shows.

Der Spiegel correspondent ejected
The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel on Thursday reported that authorities had not renewed the work permit for its Turkey correspondent, Hasnain Kazim, and so the magazine was pulling him from his assignment. In a brief statement, Florian Harms, the editor of the magazine, said it had become clear that Kazim was no longer welcome in the country because of his reporting.

Der Spiegel briefly pulled Kazim from Turkey in 2014, after an article he wrote on the aftermath of a mining disaster led to his receiving more than 10,000 threats via email and his social media accounts, the Turkish daily newspaper Hurriyet reported at the time. In one of the messages, for example, an Internet user threatened to cut the journalist’s throat, according to Hurriyet.

[March 17, 2016]

Erdoğan equates critical journalists with terrorists
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today suggested that journalists calling for his resignation were allied with terrorists, revisiting a theme he has stressed with increasing regularity in recent weeks.

“So he is a columnist, stating his opinion. I am not interested in whatever you may be. You are against me if your pen is standing on the side of the terrorists,” Erdoğan said of critical journalists in remarks broadcast on live television from the Turkish capital Ankara and widely reported online today. “This is the day of struggle. This is the day to advance upon the cruel in the harshest way.”

“Some columnists and so forth are almost touching elbows with Qandil,” the president said, referring to the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq, the base of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey has classed as a terrorist organization.

This was at least the second time this week that Erdoğan equated journalists with terrorists. Speaking after a car bomb killed at least 37 people in Ankara on March 14, Erdoğan told reporters that he saw no difference between “a terrorist holding a gun or a bomb and those who use their position and pen to serve the aims” of terrorists.

“Being an MP, an academic, journalist, writer or civil society group executive does not change the reality of that person being a terrorist,” he said, in remarks reported by Reuters.

After that speech, Turkish authorities stripped journalists at the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem of their state press cards, the newspaper reported on March 15.

No one claimed responsibility for the March 14 bombing.

Government forces have clashed with Kurdish separatists in southeastern Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq and Syria since a ceasefire between the government and the PKK unravelled in July 2015. The military has imposed a 24-hour curfew on several towns, and on Monday launched airstrikes on suspected PKK positions in northern Iraq that Turkish authorities estimated killed at least 45 PKK fighters, according to press reports.

[March 16, 2016]