Turkey's capital is calm as seen through a broken window at Ankara police headquarters, July 18, 2016, days after soldiers launched a failed attempt at a coup. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)
Turkey's capital is calm as seen through a broken window at Ankara police headquarters, July 18, 2016, days after soldiers launched a failed attempt at a coup. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of July 17

Police raid and seal Meydan offices

Istanbul police raided the offices of the pro-Hizmet daily Meydan at about 5 p.m. yesterday, local press reported. Police searched the offices in the Şirinevler district for three hours and confiscated documents, before sealing the building. The website of Meydan has not been updated since yesterday. The raid comes in the same week that editors at the daily were briefly detained in apparent retaliation to the paper running excerpts of an interview that the exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen gave to the international press, according the paper.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Editor at JINHA detained

Zehra Doğan, an editor at the pro-Kurdish, all-women news agency JINHA, was detained by police in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province last night, according to JINHA. The agency reported that Doğan is expected to be questioned by a prosecutor today. It did not say why she was detained. CPJ was unable to determine further details about the case.

Turkey extends detention period to eight days

The Turkish government yesterday declared it has partially suspended the European Convention on Human Rights following the state of emergency currently in place. The Justice Minister also announced yesterday that the police detention period will be extended to eight days, according to reports. Previously, a suspect could be detained for up to 24 hours for a low-level crime, and up to four days for organized crime investigations.

Columnist detained at airport still in custody

Orhan Kemal Cengiz, the columnist for the now-defunct pro-Hizmet daily Özgür Düşünce, was denied access to his lawyer for hours, according to his wife Sibel Hürtaş. Cengiz was detained at Atatürk airport yesterday alongside Hürtaş, who is also a journalist. In a series of tweets yesterday and today Hürtaş, who was released yesterday, said her husband was denied access to his lawyer for hours and that the detention was in apparent connection to an investigation from 2014. CPJ was unable to verify her claim.

Hamza Gündüz, a correspondent for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DIHA), has been released after being detained by police, his agency reported. The police confiscated his camera and returned it without the memory cards, which they said were lost, the agency said. Gündüz said he was detained while trying to cover a police raid on a café, despite showing his official journalist identification.

Separately, Ibrahim Karayeğen, the editor of the pro-Hizmet newspaper Yeni Hayat, has been missing for at least four days. Prominent journalists Abdulhamit Bilici, the former chief editor for Zaman, Bülent Keneş, a former chief editor for Today’s Zaman, and others, tweeted that the journalist was missing and some said he has possibly been detained. CPJ is investigating to determine if he has been detained.

State broadcaster staff under investigation

Reports yesterday said that 329 staff at the state media outlet Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) and the national broadcast regulator, RTÜK had been relieved of duty after the failed attempted coup and will face criminal investigations, the state owned Anatolia Agency reported. The report said that 300 people from TRT and 29 from RTÜK are being investigated for alleged links to the Hizmet movement that the Turkish government accused of carrying out the attempted coup. All state personnel have been banned from foreign travel without permission.

Mehmet Demir, a TRT Istanbul reporter and member of the Central Inspection Board of journalist syndicate HABER-SEN, is among those now facing criminal investigation. Demir, a press freedom activist and leftist, told CPJ he has no ties to the Hizmet community. Demir said it was not possible to say who is a Gülenist but he could think of at least ” 10 people from our syndicate who have no relation to the community. Some of them are even people who have been victimized by the community people.” Demir said he does not think that all the staff who were let go are pro-Hizmet.

Video shows damage to daily’s office from coup attempt

A video has been released by the daily, Sabah, part of the pro-government Turkuvaz media group, showing bullet holes in the daily’s Istanbul office on the night of the coup. Orhan Sali, a journalist from the group’s TV station, A Haber, said in the video that on the night of the coup there were clashes near the building and some jets and a military helicopter came close.

[July 22, 2016]

Detained editors released, newspaper to stop printing
Police released Levent Kenez and Gülizar Bali, editor and responsible news editor of the daily newspaper Meydan, respectively, today, the newspaper reported. Police yesterday broke down the door of the newspaper’s offices, forced the staff to lie on the floor with their hands on their heads, and detained Kenez and Bali, the newspaper reported today.

Meydan‘s coverage has been sympathetic to the Hizmet movement, followers of preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and “parallel state structure” in Turkey that orchestrated the July 15 failed coup attempt.

Yusuf Acar, general coordinator for the daily, said the reason for the raid was the newspaper’s decision to run excerpts from an interview Gülen gave to the international press on its first and sixth pages, according to Meydan.

Acar also said Meydan would no longer publish in print form because its printing house and distributors now refuse to continue working with it.

It was not immediately clear whether prosecutors would charge Kenez and Bali with any crime.

Columnist, human rights lawyer detained at airport
Security officers at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport today detained Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a columnist for the newspaper Özgür Düşünce and a human rights lawyer, and his wife, Sibel Hürtaş, a contributor to the U.S. news website Al Monitor, as they attempted to travel from Turkey on a short trip, according to press reports and Hürtaş’ Twitter account. The security officers released Hürtaş quickly, she wrote on Twitter, and told her that Cengiz would be brought to Vatan Police Station. At the time of publication, Hürtaş was writing on Twitter that she and her husband were at the police station, but that police were denying him access to his lawyer.

Police special forces detain journalist
Police special forces today detained Hamza Gündüz, Hakkari Province correspondent for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), DİHA reported. The news agency said Gündüz was detained from downtown Hakkari, in Turkey’s mountainous southeast near the border of Iraq and Iran, and was taken to the provincial police station for interrogation. The reason for his detention was not immediately clear.

Regulators cease censoring news website
Independent news website ABC Gazetesi announced on its Twitter account that following negotiations, authorities had agreed to cease censoring the website. The site, which has been critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party and the Hizmet movement, was among at least 12 news websites regulators censored in the wake of the July 15 attempted coup. The website Medyascope also successfully lobbied regulators to cease preventing Turkish internet users from accessing the website.

[July 21, 2016]

Newspaper editors detained
Police detained Levent Kenez, editor of Meydan newspaper, and Meydan Responsible News Editor Gülizar Baki from the newspaper’s offices in Istanbul this evening, the news website T24 reported. Few details were immediately available, but Meydan is sympathetic to the Hizmet movement, which the Turkish government has blamed for orchestrating a failed July 15 coup attempt.

Regulators revoke licenses of 13 TV stations, 12 radio stations
The Turkish broadcast regulator RTÜK released a list of 13 television stations and 12 radio stations whose broadcast licenses it had revoked, the news website Bianet reported today.

Television stations STV, Samanyolu Haber, Can Erzincan TV, Kanal 124, Yumurcak TV, Hira TV, MC TV, Dünya TV, Kanal Türk, Bugün TV, Mehtap TV, Merkür TV, and Tuna Shoping TV all lost their broadcast licenses, according to press reports. Radio stations Samanyolu Haber Radyo, Berfin FM, Kanal Türk Radyo, Burç FM, Samanyolu Haber Radyosu, Radyo Mehtap, Haber Radyo Ege, Dünya Radyo, Radyo Küre, Esra Radyo, Samanyolu Haber, and Radyo Anadolu lost their licenses.

The RTÜK yesterday announced it was cancelling the licenses of all broadcasters tied to the Hizmet movement. The initial announcement did not specify which television and radio stations would be affected.

Government revokes credentials of at least 34 journalists
The General Directorate of Press-Publishing Information (BYEGM), the bureau within the prime minister’s office responsible for issuing press credentials to journalists in Turkey, yesterday revoked the press cards of 34 journalists, saying they were “a threat to the national security,” Turkey’s official Anatolia News Agency (AA) reported. Most of the journalists whose credentials were revoked worked for the daily Meydan or for the broadcaster Can Erzincan TV, both of which are sympathetic to the Hizmet movement.

“Supporting the terrorist organization cannot be evaluated within the scope of press activities. This operation we conducted should never be understood as limiting the freedom of the press,” BYEGM Deputy Director Ekrem Okutan told AA, in an apparent reference to the Hizmet movement.

Of the 34 journalists whose credentials were revoked, 14 work for the daily Meydan, two work for the broadcaster Samanyolu TV, three work for the broadcaster Irmak TV, eight work for the broadcaster Can Erzincan TV, one works for Radio Mehtap, and a total of four work for the dailies Taraf and the weekly Nokta newspapers. AA did not list the names of journalists.

Satirical weekly censored
Police prevented the satirical newsweekly Leman from being distributed, the independent news website Bianet reported today. Police went to the newspaper’s printing house and prevented copies from being delivered, according to Leman‘s Twitter account and local press reports. The cover of this week’s issue depicted mutinous soldiers and ruling-party supporters as betting chips in a high-stakes game of poker.

Regulators censor Wikileaks after site publishes ruling-party emails
Turkish regulators today blocked access to the website Wikileaks after the site published tens of thousands of emails from officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to press press reports. Wikileaks published the emails in a searchable database.

Newspaper editor fired for printing special edition on night of coup attempt
The daily Milliyet fired its acting editor-in-chief, Ercüment Erkul, for ordering two extra editions of the newspaper on July 15, when factions of Turkey’s military unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the government. The decision resulted in financial losses for the newspaper. Erkul, who was acting as a temporary editor after the previous editor’s resignation, told the media news website Medyatava that owners had demanded that he pay for the money the decision to run extra editions cost. Erkul said he was fired without compensation when he refused.

[July 20, 2016]

Broadcast regulator bans TV, radio stations
Turkey’s broadcast regulator, the RTÜK, today announced that it had in an extraordinary session cancelled the licenses of all radio and television channels affiliated with the banned Hizmet movement — followers of Fethullah Gülen, an exiled preacher whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and “parallel state structure” within Turkey that the government claims orchestrated a failed July 15 coup attempt. The RTÜK’s brief statement did not specify which stations had lost their licenses, or on what basis regulators had determined the stations were allied with the Hizmet movement.

Russian journalist denied entry, second detained
Border control officers at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport denied entry to Valentin Trushnin and Mihail Fomichev, journalists with the Russian TV channel REN TV, the station reported today. Trushnin described being held in a windowless room for “about a day” without being allowed to make any phone calls before being sent to Baku. According to the station, the two journalists were told their names were on a list of people forbidden entry to Turkey.

At least 12 news websites blocked since failed coup attempt
Regulators have blocked access to at least 12 news websites since factions of the Turkish military unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the government, the Turkey Journalists Association reported today. Regulators blocked access to Medyascope, Gazeteport, Rotahaber, ABC Gazetesi, Karşı Gazete, Haberdar, Aktif Haber, Postmedya, S Medya, Özgür Düşünce, Meydan and Yarına Bakış, the association said. Medyascope negotiated with authorities to have the block lifted, but the other 11 remain inaccessible to internet users in Turkey.

Sixty journalists fired from news agency
Court-appointed trustees close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) fired some 60 reporters, editors, and technical staff from the Cihan news agency today, according to press reports. Police on March 5, 2016, used tear gas and water cannons in a raid of news agency’s parent company, Feza Media Group, to implement the order to oust the group’s leadership on the grounds that it was close to the Hizmet movement, former allies of the AKP whom the ruling party now blames for orchestrating the July 15 failed coup attempt.

Purported journalist ‘black list’ stokes journalist fears
Opposition and independent Turkish news sources have reported a rumored “black list” of Turkish journalists they fear police will arrest in coming weeks. An anonymous, pro-AKP Twitter user, @Baskentcii, who frequently writes on Twitter about behind-the-scenes political wrangling in Ankara, apparently with access to inside information, has since Saturday been naming journalists he or she claims the government plans to have arrested. Police have detained nearly 20,000 soldiers, judges, and civil servants since the July 15 attempted coup, according to press reports, leading to fears of an intensified crackdown on the press.

[July 19, 2016]

Regulators block news websites
The TİB, Turkey’s telecommunications regulator, on Sunday blocked access to at least five news websites, according to press reports. The website of the Can Erzincan TV satellite station and the news websites Gazetport and Haberdar, which regulators blocked Sunday, are sympathetic to the Hizmet movement, which the Turkish government blames for last weekend’s failed coup attempt. The websites Medyascope and ABC Gazetesi, which regulators also blocked, are independent in their coverage, and have often been critical of the Hizmet movement in the past.

ABC Gazetesi editor Merdan Yanardağ, in particular, is widely known in Turkey as a vocal critic of the Hizmet movement, which he blames for his imprisonment on charges of plotting against the government in 2013, when the Hizmet movement and the ruling Justice and Development Party were still in a tactical alliance to reduce the influence of the military and security agencies in politics.

Medyascope later announced they had negotiated with regulators to get the order to block the site revoked. ABC Gazetesi changed its web address to circumvent the censorship.

Dozens of youths attack Istanbul newspaper offices
Dozens of young men vandalized the offices of the local Istanbul newspaper Gazetem İstanbul last night, the newspaper reported on its website. Security camera footage the newspaper posted online seems to show the building’s private security officers allowing the youths to enter unchallenged. The newspaper reported the youths told the security officers that the newspaper supported the July 15 attempted coup. In fact, Gazetem İstanbul‘s first headline after the attempt was, “An honorable stance against the coup.” The newspaper’s offices were empty at the time, and no one was injured in the attack.

Police seek to detain journalist from home before dawn
Police sought to detain Arzu Yıldız, Ankara correspondent for the news website Haberdar, from her home at 5:20 this morning, she reported. Yıldız said she was not home at the time, but said she would voluntarily go to the prosecutor’s office to testify. A court in Tarsus on May 18 sentenced the journalist to 20 months in prison and suspended custody of her children, CPJ reported at the time. That sentence is suspended while she appeals the verdict.

Journalist on probation after five months in pretrial detention
Authorities released Nuri Akman, Van Province correspondent for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) from prison today at the first hearing of his trial, DİHA and other news agencies reported. Police arrested Akman in Malatya Province in early February on suspicion of “being member of a [terrorist] organization,” CPJ reported at the time, and had held him in pretrial detention since.

Akman’s lawyer, Sidar Öztürk, told CPJ that the journalist’s legal team did not know what charges Akman faces because the court had ordered the trial to be conducted in secret. DİHA today reported that Akman’s reporting trip to the Syrian city of Kobane, and his posts to social media websites from conflict zone were introduced as evidence against the journalist in the initial investigation.

Malatya’s Second Court of Serious Crimes ordered the journalist released under judicial control, pending the conclusion of his trial. He is next scheduled to appear before the court on August 16.

[July 18, 2016]