Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan leaves a press conference in Ankara, July 20, 2016 (Reuters/Umit Bektas)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan leaves a press conference in Ankara, July 20, 2016 (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of July 31

Court indicts 12 media workers on terrorism charges
An Istanbul court last night indicted 12 journalists on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization — the Hizmet movement, which the Turkish government classes as a terrorist group and alleges orchestrated a failed military coup on July 15 – Turkey’s official Anatolia news agency reported.

According to the report, the 12 journalists, shareholders in media companies, and media workers are:

  • Mümtaz’er Türköne, a former columnist for the shuttered newspaper Zaman and its sister, English-language publication Today’s Zaman, who stands accused of “serving the goals” of the Hizmet movement;
  • Alaattin Güner faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Şeref Yılmaz, vice-chair of the broadcaster Irmak TV’s board of directors, faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, vice-president of Cihan Media, faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Faruk Akkan, news editor for Cihan News Agency, faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Mehmet Özdemir faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Fevzi Yazıcı, a former design editor for Zaman and a columnist for the daily Yarına Bakış, faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Zafer Özsoy faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Cuma Kayaand faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Hakan Taşdelen faces charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization;”
  • Hüseyin Turan, a shareholder in the Feza Media Group, faces charges of “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member;”
  • Murat Avcıoğlu faces charges of “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member.”

Last night’s indictments bring to at least 36 the number of journalists, media workers, and shareholders in media companies indicted since the failed coup on suspicion of being affiliated with the Hizmet movement — or the “Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization /Parallel State Structure” (FETÖ/PDY, by its Turkish acronym), as the government calls it.

The order for their arrest read: “It is a publicly known truth that Zaman, Bugün, Özgür Bugün, Özgür Düşünce, Yeni Hayat and Millet newspapers, alongside Aksiyon magazine [and] Samanyolu, Kanaltürk and Bugün television stations are among the media organs of this terrorist organization.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists is unaware of any newspaper called Özgür Bugün.

Police detain two news agency reporters
Police in the southeastern Turkish town of Yüksekova detained two reporters from the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), the news agency reported today. Police detained Selman Keleş and İdris Yılmaz from the Orman neighborhood of the town to the Yüksekova Police Center, DİHA said. The reasons for their detention were not immediately clear.

TV Channel’s website censored
Turkey’s telecommunications regulator, the TİB, yesterday censored the website of pro-Kurdish broadcaster Özgür Gün TV, the station wrote on Twitter. The broadcaster said this was the second time in five months that authorities had censored its website.

[August 5, 2016]

Report: Courts censor 48 online news articles in last month
Turkish courts of penal peace censored 48 news stories in the past month, the online censorship monitoring initiative Engelli Web (Disabled Web) reported. The independent news website Diken today reported that a recent story it ran on corruption allegations involving the persident’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, was censored. Engelli Web reported that two stories on the same issue cited in the censored story from Diken, one from London’s Independent and one from the BBC’s Turkish Service, were also censored.

[August 4, 2016]

News agency reporter jailed for reporting on arrests
Mehmet Arslan, Karayazı correspondent for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was indicted and jailed pending trial on charges of “taking pictures of a secretly run investigation and sharing them with the public” last night, his employer reported. DİHA said Arslan was reporting on the arrest of members of two legal, pro-Kurdish, opposition parties, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), and that his news reports and photographs were introduced as evidence against him.

Newspaper reporter indicted on terrorism charges
An Istanbul court indicted Mehmet Balta, a former reporter for the shuttered newspaper Zaman, on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization — the Hizmet movement, which the government classes as a terrorist group — Turkey’s official Anatolia news agency reported yesterday.

Owner of shuttered radio station believes order to be case of mistaken identity
Ferit Aktepe, the owner of Radyo Cihan, which authorities shuttered on July 28 as part of a sweeping purge of media organizations suspected of affiliation with the Hizmet movement, today told the DİHA news agency he believed the order to close the station arose from a case of mistaken identity.

Some of the news outlets the government shuttered shared the name “Cihan,” which means “world” in old Turkish. Radyo Cihan played music, the owner said, and its only employee, Bayram Parlak, is now jailed on suspicion of belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — a bitter rival of the Hizmet movement, also deemed a terrorist organization by the Turkish government. Radyo Cihan’s name comes from its location in the Cihanbeyli district of Konya Province, in central Anatolia, Aktepe said.

“The name of the radio station was Radyo Cihan when I bought it. I said, ‘Let it stay that way.’ I believe the decision to close the station was made because of the name,” Aktepe told DİHA.

The radio station’s lawyer, Eylül Yaylacı, said police were unable to tell him the reasons behind the decision to close the station when they raided its offices on July 28.

“When I asked the Cihanbeyli Chief of Police, who was leading the team [raiding the station], on what grounds they were shutting down the station, he told me, ‘We don’t know either. We received a list from the governor’s office. We have to do this.'”

Journalist released pending trial for fellow journalist’s murder, detained again
Police yesterday released Ercan Gün, an editor at Turkey’s Fox TV channel, pending trial in connection with the 2007 murder of journalist Hrant Dink, but detained him again today, the news website Bianet reported today.

Istanbul’s 10th Court of Penal Peace indicted gendarmes Specialist Sergeant Abdullah Dinç on suspicion of membership in a terrorist organization – the Hizmet movement, which the Turkish government accuses of plotting a failed military coup on July 15 and of conspiring to murder Dink – and of being at the scene of the crime when triggerman Ogün Samast killed Dink. The same court also released former gendarmes Intelligence Officer Yusuf Bozca on probation, pending trial on similar charges, Bianet reported.

Newspaper editor believes paper closed for unionizing
Caner Aktan, representative of the Journalist’s Union of Turkey (TGS) in Kocaeli province and editor of the local newspaper Manşet Kocaeli, one of the newspapers the government closed last week on suspicion of affiliation with the Hizmet movement, told the daily newspaper Evrensel that he believed it was possible the government had closed the newspaper in retribution for unionizing.

“We tried very hard to get unionized and succeeded in becoming a first: the only newspaper that got unionized among local newspapers in Turkey. This may be the reason that we were shut down, or it may have been the editorial policy of the newspaper,” Aktan told Evrensel. “The ruling administration is [conducting] a witch hunt by the legislation, made [possible] by the current state of emergency. Anything can happen.”

Men attack writer on his boat
Six men beat journalist and author Zübeyır Kındra as he worked on a book on his boat off the coast of Turkey’s western Muğla province late in the night of July 30, the daily Evrensel reported the following day. Kındra is a former police officer, a journalist, and a well-known critic of Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet movement. The writer was working on an expanded edition of his book, Fethullah’ın Copları, (“The Batons of Fethullah”), which purports to detail the movement’s penetration of the Turkish police force.

The men beat Kındra for roughly 30 minutes before other boaters approached and rescued him. Gendarmes detained 10 people in their investigation into the attack, Evrensel reported. The journalist was in hospital, according to the newspaper.

[August 3, 2016]

Police detain magazine editor, newspaper distributor
Police last night detained Hülya Karakaya, responsible editor for the magazine Özgür Halk, at Diyarbakır airport, pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem reported. The reasons for the detention were not immediately clear, though the pro-Kurdish JİNHA subsequently reported that Karakaya had been arrested on suspicion of being a member in a terrorist organization. The Karlıova Court of Penal Peace approved the prosecutor’s request for the editor’s arrest and sent her to Diyarbakır Prison, pending trial.

According to the same in report in Özgür Gündem, police also detained Nizamettin Yılmaz, a distributor for Özgür Gündem and Azadiya Welat in the Derik district of Mardin Province, and his wife from their home in Derik. Police soon released Yılmaz’s wife, though he remains in custody on suspicion of “distributing illegal newspapers,” despite the fact that both publications are legally registered newspapers, Özgür Gündem reported.

Police detain news agency reporter
Police in the Karayazı District of Erzurum Province detained Mehmet Arslan, a reporter for Dicle News Agency (DİHA), this morning, the news agency reported today. The reasons for Arslan’s detention were not immediately clear.

News agency website censored
The Turkish telecommunications regulator TİB blocked access to the website to JİNHA news agency today, JİNHA reported. According to the news agency, it was the sixth time regulators had censored their website.

Journalists concerned about arrested colleague’s health
Journalists are warning authorities on social media that arrested journalist Haşim Söylemez recently had a brain operation, his second, and that that they fear for his health in jail. Bülent Mumay, who was detained with Söylemez, wrote on Twitter: “We were together in custody, he had a hard time even standing… Precautions should be taken rapidly…”

Police interrogate newspaper editor
Authorities at Istanbul’s Aksaray Police Station interrogated Fatih Polat, chief editor of the daily newspaper Evrensel, regarding an ongoing investigation Ankara prosecutors opened against the daily on suspicion of “making targets of civil servants who combat terrorism by revealing their names,” under article 6 of Turkey’s anti-terrorism law, Evrensel reported. Evrensel journalists Cem Gurbetoğlu and Tamer Arda Erşin published stories after the October 10 bomb attack in Ankara arguing that officials were negligent in failing to prevent the attack.

The investigation also includes a similar story by Kemal Göktaş, a journalist from the daily Cumhuriyet, Evrensel reported. Can Dündar, editor of that newspaper, is also scheduled to answer interrogators’ questions regarding that story, Evrensel reported.

[August 2, 2016]

Judges indict at least 23 journalists on terrorism charges
Judges indicted at least 23 journalists on charges of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” over the weekend, according to press reports:

  • Nazlı Ilıcak. a columnist with the defunct newspaper Özgür Düşünce, and a commentator for the defunct broadcaster Can Erzincan TV
  • Seyit Kılıç, a reporter for the state broadcaster TRT
  • Bayram Kaya, reporter for the defunct daily newspaper Yeni Hayat
  • Cihan Acar, a photojournalist with the defunct daily newspaper Bugün
  • Bünyamin Köseli, a reporter for the defunct news magazine Aksiyon
  • Emre Soncan, a reporter for the defunct daily Zaman
  • Mustafa Erkan Acar, a reporter with the defunct Cihan News Agency
  • Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu reporter formerly with the daily newspaper Zaman
  • Abdullah Kılıç, formerly with Habertürk TV, and the recently closed daily newspaper Meydan
  • Habip Güler, a former reporter for Zaman
  • Cuma Ulus, a former coordinator of the defunct daily newspaper Millet
  • Hanım Büşra Erdal, a former reporter for Zaman, currently with Özgür Düşünce
  • Hüseyin Aydın, a former reporter for the Cihan News Agency
  • Haşim Söylemez, a reporter formerly with Zaman and Aksiyon
  • Ali Akkuş, a former editor of Zaman
  • Yakup Çetin, a former reporter for Zaman
  • Ufuk Şanlı, a columnist formerly with the daily Vatan, currently with the US-based website almonitor.com
  • Ali Bulaç, from Zaman
  • Şahin Alpay, from Zaman
  • Ahmet Turan Alkan, from Zaman
  • Mustafa Ünal, from Zaman
  • Nuriye Ural, from Zaman
  • Lalezer Sarıibrahimoğlu (pen name: Lale Kemal), from Zaman

Judges ordered Bülent Mumay, a former editor of the daily newspaper Hürriyet, now a columnist for the daily newspaper Birgün, Mehmet Gündem, a news editor at Fox TV, released on their own recognizance, Hürriyet reported.

An Istanbul court ordered Arda Akın, a reporter for the daily Hürriyet, and Yakup Sağlam, a reporter for the broadcaster Samanyolu TV, released on probation, Hürriyet reported.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Erdoğan says will drop thousands of lawsuits for ‘insulting the president’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Friday evening said he was dropping all criminal charges his lawyers had filed against people he alleged had insulted him, as a one-time gesture of goodwill in recognition of what he called the surge in national unity following a July 15 failed military coup, according to the BBC.

Some criminal proceedings for insulting the Turkish president may nonetheless continue, law professor Yaman Akdeniz wrote on Twitter. Erdoğan is not a personal complainant in all of the trials. Local prosecutors opened criminal cases without the direct intervention of the president’s legal team, and others moved beyond becoming a personal complaint to becoming public trials pitting the state against defendants. These cases may not be affected by the president’s declared gesture of goodwill, Akdeniz wrote.

According to a report from broadcaster NTV cited in online news reports, cases against the leaders of the HDP, a liberal, pro-Kurdish opposition party, also would not be dropped.

Police detain 20 more suspects in journalist’s murder
Police on July 30 detained an additional 20 suspects on suspicion of involvement in the 2007 murder of Hrant Dink, founder of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, according to press reports. Anti-terrorism police in Istanbul were interrogating the suspects, the reports said, without specifying the suspects’ identities.

Wire reporter sentenced to four years in prison
A court in the southern Turkish city of Mersin on July 26 sentenced Emin Demir, a former reporter with the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), to four years in prison on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” because of his posts to social media, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported. Demir told the court his posts to social media were only factual news reports.

[August 1, 2016]

EDITOR’S NOTE: The August 3, 2016, entry has been updated to clarify that police detained Ercan Gün the day after his release.