In this July 21, 2016, file photo, a merchant reads the newspaper in Istanbul. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)
In this July 21, 2016, file photo, a merchant reads the newspaper in Istanbul. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of September 25

Reporter arraigned on terrorism charges for having app on phone
A court in the southern Turkish city of Isparta on September 24 arraigned Ramazan Alkan, a reporter for the pro-government, Islamist daily Yeni Akit on terrorism charges for having an app on his phone authorities believe followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen use to communicate with each other in secret, his employer reported today. The Turkish government accuses Gülen of leading a terrorist organization and “parallel state structure” within Turkey that it blames for a July 15 failed military coup. Gülen denies any role in the attempted coup.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

According to the report, which appeared in the newspaper’s print edition and was subsequently picked up by the news website T24, Alkan responded to prosecutor’s request that he present himself for questioning and was subsequently arrested. A senior security official in August told Reuters authorities had cracked the software, ByLock, and used it to track tens of thousands of members of the Gülenist movement.

Broadcaster websites censored
Turkey’s telecommunications authority, the BTK, today blocked access to the websites of three broadcasters the government ordered closed on September 28, the independent news website Bianet reported. The websites of Hayatın Sesi TV, IMC TV, and Özgür Radio were unavailable today, but still accessible from within Turkey using a Virtual Private Network or other means of circumventing online censorship.

[September 30, 2016]

Breaking: Police raid Kurdish TV stations
Police raided the office of the Kurdish-language Denge TV channel in the southeastern Turkish city of Batman and the office of pro-Kurdish Van TV, in the southeastern Turkish city of Van, the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel reported as this report went to press.

Government closes at least 20 television, radio stations: reports
The Turkish cabinet yesterday ordered at least 20 television and radio stations closed by decree, according to press reports. The broadcasters included pro-Kurdish and leftist radio stations, alongside a Kurdish-language channel for children and a channel that played folk music. Turkey’s government-controlled satellite operator TÜRKSAT stopped carrying the signals last night following an order from the broadcast regulator RTÜK, according to press reports. Hayatın Sesi, Azadi TV, Jiyan TV, Van TV, TV10, Denge TV, and Zarok TV were no longer on the air in Istanbul today.

Reports differed on the number of broadcasters affected: The opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet reported 23 stations were closed; the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency reported 20 stations were shuttered, but neither news outlet published a full list. Yön Radio, from Istanbul, SES Radio, from the southern Turkish city of Mersin, and Radio Dünya, from the southern Turkish city of Adana, were also closed, press reports said.

Zarok TV’s general broadcast coordinator, Dilek Demiral, told the news agency the channel’s signal was cut at around 8 p.m. She said the station called the RTÜK to find out what was happening, and that the head of the agency told her that the station’s broadcast was cut under the authority of Cabinet Decree 668, which allows the government to use emergency powers to close news outlets and confiscate their assets on broadly defined “national security” grounds, DİHA reported. Zarok TV is a Kurdish-language children’s channel.

TV10 catered to an audience from Turkey’s Alevi sect of Islam, the country’s largest religious minority. The channel described the action as intended to “silence the Alevis’ voice,” according to reports.

Hayatın Sesi TV is a socialist channel housed in the same building as the daily newspaper Evrensel. Feleknas Uca, a member of parliament from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), raised the matter in parliament today, asking Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım how many media organs were shut down and why, the news website Bianet reported, adding that Govend TV, which played Kurdish folk music, was also shut down.

Police raided and sealed the offices of Adana’s Radio Dünya, DİHA reported. Police also raided and sealed the offices of Mersin’s Radio SES, Evrensel reported. Both stations are continuing to stream programming online.

As of the time of publication, neither TURKSAT nor RTÜK had made any statement on the closures.

Last night’s closures came close on the heels of the RTÜK’s shuttering of two local radio channels and a TV station last week, Cumhuriyet reported. The regulator on September 21 ordered ART TV, ART Radio, and Uşak Radio Klas, which served Turkey’s western Uşak Province, also under the authority of Decree 668, the newspaper reported.

Journalist testifies in trial for show of solidarity with shuttered newspaper
Journalist and author Ertuğrul Mavioğlu today testified before Istanbul’s 13th Court for Serious Crimes, denying charges that he had propagandized for a terrorist organization or praised crime and criminals by symbolically acting as co-editor of shuttered, pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem for a day, Bianet reported. Mavioğlu was among dozens of journalists, academics, and activists to add his name to the paper’s masthead to protest the persistent judicial harassment of the newspaper’s staff before a court ordered the paper closed in August.

The journalist argued that the offending news stories on the Turkish state’s conflict with Kurdish separatists in the edition he guest-edited could not be considered criminal because similar stories on the issue were featured in the mainstream media in 2013, when peace talks were still in progress, and were not prosecuted. Jailed Özgür Gündem Responsible News Editor İnan Kızılkaya, a co-defendant in this and every similar case because his position makes him responsible for all the newspaper’s content under Turkish law, was not present at the trial, which adjourned until October 25, Bianet reported.

Meanwhile, Istanbul’s 14th Court of Serious Crimes continued trying Özgür Gündem‘s former co-chief editors Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Aykol, former responsible news editor Reyhan Çapan, and columnists Ayşe Bektayi and Reyhan Hacıoğlu on charges of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization,” Bianet reported. The defendants denied the charges, and the trial is scheduled to continue on November 22.

Prosecutors at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse also interrogated journalist and author Murat Uyurkulak regarding his participation in the campaign to show solidarity with the newspaper, Bianet reported.

Court orders exiled editor ‘forcibly brought’ to trial of his assailant
The Istanbul court hearing the trial of the man accused of shooting at former Cumhuriyet editor Can Dündar outside a May 6 hearing in the editor’s trial, today ordered Dündar “forcibly brought” to testify at the trial, Bianet reported. Dündar, a 2016 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award, in August resigned his editorship and announced he would not return to Turkey while the state of emergency was in place because he did not believe he would get a fair trial.

Reacting to the news, the journalist wrote on Twitter, “The judiciary is after the plaintiff… I hope I won’t be convicted for ‘why did you get attacked?'”

[September 29, 2016]

News agency website censored
Turkey’s telecommunications regulator, the BTK, censored the website of the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) in Turkey for the 46th time since July 24, 2015, DİHA reported.

Journalist on trial for book on female Kurdish fighters
Istanbul’s 13th Court for Serious Crimes began trying journalist Arzu Demir, a journalist for the ETHA news agency, on charges of “praising a crime and criminals,” “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” and “provoking the people to commit crimes,” in her book, Dağın Kadın Hali (The Woman State of the Mountain), an examination of the women of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist organization, the independent news website Bianet reported.

Demir denied the charges and criticized prosecutors for presuming to decide what constitutes journalism. Her trial is scheduled to continue on November 8.

Newspaper reporters briefly detained
Police in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district briefly detained two reporters from the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel, the newspaper newspaper reported. Eren Ergine and Cumali Kaya were at a press conference held by a family claiming the municipal government cheated them on a real-estate matter.

Court acquits newspaper reporter
Evrensel reporter Metehan Ud was among 115 people Izmir’s 24th Court of First Instance acquitted on charges of illegal assembly in connection with 2013 nationwide protests popularly known in Turkey as “the Gezi events,” after the park in central Istanbul where they began. Police detained Ud at a protest in the Mediterranean city of İzmir, Evrensel reported.

[September 28, 2016]

Prosecutors interrogate two journalists regarding Özgür Gündem coverage
Prosecutor’s at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse yesterday interrogated Hüseyin Aykol, a former editor of the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, and Derya Okatan, an Özgür Radio journalist who was one of dozens of journalists and activists who symbolically acted as co-editor of the newspaper to protest authorities’ persistent judicial harassment of the newspaper before a court ordered it closed on August 16, the press freedom monitor Ben Gazeteciyim (“I am a journalist”) reported. Prosecutors have charged other newspaper staff and participants in the solidarity campaign with propagandizing for a terrorist organization, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Özgür Gündem‘s legal team today petitioned the Constitutional Court to reverse Istanbul’s Eighth Court of Penal Peace’s order closing the newspaper, the independent news website Bianet reported. Özgür Gündem‘s lawyers previously unsuccessfully petitioned Istanbul’s Ninth Court of Penal Peace to overturn the ruling shuttering the daily.

The lawyers argued that the closure of the newspaper, the raid of its Istanbul office, and the detention of its staff violated its journalists’ constitutional rights to a fair trial, freedom of the press, and constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press.

Deutsche Welle sues Turkey over confiscated interview video
German broadcaster Deutsche Welle yesterday announced it had sued the Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports in an Ankara court over confiscated recordings of its interview with the minister, Akif Çağatay, Hürriyet Daily News reported. Ministry officials on September 5 refused to let the Deutsche Welle team leave building unless they handed over the recording of the interview, CPJ reported at the time.

[September 27, 2016]