Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan adjusts his earpiece at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, September 5, 2016. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan adjusts his earpiece at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, September 5, 2016. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of September 4

Police raid Kurdish magazine office
Police raided Istanbul office of the pro-Kurdish magazine Özgür Halk today, the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reported. DİHA reported that the raid, which was in progress at the time of publication, was related to the magazine’s feature commemorating August 15, the date the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) took up arms against the state. Police in the Mediterranean city of İzmir raided the magazine’s office there on September 5 and arrested magazine staffer Rabia Özkaya.

Editor of socialist newspaper, news agency reporter detained
A court in İzmir today put two socialist journalists — Deniz Bakır, who is the editor of the weekly newspaper Atılım, and Rıdvan Coşkun , a reporter for the Etkin News Agency (ETHA) – on probation, ETHA reported. Police detained the journalists last night, ETHA reported, without specifying on what charges.

Kurdish newspaper employees jailed pending trial
A court in Mersin today arraigned Şirin Çoban and İlker İlkan, two employees of the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, and ordered them jailed pending trial on charges of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization,” the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel reported.

‘Marathon of trials’ scheduled for those who showed support for beleaguered newspaper
At least 19 journalists, activists, academics, and an actor who symbolically acted as co-editor of the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem for a day to protest authorities’ persistent judicial harassment of its staff will stand trial between September 20 and October 8, the news website Bianet reported yesterday. The 19 are among more than 100 people who face criminal investigations for their participation in the show of solidarity with the newspaper before a court ordered its closure and police raided its office in Istanbul, detaining more than 20 people. The Bianet article was written by Erol Önderoğlu, who is also the Turkey representative of the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders and who will also stand trial in connection with the newspaper’s coverage on the day he served as co-editor of the newspaper.

İnan Kızılkaya, the newspaper’s responsible news editor, will be a defendant in each of the trials, since his position makes him legally responsible for everything the newspaper publishes, Bianet reported. Istanbul’s 13th, 14th, and 22nd Courts for Serious Crimes will begin hearing the cases of Ayşe Düzkan, Ragıp Duran, Faruk Eren, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Celal Başlangıç, Fehim Işık, Yıldırım Türker, Ayşe Batumlu, İhsan Çaralan, Murat Çelikkan, Beyza Üstün, Cemalettin Can, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Ahmet Nesin, and Erol Önderoğlu, Önderoğlu reported. Prosecutors have also indicted Kemal Can, Öncü Akgül, and Cengiz Baysoy, so they may stand trial with the rest, Özgür Gündem lawyer Özcan Kılıç said.

Istanbul prosecutors prepare report on lawmakers who attended journalists’ trial
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul prepared a report (“fezleke”) against opposition parliamentarians who attended the March 25 trial of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, then the editor and Ankara bureau chief, respectively, of the newspaper Cumhuriyet, Bianet reported. Dündar, a 2016 recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ International Press Freedom Award, subsequently resigned as editor of the newspaper and said he would not return to Turkey until the state of emergency was lifted because he did not believe Turkish courts could give him a fair trial.

Prosecutors said that lawmakers Enis Berberoğlu, Gürsel Tekin, Şafak Pavey, Mahmut Tanal, Barış Yarkadaş, İlhan Cihaner, Hilmi Yarayıcı, Tuncay Özkan, and Engin Özkoç from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), alongside Garo Paylan, Filiz Kerestecioğlu, and Meral Danış Beştaş from The Democratic People’s Party (HDP) violated the law for gatherings and demonstrations by refusing to leave the March 25 hearing after the judge ordered it closed to the public. Prosecutors prepared an additional report against Paylan, Tanrıkulu, and Tanal for violating the secrecy of the trial and impeding civil servants from doing their work.

[September 9, 2016]

Newspaper employees detained: report
Police in Mersin detained Şirin Çoban and İlker İlkan, two employees of the Kurdish-language daily newspaper Azadiya Welat, the pro-Kurdish Jin News Agency (JİNHA) reported today. The reasons for their detention were not immediately clear, but authorities have intensified their harassment of the newspaper in recent weeks. On August 28, police in Diyarbakır raided the newspaper’s office and detained 23 employees.

Two reporters released on probation
A court in Mersin yesterday ordered the release on probation of Cemil Uğur and Halil İbrahim Polat, two reporters from the leftist daily Evrensel detained on August 23, the newspaper reported. Lawyers for the two alleged police beat the journalists and threatened to kill them during the two weeks they were in custody, CPJ reported at the time. Prosecutors requested the court jail the two pending trial on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, but the court declined.

Police release two columnists
Police in Ankara released Yavuz Selim Demirağ and Servet Avcı, two columnists for the nationalist daily newspaper Yeni Çağ detained from their homes before dawn yesterday, the newspaper reported. Police told Demirağ, “Some mistakes are made with this workload,” Yeni Çağ reported. Adnan İslamoğulları, the third Yeni Çağ columnist detained yesterday, is still in custody, and police have a warrant for the detention of a fourth columnist, Kürşat Zorlu, the newspaper reported.

Journalist says police have two warrants for his detention
Journalist Fatih Yağmur wrote on Twitter today that he learned there is a second warrant for his detention because of his reporting on allegations that Turkey’s intelligence agency had supplied arms to Islamist rebels in Syria in 2015. He wrote that he was already aware that police had a warrant to detain him in the scope of a sweeping investigation into a July 15 failed military coup that left more than 200 people dead.

[September 8, 2016]

Police detain three columnists from homes
Police detained three columnists for the nationalist daily newspaper Yeni Çağ in predawn raids of their homes in Ankara today, the newspaper reported. Police detained Servet Avcı, Adnan İslamoğulları, and Yavuz Selim Demirağ and confiscated their computers as part of a sweeping purge of those the governments suspects of having ties to the Hizmet movement — or FETÖ, as the government calls it. The government accuses the movement of maintaining a terrorist organization and parallel state structure in Turkey that it says orchestrated a failed July 15 military coup. Yeni Çağ reported that politicians and other nationalists were also detained in the raids.

Magazine employee jailed pending trial on terrorism charges
A court in the Mediterranean city of Izmir yesterday arraigned Rabia Özkaya, an employee of the pro-Kurdish magazine Özgür Halk, and jailed her pending trial on charges of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization,” the pro-Kurdish Dicle news Agency (DİHA) reported. Police detained Özkaya in a September 5 raid of the magazine’s office, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported at the time.

TV station says Facebook cancelled its page
The pro-Kurdish Özgür Gün TV station yesterday said on Twitter that the social-media website Facebook had closed its page on the site, which had 115,000 followers. The government-operated satellite operator Türksat on August 30 dropped the station’s signal, restricting its reach to the area in the southeastern region of Turkey served by its terrestrial broadcasts. The URL https://www.facebook.com/TVOzgurGun was accessible from New York today, and featured recent posts.

Prosecutors seek four for question following show of solidarity with shuttered newspaper
Prosecutors seek to interrogate four more people who symbolically acted as co-editor of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem to show solidarity with the newspaper in the face of persistent judicial harassment before it was shuttered on August 16, the volunteer press freedom monitor Ben Gazeteciyim (“I am a Journalist”) tweeted today. Prosecutors summoned Faruk Balıkçı, Mehmet Güç, Hasan Hayri Şanlı, and Deniz Türkali for questioning, Ben Gazeteciyim said.

Two blogs censored
Turkish authorities blocked access to two blogs written by US-based Turkish journalist İlhan Tanır, the English-language news website Turkish Minute reported. Tanır is an outspoken critic of the Turkish government.

[September 7, 2016]

Deutsche Welle recording of interview with minister confiscated
Turkish Ministry of Youth and Sports officials yesterday confiscated German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s recording of an interview with Youth and Sports Minister Akif Kılıç, DW reported today. Interviewer Michel Friedman had asked the minister about the arrest of journalists since the July 15 failed coup attempt, DW reported. After Kılıç left the room at the end of the interview, ministry employees told the broadcaster’s crew they would not be able to leave the building with the recording of the interview, DW reported.

Police raid magazine office, detain employee
Police in the Mediterranean city of Izmir last night raided the office of the pro-Kurdish magazine Özgür Halk and detained Rabia Özkaya, an employee of the magazine, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported today. Police also confiscated books, magazines, and a banner bearing the likenesses of killed journalists, according to the newspaper. It was not immediately clear whether Özkaya would face charges.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Court jails four pending trial in post-coup press purge
An Istanbul court on September 2 arraigned journalists Murat Aksoy and Mutlu Çölgeçen, pop singer and columnist for the defunct Meydan newspaper Atilla Taş, and politician Gökçe Fırat, leader of the right-wing National Party and a writer for the magazine Türk Solu, jailing them pending trial on charges of “knowingly and willingly aiding [Gülen movement] FETÖ while not being included in the hierarchical structure,” the news website Bianet reported. The Turkish government accuses followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization, a parallel state structure, and of plotting a failed July 15 military coup.

Prosecutors on September 2 ordered journalists Alparslan Akkuş, Rasih Yılmaz, and Ömer Şahin, who had been detained in the scope of the same investigation, unconditionally released, and ordered Nurullah Öztürk released on probation, CPJ reported at the time. On the night of September 2, an Istanbul court ordered Ayhan Şimşek, İskender Yunus Tiryaki, Dinçer Gökçe, and Levent Arap, also detained in the same investigation, released on probation.

The opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet reported Monday that Aksoy denied any connection to the Gülen movement, but that he had taken a job with the closed, pro- Gülenist newspaper Millet only because he could not find another job after having been fired from the pro-government daily newspaper Yeni Şafak. Taş likewise denied having any ties to the Gülenist movement.

“Anybody who criticizes the government is a target,” Cumhuriyet quoted Taş as saying.

Police cancel exiled editor’s wife’s passport, prevent her from traveling
Passport control officers on Saturday prevented Dilek Dündar, wife of exiled, former Cumhuriyet editor and 2016 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award Can Dündar, from traveling to visit her husband in Europe and confiscated her passport, Cumhuriyet and CPJ reported. According to the document officers gave Dilek Dündar, subsequentily published by Cumhuriyet, her passport was cancelled by an order from the General Directorate of the Police on August 22.

State broadcaster to occupy shuttered private media group’s office
Turkey’s state broadcaster, the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) will occupy the Zaman media building in Istanbul and use its equipment, the media news website MedyaRadar reported yesterday. Police raided the office in March after a court ordered its parent company, Feza Media Group, placed under the control of pro-government trustees, and the government ordered it closed using emergency powers it assumed after the failed July 15 military coup attempt.

According to MedyaRadar, TRT general manager Şenol Göka and other executives inspected the Zaman building after authorities closed Feza Media Group and found it “very suitable” for their institution. TRT will also take over the equipment of the Koza-İpek Media Group, the former owner of the newspapers Bugün and Millet and TV stations Kanaltürk and Bugün TV. Police raided Koza-İpek’s offices in October 2015 after a court ordered pro-government trustees to take over management of the company. The company, under the new trustees’ management, announced in March that it was closing.

Newspaper distributors face terrorism charges for defiant attitude
A court yesterday arraigned two distributors of the Kurdish-language daily newspaper Azadiya Welat who were among 23 people detained in an August 28 raid of the newspaper’s office in Diyarbakır on terrorism charges, the pro-Kurdish DİHA news agency reported today. The court said it had “strong suspicion” that Arap Turan and Ferit Toprak were members of a terrorist organization because they vowed to continue distributing the newspaper and the shuttered, pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, come what may, according to DİHA.

The court ordered at least nine other newspaper distributors — Pusat Bulut, Yasemin Sayın, Serdal Polat, Zeynep İzgi, Hayat Yılmaz, Mehmet Emin Kaya, Mecrum Tekol, İbrahim Bayram, and Engin Özelçi — detained in the August 28 raid to be released on probation. Police immediately detained Tekol again in connection with another investigation, DİHA reported, without elaborating.

Two Russian journalists, translator detained, news agency says
Police detained two Russian journalists and their translator in Cudi, in Turkey’s southeastern Şırnak province, the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reported on September 3. The news agency did not name the journalists or report further details about their detention.

Two journalists put under house arrest
Authorities in the southern Turkish city Adana on September 2 released two journalists — Abdurrahim Haklıkul and Osman Palamut — detained following a protest there against the government’s media crackdown, but ordered them put under house arrest, the news website Objektif01 reported.

Police detained the two alongside Salim Büyükkaya, head of the Adana branch of the Turkey Journalists Union (TGS), according to press reports. Police released Büyükkaya late the afternoon of Friday 2, the local news website Adana Haber reported.

Reporter jailed in post-coup purge: report
The pro-government daily newspaper Sabah yesterday reported that a court in Turkey’s southeastern Kahramanmaraş province jailed a journalist, whom it identified only as Ahmet Y, pending trial on suspicion that we was the “provincial press officer of FETÖ.” The report from Sabah included no further details.

Detained reporters mistreated in jail, lawyer says
Jailors continue to threaten Cemil Uğur and Halil İbrahim Polat, two reporters for the daily newspaper Evrensel detained in Mersin since August 23, Evrensel reported September 2, citing their lawyer, Ali Bozan. Jailors reminded Uğur and Polat of Metin Göktepe, an Evrensel reporter beaten to death by police in 1996, Bozan said. Officers further threatened to throw the journalists from a window, crippling or killing them, the lawyer said.

As of September 2, prosecutors had not charged or even interrogated the journalists with any crime. Evrensel reported yesterday that Barış Yarkadaş, originally a journalist himself and now a lawmaker with the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), met with the chief of Mersin police to ask that the journalists either be released or brought before a court.

Court rejects columnist, newspaper board member’s appeal
Istanbul’s Fifth Court of Penal Peace rejected Aslı Erdoğan’s appeal of her arrest pending trial, the news website Bianet reported yesterday. Erdoğan was a columnist at and board member of the shuttered, pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem. Police arrested her from her home after an August 16 raid of the newspaper’s office in Istanbul.

Journalists detained as police disperse protest
Police in Ankara last night detained DİHA reporter Mehmet Kurnaz and freelance journalist Can Özen as police dispersed a protest in support of Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turkish government classes as a terrorist group, DİHA reported.

Courts acquit journalists on charges of insulting the president
The Bakırköy Second Court of Serious Crimes in Istanbul acquitted Hürriyet journalist Ertuğrul Özkök of charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in two columns, Cumhuriyet reported today. The Bakırköy 39th Court of First Instance likewise acquitted retired Hürriyet and Radikal journalist Cengiz Çandar of the same charge in relation to seven of his columns. Erdoğan last month said he was dropping more than 1,800 criminal complaints his lawyers had filed against journalists for “insulting the president.”

[September 6, 2016]

EDITOR’S NOTE: The September 9 entry was updated to reflect ETHA’s correction that Atılım editor Deniz Bakır and ETHA reporter Rıdvan Coşkun were released on probation, not jailed pending trial.