News anchor Banu Guven (L) gets ready for a news broadcast at a studio of IMC TV, a news broadcaster slated for closure, in Istanbul, Turkey, September 30, 2016. (Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir)
News anchor Banu Guven (L) gets ready for a news broadcast at a studio of IMC TV, a news broadcaster slated for closure, in Istanbul, Turkey, September 30, 2016. (Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of October 2

Reporter arraigned on terrorism charges for Facebook posts
The Mersin Court of Penal Peace last night arraigned Cemil Uğur, a reporter for the left-wing Evrensel newspaper, on charges of “being member of a [terrorist] organization,” and “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization,” his employer reported. Police held Uğur for 16 days in August, before a court ordered him released on probation on September 7. The court in the southern city of Mersin based its order to jail him pending trial on posts to the journalist’s Facebook account. The journalist denies the charges and says the posts in question were published when his account was hacked.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Journalists face terrorism charges after protesting harassment of newspaper
Istanbul’s 14th Court for Serious Crimes yesterday began trying Fehim Işık and Yıldırım Türker, who symbolically acted as co-editors of Özgür Gündem for a day to protest the relentless judicial harassment of the newspaper’s staff before a court ordered the newspaper closed on August 16.

Işık, a columnist for Evrensel, and Türker, a former columnist for the shuttered newspaper Radikal, face terrorism and incitement charges in connection with Özgür Gündem‘s coverage on the days they participated in the solidarity campaign. Işık denied the charges against him, saying he practiced journalism only. Türker was tried in absentia, the news website Bianet reported.

İnan Kızılkaya, Özgür Gündem‘s jailed responsible news editor, is a codefendant in all the trials of those who participated in the protest. According to the Bianet report, Kızılkaya said he was mistreated and isolated in prison and that he fears for his life.

“Coming [to court hearings] becomes torture for me,” Kızılkaya said, claiming he was consistently insulted and mistreated while being transported from prison to his many court hearings.

[October 7, 2016]

Justice minister defends closure of more than 100 newspapers, broadcasters
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ defended the government’s closure of more than 100 newspapers, radio stations, and TV channels in response to a question in parliament from opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the volunteer collective 140Journos reported yesterday.

“It does not befit political parties to be supporters of the supporters of terrorism with the excuse of freedom of speech,” Bozdağ said.

KIlıçdaroğlu called the government’s closure of media outlets a “putschist tradition,” according to the English-language opposition website Turkish Minute.

Journalist alleges abuse in custody
Ayşenur Parıldak, a former reporter for the shuttered daily newspaper Zaman, alleged she had been subjected to physical and sexual violence in prison, in a letter she sent from prison to the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet. Police detained Parıldak on August 3, and a court arraigned her eight days later on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization, based on the suspicion that she was a follower of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and “parallel state structure” within Turkey and of plotting a July 15 failed military coup. Gülen denies those allegations.

[October 6, 2016]

Police raid TV and radio stations
Police in Istanbul yesterday raided and sealed the offices and studios of IMC TV, Hayatın Sesi TV, and Özgür Radio, according to press reports. Police detained 17 people – journalists and supporters of the radio station who were there to protest the raid – the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet reported, posting amateur video of the raid on its website. All 17 were released within hours, IMC TV reported on its website. The pro-Kurdish broadcaster today reported that the state will give equipment confiscated in the raid to the state broadcaster, TRT. Police in Istanbul, accompanied by TRT staff, today raided and sealed the office of TV 10, the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency reported.

Police in the central Turkish city Diyarbakır yesterday raided the offices of Zarok TV, Jiyan TV, Azadi TV, and Özgür Gün TV and radio, press reports said.

The prime minister’s office also cancelled the press credentials of Hayatın Sesi TV’s employees, the socialist daily Evrensel reported on October 3.

The raids follow a September 28 order to close at least 20 broadcasters based on emergency powers the government gave itself after a July 15 failed military coup. Cabinet Decree 668 empowers the government to close any media outlet and confiscate its assets on the basis of broadly defined “national security” concerns.

Three more journalists on trial following show of solidarity with shuttered newspaper
The trial of four more journalists who were among dozens to protest the persistent judicial harassment of employees of the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem before a court ordered it closed in August. Nadire Mater, of the news website Bianet, Tuğrul Eryılmaz, formerly of Radikal newspaper, Cumhuriyet journalist Celal Başlangıç, and Derya Okutan of Özgür Radio went on trial in recent days, according to press reports.

The journalists face terrorism and incitement charges stemming from the newspaper’s coverage on the days the symbolically acted as co-editors of the publication. The newspaper’s jailed responsible news editor, İnan Kızılkaya, is a defendant in each case because Turkish law holds him responsible for all content the newspaper publishes. Kızılkaya was present at court, Bianet reported.

Police confiscate newspaper journalists’ passports
Police at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport today prevented Cumhuriyet journalists Celal Başlangıç and Ayşe Yıldırım from flying to Brussels and confiscated their passports, Evrensel reported, without stating the reason for the travel ban.

German prosecutors drop investigation into satirist for insulting Erdoğan
German prosecutors yesterday closed a criminal investigation into comedian Jan Böhmermann on accusations of “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, London’s Independent newspaper reported. German prosecutors opened the investigation in April at Erdoğan’s request.

[October 5, 2016]

Turkish consulate in New York confiscates journalist’s passport: report
Officials at the Turkish consulate in New York confiscated the passport of Arslan Ayan, a former reporter for the shuttered English-language daily Today’s Zaman, because of a Turkish court’s order for his detention, the website Turkish Minute reported yesterday.

Parliament refuses to hear MP’s question regarding newspaper’s closure
The office of the speaker of the Turkish parliament refused to hear a question from opposition lawmaker Alican Önlü regarding the closure of pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, the left-wing daily newspaper Evrensel reported today. “Not every matter is to be questioned,” the speaker’s office said, according to Evrensel.

[October 3, 2016]