Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses supporters in Istanbul, August 7, 2016. (AFP/Ozan Kose)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan waves to supporters at an August 7, 2016, rally in Istanbul. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of October 23

EU Parliament urges Turkey to release journalists
The European Parliament urged Turkey to release all journalists jailed without proof of their alleged involvement in the failed July 15 military coup, Hürriyet Daily News reported, based on the text of the resolution.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Turkey cuts internet in site of fighting with ethnic Kurds: monitors
Turkey has periodically cut internet service to southeastern areas of the country affected by clashes between security forces and ethnic Kurds demonstrating against the arrest of elected Kurdish mayors, monitors reported on Twitter.

Istanbul police detain newspaper reporter
Police yesterday detained Sinem Özkan, reporter for Özgür Gelecek newspaper, the Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reported today The reason for the detention were not immediately clear, ETHA reported.

Police detain woman distributing newspapers
Police in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakır today detained Leyla Yıldız, a distributor of the embattled newspapers Azadiya Welat and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, while she worked, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi reported, citing the pro-Kurdish, female-staffed Jin News Agency (JİNHA).

‘Insult’ trials continue, despite Erdoğan’s claims
Ceyda Karan, a columnist for the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, wrote on Twitter yesterday that the Supreme Court of Appeals had approved a lower court’s verdict ordering her to pay Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 15,000 Turkish lira (roughly $4812) on charges of “insulting the president,” contrary to claims the president made in July that he had instructed his lawyers to drop all such criminal complaints.

Hasan Cemal, a columnist for the news website T24, was also in court in Ankara yesterday to answer two separate charges of “insulting the president” in his columns, the website reported. Ankara’s fifth and 33rd courts of first instance both adjourned the trials until January 20, according to T24.

[October 28, 2016]

News agency reporter sentenced to two years in prison on terrorism charges
A court in the southeastern Turkish city of Mardin today sentenced Bilal Güldem, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), to two years and three months in prison on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” with material he published on social media websites, his employer reported. The journalist is free, pending appeal.

Police arrested Güldem in April on charges of “being member of a [terrorist] organization” and “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.” A court ordered him released, pending trial, in June. Mardin’s Second Court for Serious Crimes today acquitted him of the charge of being a member of a terrorist organization but found him guilty of the “making propaganda” charge.

CPJ research shows that DİHA journalists face constant judicial and police harassment. Regulators censored the news agency’s website for the 47th time this week.

Newspaper editors face six trials in one day
Eren Keskin, former editor of the shuttered, pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, and Reyhan Çapan, a former responsible news editor for the newspaper, answered charges in six different criminal charges on October 25, the news website Bianet reported.

Özgür Gündem and its journalists face hundreds of trials, the newspaper’s lawyers told CPJ. In one trial heard on October 25, the journalists answered charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.” In another, they answered charges of “insulting the president.” In two additional trials, they answered charges of “insulting Turkishness, the republic, and state organs,” under Turkey’s widely criticized article 301 of the Penal Code.

Istanbul’s 14th Court for Serious Crimes adjourned the trial on charges of propagandizing for a terrorist organization until January 26, 2017. Istanbul’s 2nd Court of First Instance adjourned the rest of the trials until February 7, 2017.

TV journalist stands trial for tweets
Hamza Aktan–formerly a journalist for IMC TV, which the government shuttered by decree using emergency powers it assumed after a failed military coup in July–was in court today for the first hearing of his trial on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” stemming from his activity on Twitter, the news website Bianet reported. Police detained the journalist in April, and a judge ordered him released on probation, pending trial.

Aktan told the court that some of the tweets in question were his, but that he did not write others. The 2nd Bakırköy Court for Serious Crimes in Istanbul today cancelled the order putting the journalist on probation and adjourned the trial to January 10, 2017, to give technical experts time to investigate Aktan’s claim that he did not write some of the tweets in question, Bianet reported.

[October 27, 2016]

Media offices shot, firebombed
Two masked assailants shot at the Istanbul office of the Doğru Medya Group in the early hours of October 24, the Islamist Doğru Haber newspaperwhich is housed in the office, alongside Rehber TV–reported. One of the two assailants threw a Molotov cocktail at the building. The office was empty at the time of the attack, and no one was hurt.

Four journalists acquitted of ‘insulting the president’
The 39th Bakırköy Court of First Instance in Istanbul yesterday acquitted four journalists from the Kanal D news TV channel of charges of “insulting the president,” the daily newspaper Evrensel reported, citing the Doğan News Agency. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lawyers had filed the criminal complaint because a banner criticizing Erdoğan from a political rally appeared in the background for two seconds of a September 2015 edition of the station’s morning news program. The court ruled that İrfan Değirmenci, host of the morning news program, Süleyman Sarılar, editor-in-chief of Kanal D news, and news editors Fevzi Yeniçeri and Ali Ekber Aydın had committed no crime and dismissed the case against them.

[October 26, 2016]

Wire journalist arraigned on terrorism charges
A court in the eastern Turkish province of Muş today arraigned Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter İdris Sayılgan and ordered him jailed, pending trial on charges of “being member of a [terrorist] organization.” Police detained him alongside five other people, including politicians and workers for civil society organizations last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported at the time.

DİHA reported that prosecutors interrogated Sayılgan about his reports for the pro-Kurdish news agency, including on funerals of killed members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey classes as a terrorist organization, and on the poor health of prisoners jailed for membership in the banned organization.

News agency website censored
The Turkish regulator BTK blocked access to DİHA’s website for the 47th time and blocked access to the news website sendika.org for the 12th time today, DİHA reported. The BTK this time dispensed with its usual process of providing the news agency with an order from a court or a ministry, offer an official order form a court or ministry, DİHA reported.

News agency reporters briefly detained
Police briefly detained DİHA reporters Arjin Dilek Öncel and Beritan İrlan in the Suruç District of Turkey’s southeastern Şanlıurfa province for refusing to allow police to search their bags, DİHA reported. Police asked the two what they were doing reporting from the area, the news agency said.

Newspaper editors acquitted of terrorism charges
An Istanbul court today acquitted Fatih Polat and Vural Nasuhbeyoğlu, the editor-in-chief and former responsible news editor of the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel, respectively, at the first hearing of their trial on charges of “spreading propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” and “praising crime and criminals,” Evrensel reported.

The charges stemmed from a story briefly published on the newspaper’s website that reported that PKK militants had taken a police commissioner hostage. The editors removed the story from the website within a few hours after it was published, after they learned it was not true. The story in question did not appear in the print edition of the newspaper.

Journalists, press freedom advocates on trial for terrorism
Evrensel columnist İhsan Çaralan, freelance journalist Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, and head of the press branch of the Revolutionary Worker Unions’ Confederation (DİSK) Faruk Eren each appeared at Istanbul’s 14th Court for Serious Crimes today to face incitement and terrorism charges, the news website Bianet reported.

The charges stem from the coverage of the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem on the days in which each had symbolically acted as co-editor of the publication for a day to protest the persistent judicial harassment of the newspaper’s staff. Dozens of journalists and activists participated in the campaign to show solidarity with the newspaper before a court ordered it closed in August and police raided and sealed the newspaper’s office.

İnan Kızılkaya, Özgür Gündem‘s jailed responsible news editor, was present at each court hearing, as a co-defendant in each case. All three trials are scheduled to resume on January 24, 2017, Bianet reported.

[October 25, 2016]

Jailed newspaper distributor beaten in custody, father says
Prison guards are beating and otherwise mistreating Salih Elitaş–a distributor of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Azadiya Welat jailed since March pending trial on terrorism charges–his father, Ramazan Elitaş, said in remarks reported by the daily newspaper Evrensel. Ramazan Elitaş told the newspaper his son and other prisoners are frequently beaten and are not allowed to get medical assistance afterward.

Folk music radio station shuttered by emergency decree returns to air, for now
Yön Radio, a folk music radio station the government used emergency powers to shut down after July’s failed military coup, resumed broadcasting, the news website Diken reported on October 22. The radio station’s chairman of the board, Mansur Kılınç, told the website implementation of the decree to shut down the radio station has been delayed pending the conclusion of the station’s appeal.

[October 24, 2016]