Supporters of Cumhuriyet newspaper protest a police raid of the daily's Istanbul's office, October 31, 2016. The signs read, "Free media cannot be silenced" (center), and "Don't bow down" (rear). (Reuters/Murad Sezer)
Supporters of Cumhuriyet newspaper protest a police raid of the daily's Istanbul's office, October 31, 2016. The signs read, "Free media cannot be silenced" (center), and "Don't bow down" (rear). (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of October 30

Social media websites, WhatsApp blocked as police detain opposition leaders
Turkey last night blocked access to social media websites and the text-messaging application WhatsApp as police arrested members of parliament for the opposition HDP party, including the party’s co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yuksekdag, according to press reports.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Turkish Prime Minsiter Binali Yildirim, speaking at a press conference today, justified the censorship “in terms of security. These are temporary precautions. Everything will return to normal after the threat is parried,” he said, according to the news website Bianet.

Detained Cumhuriyet journalists allowed to see lawyers
Lawyers for Cumhuriyet‘s journalists detained on October 31 met their clients yesterday evening, the newspaper reported. Under emergency powers the government assumed after July’s failed military coup, police can hold suspects for five days without access to a lawyer.

[November 4, 2016]

Prosecutor pursuing newspaper on terrorism charges himself target of terrorism investigation
Murat İnam, the Istanbul prosecutor leading the investigation into the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, is among 54 judges and prosecutors accused of being followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and “parallel state structure” that it blames for orchestrating a failed military coup in July, Oda TV’s website reported yesterday.

In a statement released today, Cumhuriyet said the revelation meant the prosecutor’s investigation was fatally compromised. “That the investigation against Cumhuriyet directors and columnists is being led by a prosecutor who is being judged for membership in the same organization means that the investigation has collapsed,” the newspaper said. “We repeat with emphasis: This investigation has collapsed, and the right to a fair trial has been openly violated.”

Oda TV today reported that prosecutors had opened a criminal investigation against its editor-in-chief, Barış Pehlivan, because his story about the criminal investigation against the prosecutor in Cumhuriyet‘s case. Oda TV reported that prosecutors were investigating Pehlivan for “targeting people who took part in the anti-terror struggle.”

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, in remarks to parliament today, denied authorities had opened an investigation into Pehlivan. Bozdağ said the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office had told him no such investigation was in progress. The minister also said he wished the investigation into Cumhuriyet had been given to another prosecutor, according to the news website Haberturk.

In an article published on Oda TV’s website today, Pehlivan recorded his account of his conversation with the police officer who called him to inform him of the investigation. The police officer gave Pehlivan the case number of his file, the editor wrote.

Later the same police officer told Pehlivan that there was a mistake at the prosecutor’s office, and that there was no investigation against him, Pehlivan wrote, speculating that the investigation had been withdrawn because of the public reaction.

In related news, Istanbul’s Fourth Court of Penal Peace yesterday rejected lawyers for the Cumhuriyet journalists and directors detained on October 31’s petition to be allowed to see their clients before the five days allowed under emergency provisions. The court said holding the defendants without access to lawyers for five days was legal.

[November 3, 2016]

Newspaper reporter detained
Police in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır yesterday detained İsmail Çoban, a reporter for the shuttered Kurdish-language daily newspaper Azadiya Welat, according to press reports. The reasons for his detention were not immediately clear. Azadiya Welat was among the Kurdish media outlets closed by emergency decree on October 29. Diyarbakır was the site of protests last week following the arrest of the city’s ethnic-Kurdish mayor and her deputy.

Newspaper says website under attack
The embattled opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet yesterday wrote on Twitter that its website was under relentless attack, bringing the site down. The newspaper encouraged people to read its coverage on Facebook.

Lawyers ask court to be allowed see detained journalists
Lawyers for the embattled daily newspaper Cumhuriyet today asked Istanbul’s Fourth Court of Penal Peace to be allowed to see journalists detained on October 31.

Emergency provisions put in place after July’s failed military coup allow authorities to hold detainees for five days without access to their lawyers.

The court issued a verdict at around 1 p.m. local time and sent it to the prosecutor’s office without notifying the lawyers of the verdict, the newspaper reported.

Vilson Akbaş, one of the lawyers, said the team was still petitioning the prosecutors to inform them of the verdict. “Even if the court’s decision is positive, [the prosecutors] are trying to make these five days pass” without allowing the lawyers to meet the detained journalists.

Police on October 31 raided the Istanbul office of the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet and detained at least 12 of the newspaper’s journalists and directors. Authorities produced a court order making the investigations secret, meaning defense attorneys will not know anything about the investigation until their clients are indicted.

Police seal TV channel office
Police in Istanbul yesterday sealed the office of the pro-Shiite Kudüs TV channel, according to press reports. Authorities accuse the channel of “spreading terrorist propaganda.”

[November 2, 2016]

Embattled opposition newspaper accused of sowing chaos: report
Turkish authorities suspect the embattled opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet of “curtailing the truth by manipulation, acting in harmony with the Fethullah terror organization (FETÖ), and publishing news to create internal chaos and to render the country unmanageable,” the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported today.

The Turkish government accuses exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and “parallel state structure” within Turkey that it alleges was behind July’s failed military coup. Gülen has strenuously denied the allegation.

Police yesterday raided Cumhuriyet‘s office in Istanbul and detained at least 12 of its journalists and directors.

Authorities yesterday produced a court order making the investigation secret, meaning that defense lawyers will not have access to the evidence against their clients until they are indicted. Anatolia reported that authorities cite the newspaper’s headlines, columns, news stories, and material its journalists had published on Twitter as evidence of the newspaper’s “pro-FETÖ stance.”

Police raid news agency offices
Tax officers and police today raided and sealed the Adana office of the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), according to press reports. Last night police and tax officers raided and sealed DİHA’s Ankara bureau.

The government on October 29 used emergency powers it assumed after July’s failed coup to order 15 news outlets, including DİHA, closed by decree.

The Ankara bureau’s bilingual pet parrot, Tolaz, was sealed inside the office. After hours of effort, DİHA’s staff successfully petitioned authorities to be allowed to rescue the bird, the news website Bianet reported. DİHA journalist Hayri Demir told CPJ that Tolaz can say nearly 70 words in Turkish and Kurdish.

Police detain 21 media regulators
Police today detained at least 21 officials from Turkey’s media regulator, the RTÜK, as part of a sweeping purge of those suspected of being followers of Gülen, the Anatolia News Agency reported. Police have warrants for the arrest of seven additional RTÜK officials from across the country, Anatolia said.

Watchdog: Pro-government ‘lynch mobs’ behind 2000 cases of online harassment in 2016
Pro-Turkish-government “lynch mobs” engaged in 2000 cases of online harassment, smear campaigns and hacking over the course of 2016, London’s Guardian reported today, based on research by the International Press Institute (IPI).

Police in Istanbul yesterday detained Kadri Gürsel, the IPI’s Turkish National Committee Chair.

[November 1, 2016]

Cumhuriyet newspaper offices raided, at least 12 journalists detained
Police in Istanbul today raided the offices of the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet and detained at least 12 of the newspaper’s journalists and directors. Authorities produced a court order making the investigations secret, meaning defense attorneys will not know anything about the investigation until their clients are indicted.

The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul in a statement today said the journalists were detained on suspicion of producing propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the so-called Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization (FETÖ), two rival groups the Turkish government classes as terrorist organizations. The statement also said investigators were looking into alleged irregularities in the last elections of the board of directors of the foundation that owns Cumhuriyet, and that the newspaper published pro-coup propaganda in advance of July’s failed military coup attempt.

According to Cumhuriyet, police detained the following journalists and directors from the newspaper today:

  • Murat Sabuncu, editor-in-chief
  • Turhan Günay, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet‘s literary supplement
  • Hikmet Çetinkaya, columnist
  • Aydın Engin, columnist
  • Güray Öz, columnist
  • Hakan Kara, columnist
  • Musa Kart, cartoonist
  • Bülent Utku, lawyer and member of the Cumhuriyet Foundation’s board of directors
  • Mustafa Kemal Güngör, lawyer and Cumhuriyet Foundation board member
  • Önder Çelik, board member
  • Bülent Yener, former board member
  • Eser Sevinç, financial adviser, board member
  • Kadri Gürsel, a columnist and consultant, who also serves as the International Press Institute (IPI)‘s Turkish National Committee Chair

Police also seek the following Cumhuriyet journalists and directors, some of whom are out of the country, the newspaper reported:

  • Can Dündar, columnist and former editor in chief
  • Nebil Özgentürk, editor
  • Akın Atalay, lawyer and chairman of the Cumhuriyet Foundation’s board of directors
  • Günseli Özaltay, chief accountant

Police were searching the homes of those detained and wanted when this report went to press. The detained will not be able to see their lawyers for at least five days, according to another Cumhuriyet report.

Government closes 15 news outlets by decree
Turkey’s government eviscerated what remained of the country’s Kurdish media, closing 15 media outlets by decree on October 29, using emergency powers it assumed after July’s failed military coup. Decrees No. 675 and 676 shuttered the pro-Kurdish Dicle (DİHA) and Jin (JİNHA) news agencies, the newspapers Özgür Gündem, Azadiya Welat, and 11 more newspapers and magazines:

  • Yüksekova Haber
  • Batman Çağdaş
  • Cizre Postası
  • İdil Haber
  • Güney Ekspres
  • Prestij Haber
  • Urfanatik
  • Kızıltepe’nin Sesi
  • Tiroj
  • Evrensel Kültür
  • Özgürlük Dünyası

Police raided and sealed the offices of the affected media organs across the country yesterday, the news website T24 reported. Their assets will be transferred to the state treasury, according to press reports.

Decree No: 675 also cancelled the government’s previous decree, No. 668, to shutter the radio stations Umut FM and Yağmur FM, the local television station SRT, and the local newspapers Lider, İscehisar Durum, Bingöl Olay, EGE’de Son Söz, Hakikat, Kurtuluş, Lider, İscehisar Durum, Bingöl Olay, EGE’de Son Söz, and Hakikat.

Under emergency provisions put in place after the failed July coup attempt, prosecutors already had the right to deny suspects the right to see an attorney for five days. Decree No. 667 increased this period to six months. Decree No. 676 further stipulated that the state may record conversations between those detained or investigated on suspicion of terrorism and their lawyers, and that an official may be present for lawyer-client conversations in custody.

[October 31, 2016]