Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses farmers in Ankara, November 14, 2016. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Service/Pool/AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses farmers in Ankara, November 14, 2016. (Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Service/Pool/AP)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of November 20

After six months, wire reporter released pending trial
Hakkari’s Second Court for Serious Crimes today ordered Şermin Soydan, a reporter for the shuttered pro-Kurdish DİHA news agency, released on probation the leftist newspaper Evrensel reported.

Soydan had been jailed since May 12, pending trial on charges of “obtaining secret state documents” stemming from her story on the local government’s preparation for a military operation targeting fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the southeastern town of Yüksekova, CPJ reported at the time.

The journalist will still stand trial. Her next court date is schedule for December, Evrensel reported. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence.

The government ordered Soydan’s former employer, the DİHA news agency, closed by emergency decree on September 28, CPJ reported at the time.

Security officers prevent reporters from reporting on mine accident
Military police prevented reporters from the DİHABER news agency from filming near the site of a copper mine collapse in the eastern town of Şirvan, in Siirt province, Evrensel reported yesterday. The accident left at least seven miners dead and at least 16 trapped underground, according to press reports.

Military police at the site ran background checks on the reporters and threatened to arrest them if they did not stop filming in the area, Evrensel reported.

Private security guards also interrupted three reporters–Evrensel journalists Serpil Bek and Hasan Akbaş, and Vecdi Erbay, a reporter for the news website Duvar–as they were talking to miners’ families, Evrensel reported. A security guard told the journalists, “the governor’s office has prohibited interviewing families. I asked the company director. It is forbidden to report,” according to Evrensel‘s report.

Court indicts newspaper board members on terrorism charges
Istanbul’s 23rd Court for Serious Crimes today dismissed charges of “destroying the unity of the nation” and seeking to damage the territorial integrity of the country against linguist Necmiye Alpay and author Aslı Erdoğan, but ordered them kept in pretrial detention on charges of “being members of a [terrorist] organization” for being former board members of the newspaper Özgür Gündem, which authorities closed in August, saying it produced PKK propaganda.

Their trial is scheduled to begin on December 29, the ETHA news agency reported.

[November 23, 2016]

Government closes eight newspapers, radio station by decree
The Turkish government today ordered eight newspapers and a radio station closed by decree, using emergency powers it assumed after July’s failed military coup.

The decree, published in Turkey’s Official Gazette said that the media outlets “are considered by the National Security Council as related, belong to or are in contact with terror organizations and structures that are considered by the National Security Council as acting against national security, [and] are shut down.”

The affected media outlets are: Express newspaper; Türkiye Manşet newspaper; Dağ Yeli newspaper; Akis newspaper; İpekyolu newspaper; Son Dakika newspaper; Yedigün newspaper; HaberExen newspaper; and the radio station Batman FM.

Wire reporter jailed pending trial
A court in eastern Turkey late yesterday ordered Aysel Işık, the reporter for the pro-Kurdish, all-female news agency JİNHA, jailed pending trial, DİHABER news agency reported. The government ordered JİNHA closed by emergency decree on October 31, CPJ reported at the time.

DİHABER reported that the court considered Işık’s posts to social media websites as evidence that she “propagandized for a [terrorist] organization.”

Journalists stand trial in connection with support for shuttered newspaper
Istanbul’s 22nd Court for Serious Crimes today heard arguments in the trial on terrorism charges of veteran journalist Tugrul Eryilmaz, former editor of the shuttered newspaper Radikal‘s weekly cultural supplement Radikal İki, and Çilem Küçükkeleş, a former TV producer and member of parliament for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the news website Bianet reported.

The charges stem from the shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem‘s coverage on the days each symbolically acted as co-editor-in-chief of the newspaper to protest the government’s relentless judicial harassment of the daily’s staff before it ordered the newspaper closed by decree in August. Dozens of journalists, academics, activists, and public figures took part in the campaign to show solidarity with the newspaper in the spring of 2016. İnan Kızılkaya, the jailed former responsible news editor for the newspaper, is a co-defendant in each case.

The court adjourned the journalists’ trial to February 22, 2017.

[November 22, 2016]

Police detain wire reporter
Police in Turkey’s eastern Şırnak province today detained Aysel Işık, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish, all-female Jinha news agency, according to media reports.

News reports said Işık was with Aycan Irmez, a member of parliament for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) when she was detained. Police did not immediately say why she was detained.

Swedish journalists briefly detained
Police in Turkey’s eastern Diyarbakır province on November 19 detained two Swedish television journalists, the lefist daily Evrensel reported. The newspaper reported that the journalists, whom it identified only by their initials, L.N.B. and R.A.S. , were detained for recording filming in a military zone.

The police unit that deals with foreigners released the two the same day, Evrensel reported. According to the newspaper, the journalists had on November 18 attempted to travel to the nearby province of Şırnak, but were prevented from entering the city.

Columnist detained, released
Police in the coastal city of İzmir last night detained Cafer Solgun, a former columnist for the shuttered daily newspaper Meydan, as part of an open criminal case for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a column he did not write, Solgun announced from his Twitter account.

“They found me in İzmir, where I was (visiting) to attend a conference. They handcuffed me and kept me at police station in Alsancak. Then for hours I waited to see the judge on duty, together with people who committed ordinary crimes,” Solgun told the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Authorities last year prosecuted Solgun for a column written by fellow Meydan columnist Yılmaz Odabaşı, but mistakenly published on the newspaper’s front page under Solgun’s byline.

The editors apologized for the mistake and corrected it in both the print and online editions of the newspaper, but authorities continued to prosecute both Solgun and Odabaşı on charges of “insulting the president.”

Solgun told CPJ that a court had issued a warrant for his arrest for not having testified in the case.

“I was not even invited to testify at the court, despite their having my public address in their database,” Solgun said.

The court in İzmir released Solgun this afternoon.

[November 21, 2016]