Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses local government officials in Ankara, January 19, 2017. (Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Press Service/Pool via AP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses local government officials in Ankara, January 19, 2017. (Yasin Bulbul/Presidential Press Service/Pool via AP)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of January 22

Diaspora news website censored before publishing
The bilingual German-Turkish news website Özgürüz (“We Are Free”), which is edited by exiled Cumhuriyet editor Can Dündar, reported that Turkish authorities had blocked access to the website 12 hours before it published its first story today. The website said it believed ozguruz.org made censorship history as the first news website to be blocked before it started publishing. CPJ honored Dündar with its 2016 International Press Freedom Award.

[January 27, 2017]

More on this issue

Wire reporter sentenced to six years in prison for books
Istanbul’s 13th Court for Serious Crimes today sentenced Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Arzu Demir to six years in prison on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” in two books she authored, her employer reported. She is free pending appeal.

According to ETHA, the court sentenced Demir to three years in prison for each of two books, Dağın Kadın Hali (“The Woman State of the Mountain”) and Devrimin Rojava Hali (The Rojava State of the Revolution). The first book is about female fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization. The second book is about the Rojava Kurdish enclave in northern Syria.

Newspaper reporter fined for ‘insulting civil servants’
A court in Istanbul today fined Canan Coşkun, a reporter for the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, 12,600 Turkish lira (roughly U.S. $3,270) on the charge she “insulted civil servants” in a 2015 article alleging that jurists were allowed to buy property at discount, her employer and the news website Bianet reported. Prosecutors had asked CPJ has reported at the time.

[January 26, 2017]

Journalist detained while covering trial
Police detained Selman Keleş, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), on suspicion he violated a ban against recording the trial of opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş in the eastern Turkish province of Van today, the news website Gazete Karınca reported. Police released the journalist from a nearby police station, but confiscated his phone for inspection, Gazete Karınca reported.

Prosecutors accuse 19 journalists of terrorism
Prosecutors in Istanbul are charging 29 people–including at least 19 journalists CPJ listed as imprisoned in its last global census of jailed journalists–with terrorism on suspicion they are linked to an international religious network led by preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the government accuses of leading a terrorist organization and parallel state structure that it says was behind July 2016’s failed military coup. CPJ has reviewed the indictment, which has yet to be submitted to a court.

The jailed journalists include Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Atilla Taş, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Emre Soncan, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Ufuk Şanlı and Yakup Çetin.

Turkey’s İhlas News Agency on January 18 reported that four of the 29 suspects were not in state custody at the time. Among them was Said Sefa, editor of the news website Haberdar, whom prosecutors accuse of being a leader of the organization. The indictment asks the court to try Sefa with attempting a coup, “through violence and force, attempting to eliminate the government of the Republic of Turkey or keeping it from doing its duties partially or completely,” and “leading an armed terrorist organization.” The other suspects are charged with “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.”

Prosecutors allege Sefa was the founder of a shared Twitter account, followed by millions of people, that publishes purported leaks from Turkish officials under the pseudonym Fuat Avni. The account has accurately predicted police operations and policy changes. High-ranking ruling party officials, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have repeatedly said that they take the issue of leaks seriously.

Prosecutors allege Gülenists conspired to manipulate public perception through conventional and social media in order to serve their goals, and that the Fuat Avni Twitter account was the focal point of this effort, since the account’s predictions and analyses were often featured in pro-Gülen media. Prosecutors also allege that plotlines featuring government corruption and incompetence in political dramas aired on broadcasters they accuse of having ties to the Gülenist movement were part of the organization’s propaganda efforts. Prosecutors said that the accused wrote articles, produced broadcasts, and used social media to spread information and opinion about the same topics in a coordinated effort.

[January 24, 2017]

Government closes two TV channels by decree
The Turkish government closed two television stations that catered to a largely Shia Muslim audience by emergency decree today. The third article of Decree 683, published in Turkey’s Official Gazette early this morning, ordered broadcasters kanal 12 and on4 closed for “acting against national security.”

The decree, which also imposed regulations on financial markets and fired public employees, was one of four new decrees the government issued early this morning. Decree 685 established a commission to hear appeals from individuals, associations of various kinds, and media organizations affected by emergency measures imposed after a failed military coup in July 2016. Those affected by actions taken under the state of emergency previously had no legal recourse.

Decree 684 curtailed the amount of time authorities may detain a suspect without access to a judge from the month allowed by Decree 667 to a week, and revoked a previous emergency decree’s authority to deny suspects the right to see a lawyer during the first five days of detention. Decree 682 changed the regulations governing the discipline and firing of security officials.

Court jails wire reporter pending terrorism trial
A court on January 20 ordered Abdullah Kaya, a reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), jailed pending trial on charges of “being member of a [terrorist] organization,” the news website Dihaber reported. Police detained Kaya from his home in the Diyadin district of the eastern province of Van on December 18; CPJ reported at the time. The journalist and seven other people police detained from their homes the same day, are jailed in Ağrı Prison.

Police detain newspaper distributor without access to lawyer
Police in Turkey’s eastern Van Province on January 20 detained Hasan Duman, a distributor for the pro-Kurdish newspapers Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and Rojeva Medya, the news website Dihaber reported the following day. According to a subsequent report, police detained him on suspicion of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” and “aiding and abetting a [terrorist] organization,” and the local prosecutor’s office ordered that he be held without access to a lawyer for five days, the report said (today’s decree cancelling prosecutors’ power to hold suspects without access to a lawyer was not retroactive).

Real estate developer threatens journalist
Mesut Sancak, a real-estate developer with good relations with the government, threatened Nivent Kurtuluş, a columnist for the newspaper Gazete-Temiz and the Temiz Izmir Association, an anti-corruption advocacy group, regarding allegations she had made that Sancak had benefited from government incentives to develop tourism in the resort city of Çeşme but had constructed housing instead, the daily newspaper Sözcü reported.

According to Sözcü‘s report, Kurtulmuş was at a police station when Sancak called, and the journalist both recorded the conversation and allowed the police to listen on speakerphone. In that conversation, Sözcü reported, Sancak swore at the journalist, told her to not to write anymore, and threatened to use his police contacts to have her jailed. Sözcü reported that police called Sancak to the police station to testify regarding the journalist’s complaint.

[January 23, 2017]