On the 10th anniversary of his death, January 19, 2017, carnations, candles, and signs mark the spot in Istanbul where journalist Hrant Dink was murdered. The sign reads "Long live the brotherhood of people. We will not forget, we will not forgive." (Reuters/Osman Orsal)
On the 10th anniversary of his death, January 19, 2017, carnations, candles, and signs mark the spot in Istanbul where journalist Hrant Dink was murdered. The sign reads "Long live the brotherhood of people. We will not forget, we will not forgive." (Reuters/Osman Orsal)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of January 29

Columnist investigated for referendum comments
Prosecutors in Istanbul opened an investigation into Bekir Coşkun, a columnist for the pro-opposition daily newspaper Sözcü, regarding remarks he made in a column about a coming referendum on whether the constitution should be amended to increase the president’s powers, Dogan News Agency reported.

The Küçükçekmece Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul is investigating the columnist to determine whether his January 31 column, titled “Evet-Hayır” (“Yes-No”) “provoked the people to hatred and animosity or demeaned [the people],” the news website T24 reported, citing Dogan News Agency.

Editor detained for two nights for failing to run correction
Police arrested Mehmet Bozkurt, the former responsible editor for the ultranationalist daily newspaper Aydınlık, on January 31 and released him on February 2, according to reports from the newspaper.

All Turkish media outlets must have a “responsible editor,” who is legally accountable for everything the outlet puts out. A court had fined Aydınlık, and, by extension, Bozkurt, 50,000 Turkish lira (roughly US $13,500) for not running a court-ordered correction within the legally prescribed period. Bozkurt was released after the fine was paid.

Newspaper distributors detained
The pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi reported that police detained three of its distributors in the eastern province of Van today. The distributors–Engin Diker, Emrullah Kapar, and Azad Kılıç–are all minors, and are being held in the juvenile division of the Van police station, the newspaper reported. The reason for their detention was not immediately clear.

[February 3, 2017]

Regulators threaten to close broadcasters that violate ban on reporting attacks
İlker Ilgın, the deputy chair of the Turkish broadcast regulator RTÜK, and Mehmet Çaktırtaş, the head of that body’s Observation and Evaluation Division, yesterday threatened representatives of 13 broadcasters with the closure of their TV stations if they violate the RTÜK’s bans on reporting terrorist attacks, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

The regulators told broadcasters that they could lose their licenses if: they broadcast from the scene of the attack; they broadcast details about victims; they broadcast images of ambulances or firetrucks; they broadcast images of fear and panic; they broadcast interviews with witnesses; they broadcast civil servants at work at the scene of the attack; if they broadcast comments or criticism regarding the attack; if they display graphics reading “breaking news” when the event is no longer current; if they broadcast “agitating comments” from news presenters; if they broadcast any information that might “violate the secrecy of the investigation;” or if they broadcast maps showing the location of the attack.

Broadcasters were told that they are allowed to broadcast only official statements and images distributed by the authorities. They were further instructed not to interrupt scheduled programming to report terrorist attacks, but to report them only during their regular news broadcasts. The bureaucrats informed journalists that they were exceptionally sensitive about terrorist attacks in Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya, which authorities especially wish to promote as destinations for tourism.

According to Cumhuriyet, representatives from the broadcasters Kanal A, NTV, Akit TV, Ulusal Kanal, TV NET, TRT, 24 TV, Kanal 7 ve Ülke TV, Halk TV; CNN Türk, Kanal D, atv, and aHaber were present.

The RTÜK is comprised of representatives of the political parties in parliament, in the same proportion as the parties hold seats in the legislature. İsmet Demirdöğen, who has a seat on the RTÜK board as a representative of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told Cumhuriyet that Çaktırtaş and Ilgın had not consulted the board before threatening the broadcasters. He called this “an abuse of power and disrespectful.”

Wire reporter indicted on terrorism charges
Elazığ’s 2nd Court for Serious Crimes yesterday indicted Mehmet Güleş, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) in Turkey’s eastern Elazığ Province, on charges of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” and “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization” through the news media, Dihaber reported.

The indictment called DİHA the news agency of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization, and cited as evidence Güleş’ reports, live television broadcasts, and recordings of his phone calls with news sources. The journalist was arrested on December 7, 2016, CPJ reported at the time.

Güleş’ trial is scheduled to begin on April 3, 2017.

[February 2, 2017]

Police briefly detain newspaper editor
Police briefly detained Barış İnce, a board member of the socialist daily newspaper Birgün and its former editor, after İnce went to a police station to testify regarding another investigation into him, Birgün reported. The journalist was allowed to leave freely after he testified before a prosecutor at Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse.

[January 30, 2017]