Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks in Istanbul, December 20, 2016. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks in Istanbul, December 20, 2016. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of January 8

Erdoğan praises Trump for ‘beating down’ CNN reporter
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praised U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for “beating down” (“benzetmek“) CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Costa in a January 11 press conference, according to media reports and video widely distributed on the internet. Trump refused to take a question from CNN at the press conference, calling the broadcaster “fake news.”

Suspended sentences for musician and publisher who showed solidarity with newspaper
Istanbul’s 22nd and 23rd courts for serious crimes, today imposed 15-month suspended prison sentences on musician Şanar Yurdatapan and publisher İbrahim Aydın Bodur, respectively. Both were also ordered to pay 6000 Turkish lira in fines ($1606) on terrorism charges related to the coverage of Özgür Gündem on the days on which each symbolically acted as co-editor of the newspaper to protest authorities’ persistent judicial harassment of its staff. Dozens of journalists, academics, cultural figures, and activists took part in the campaign to show solidarity with the newspaper before a court ordered it closed in October, CPJ reported at the time.

The sentences were the first passed against participants in the campaign.

[January 13, 2017]

Opposition party queries government on detention of journalists
In the Turkish parliament today, the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) queried the government regarding six journalists and media workers detained on December 25, 2016, the English-language website of the socialist daily Birgün reported. Police detained the six–Ömer Çelik, Metin Yoksu, Derya Okatan, Eray Saygın, Mahir Kanaat, and Tunca Öğreten–in connection with stories citing purported leaked emails of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also the president’s son-in-law, CPJ reported at the time. According to the European Federation of Journalists, Okatan is on hunger strike. Kanaat’s son was born on January 7, according to the pro-opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet.

[January 12, 2017]

Two journalists detained overnight
Police at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport yesterday detained Aylina Kılıç, a reporter for the Hawar News Agency, the journalist wrote on Twitter. A judge ordered her released today, after she testified in response to suspicions of producing propaganda for a terrorist organization, she wrote on Twitter. She did not provide further details.

Police in Turkey’s eastern Gaziantep province yesterday detained Beritan İrlan, a reporter for Dihaber, while he reported on the aftermath of a failed suicide bombing targeting police, his employer reported. He was released today, apparently without charge, according to Dihaber.

Prosecutors ask for life sentences for journalists’ suspected source
Prosecutors today asked Istanbul’s 14th Court for Serious Crimes to sentence Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, the former editor and Ankara bureau chief of the pro-opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, respectively, to 10 years in prison and to sentence Enis Berberoğlu, a member of parliament for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and formerly the editor of Hürriyet newspaper, to life in prison, the news website Diken and Hürriyet Daily News reported.

Prosecutors believe Berberoğlu was the source for a 2015 story in Cumhuriyet alleging the Turkish intelligence agency smuggled weapons to Syria under cover of humanitarian aid reported at the time. Dündar, whom CPJ honored with its 2016 International Press Freedom Award, and Gül face two trials in connection with that report. This, their second trial, is on charges of “knowingly and willingly helping a [terrorist] organization without being a member.”

Berberoğlu faces charges of “revealing state information that is supposed to be secret for means of political and military espionage.” The next hearing in his trial is scheduled for March 1, according to press reports.

[January 11, 2017]

Report: 178 media outlets closed in five months
The Turkish government on December 6 published decrees giving regulators greater powers to stop broadcasts, shutter broadcasters, and to deny new broadcast licenses. The government also gave security agencies powers to investigate internet users without a court order.

Turkey’s Media Crackdown

Decree 680 gave the broadcast regulator, the RTÜK, increased powers to fine, stop broadcasts, and cancel the licenses of radio and television stations. According to the decree’s provisions, the RTÜK can also deny applications for new licenses on the grounds of “national security,” “protecting public order,” and “the good of the public,” or if police or the national intelligence agency assert the applicants are connected to terrorism.

The decree also allowed security forces to investigate internet users without a court order.

Decree 679 allowed 11 shuttered local newspapers to reopen. Those newspapers are: Şuhut’un Sesi, Türkeli, Batman, Zafer, Hisar, Türkiye’de Yeni Yıldız, Batman Çağdaş, İdil Haber, Prestij Haber, Urfanatik, and Kızıltepe’nin Sesi.

The Turkish government closed 178 broadcasters, websites, and newspapers between July 20 and December 31, 2016, the news website Bianet reported. Only a few of them were allowed to reopen, the website said. All of the closed media outlets’ assets and none of their debts were transferred to the treasury, according to the terms of successive emergency decrees published since July 2016.

According to Bianet, the following Turkish news outlets and publishing houses were closed between July 20-December 31, 2016:

Five news agencies: Cihan, Muhabir, SEM, Dicle, and Jin.

Sixty-two newspapers: Adana Haber, Batman Postası, Adana Medya, Batman Doğuş, Akdeniz Türk, Bingöl Olay (reopened), Şuhut’un Sesi (reopened), İrade, Kurtuluş (reopened), İskenderun Olay, Lider (reopened), Ekonomi, İscehisar Durum (reopened), Ege’de Son Söz (reopened),Türkeli (reopened), Demokrat Gebze, Antalya, Kocaeli Manşet, Yerel Bakış, Bizim Kocaeli, Nazar, Haber Kütahya, Batman (reopened), Gediz, Son Nokta, Zafer (reopened), Merkür Haber, Hisar (reopened), Millet, Turgutlu Havadis, Bugün, Milas Feza, Meydan, Türkiye’de Yeni Yıldız (reopened), Özgür Düşünce, Hakikat (reopened), Taraf, Urfa Haber Ajansı, Yarına Bakış, Ajans 11, Yeni Hayat, Yeni Emek, Zaman, Banaz Postası, Today’s Zaman, Özgür Gündem, Batman Çağdaş (reopened), Azadiya Welat, Cizre Postası, Yüksekova Haber, Güney Express, İdil Haber (reopened), Kızıltepe’nin Sesi (reopened), Urfanatik (reopened), Prestij Haber (reopened), Express, Dağyeli, Türkiye Manşet, Akis, İpekyolu, Yedigün, and Son Dakika.

Eighteen magazines: Akademik Araştırmalar, Aksiyon, Asya Pasifik (PASİAD), Bisiklet Çocuk, Diyalog Avrasya, Gül Yaprağı, Nokta, Sızıntı, Ekolife, Ekoloji Dergisi, Fountain, Gonca, Yağmur, Yeni Ümit, Özgürlük Dünyası, Tiroj, Evrensel Kültür, and Haberexen.

Thirty-four radio stations: Aksaray Mavi Radyo, Esra Radyo, Aktüel Radyo, Haber Radyo Ege, Berfin FM, Herkül FM, Burç FM, Jest FM, Cihan Radyo, Kanaltürk Radyo, Dünya Radyo, Radyo 59, Radyo Aile Rehberi, Radyo Nur, Radyo Bamteli, Radyo Şimşek, Radyo Cihan (Istanbul), Samanyolu Haber Radyosu, Radyo Fıkıh, Umut FM (reopened), Radyo Küre, Yağmur FM (reopened), Radyo Mehtap, Patnos FM, Rengin Radyo, Radyo Karacadağ, Özgür Radyo, Özgür Güneş Radyosu, Ses Radyo, Radyo Dünya (Adana), Doğu Radyo, Yön Radyo, Gün Radyo, Batman FM.

Thirty-five television stations: Barış TV, Bugün TV, Can Erzincan TV, Dünya TV, MC TV, Mehtap TV, Merkür TV, Samanyolu Haber, Hira TV, Irmak TV, Kanal 124, Kanaltürk, Samanyolu TV, SRT TV (reopened), Tuna Shopping TV, Yumurcak TV, İMC TV, Hayat’ın Sesi TV, Özgür Gün TV, Jiyan TV, Azadi TV, Denge TV, Van TV, Van Genç TV, TV 10, Mezopotamya TV, Birlik Medya TV, and Zarok TV (a television station showing cartoons dubbed into Kurdish, which the RTÜK reopened on the condition that at least 40 percent of its broadcasts be in Turkish). The French satellite operator Eutelsat stopped carrying the signal of Med Nuçe TV at the request of the Turkish government.

Twenty-nine publishing houses: Altın Burç Yayınları, Işık Akademi, Burak Basın Yayın Dağıtım, Işık Özel Eğitim Yayınları, Define Yayınları, Işık Yayınları, Dolunay Eğitim Yayın Dağıtım, İklim Basın Yayın Pazarlama, Giresun Basın Yayın Dağıtım, Kaydırak Yayınları, Gonca Yayınları, Kaynak Yayınları, Gülyurdu Yayınları, Kervan Basın Yayıncılık, GYV Yayınları, Kuşak Yayınları, Ufuk Basın Yayın Haber Ajans Pazarlama, Muştu Yayınları, Ufuk Yayınları, Nil Yayınları, Waşanxaneya Nil, Rehber Yayınları, Yay Basın Dağıtım Pazarlama Reklamcılık, Sürat Basım Yayın Reklamcılık Eğitim Araçları, Yeni Akademi Yayınları, Sütun Yayınları, Yitik Hazine Yayınları, Şahdamar Yayınları, and Zambak Basın Yayın Eğitim Turizm.

Newspaper distributor abducted, beaten, threatened
Zeynep Tunçel, a volunteer distributor of the socialist daily Evrensel in the western province of Izmir, was kidnapped, threatened, and beaten yesterday, Evrensel reported today. The newspaper reported that Tunçel received a phone call from a blocked number yesterday morning saying her cousin had been in a traffic accident, and requesting that she come to Izmir’s Bayraklı District. When she arrived, four men in a black car with no license plates abducted her, she told Evrensel.

“I was asked, ‘What kind of a person are you? Have you no shame? How can you stand against the state? What is your purpose in distributing the newspaper?” and received a slap with each question,” she told Evrensel. The abductors inspected her cellphone, beat her some more, and then left her in the neighborhood, the report said.

Hasan Hüseyin Evin, Tunçel’s lawyer, said in remarks to Evrensel that security forces should explain how a car with no license plates can drive around Izmir while the country is under emergency rule.

Shuttered TV station resumes broadcasting
Yol TV, which targets an audience from the Alevi sect of Islam, Turkey’s largest religious minority, resumed broadcasting on the state-controlled satellite operator TÜRKSAT, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported, citing Yol TV’s social media accounts. The RTÜK halted the station’s broadcasts in December, CPJ “insulting the president” and “provoking the people to hatred and animosity against the state” in December, CPJ reported at the time.

“Yol TV is broadcasting again. Our efforts produced results. Yol TV was not silenced; it will not be silent. The voice of the Alevis will not be silent,” the station wrote on Twitter.

Freed Wall Street Journal journalist tells story of detention
Wall Street Journal reporter Dion Nissenbaum told the story of his detention in Turkey in an article for his employer. Nissenbaum wrote that he believes that Turkish police detained him from his home in Istanbul because he retweeted news that fighters from the Islamic State group had burned two Turkish soldiers to death.