Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia, October 9, 2016. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Konstantin Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia, October 9, 2016. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 14, 2017

Police search homes of opposition newspaper owner, staff
Police searched the homes of the owner and three employees of the daily newspaper Sözcü, one of the last remaining large media outlets that opposes the government, the newspaper reported today.

Istanbul’s Seventh Court of Penal Peace issued warrants allowing police to search the home of Burak Akbay, Sözcü‘s owner, Mediha Olgun, the newspaper’s online responsible news editor, Yonca Kaleli, the newspaper’s finance manager, and Gökmen Ulu, the newspaper’s correspondent in the western Turkish province of Izmir, the newspaper reported, disputing a previous report in the pro-government daily newspaper Sabah that there were arrest warrants for the four on charges of “committing crimes in the name of a [terrorist] organization without being a member,” and that they were also under investigation for “making it easy to commit physical attacks on the president” and “fomenting armed rebellion against the government of the Republic of Turkey.” Akbay is abroad, Sözcü reported.

Ulu, the newspaper’s Izmir correspondent, reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was on holiday in the resort city of Marmaris at the time of the failed, July 2016 military coup.

Police arrest journalist from his home
Police in Istanbul arrested Pınar Gayip, a correspondent for the leftist Ekin News Agency (ETHA), in a raid of his home, the newspaper Gazete Sujin reported today. The reasons for Gayip’s detention were not immediately clear, the newspaper reported.

Jailed reporter released on probation pending trial
Diyarbakır’s Fifth Court for Serious Crimes ordered Mazlum Dolan, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency, released on probation pending the conclusion of his trial on terrorism charges, the news website Dihaber reported on May 16.

Police detained Dolan while he reported from the Sur District of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, on February 19, 2016. He was arraigned by the Diyarbakır’s First Court of Penal Peace on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization on February 23.

Dolan had been following urban clashes between the Kurdish rebel group the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) and Turkish security forces for months when he was trapped in fighting in Sur District, which was placed under military curfew on February 17. Dolan was trapped in a basement with others, and DİHA issued a statement voicing concerns about the reporter, recalling that at least one journalist had been killed while sheltering in a basement in the southeastern town of Cizre in early February.

Dolan left the area when a security corridor was opened during fighting on February 19, but was detained with four other people, including three relatives, as he tried to flee.

Jailed radio journalist released pending trial
Mersin’s Seventh Court for Serious Crimes ordered Fatma Ölmez, a radio journalist arrested in December 2016 as she worked, released pending the conclusion of her trial on charges of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel reported yesterday.

[May 19, 2017]

Editor jailed pending trial
Istanbul’s Second Court of Penal Peace yesterday ordered Oğuz Güven, the online editor for Cumhuriyet newspaper, jailed pending trial on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” his employer reported. The charges relate to a tweet Güven published saying a truck had “mowed down” the Mustafa Alper, the prosecutor responsible for the first indictment of suspected followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen on terrorism charges.

Güven’s lawyers appealed the order today, Cumhuriyet reported, arguing that the tweet was online for 55 seconds only before it was deleted, and that in any case Güven was not solely in control of Cumhuriyet‘s Twitter account.

Yesterday CPJ reported that the charges related to a headline on Cumhuriyet‘s website, citing news reports. Those reports were incorrect.

Two convicted of terrorism charges for show of solidarity with newspaper
Istanbul’s 13th Court for Serious Crimes yesterday convicted writer Murat Çelikkan and academic Beyza Üstün of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” for the contents of the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem on the days on which each symbolically acted as co-editor of the newspaper, the news website Bianet reported. Over the course of Spring 2016, dozens of journalists, intellectuals, artists, and activists participated in the campaign to protest the persistent judicial harassment of Özgür Gündem‘s staff before the newspaper was shuttered in April 2016.

In two separate trials, the court sentenced Çelikkan to 18 months in prison, and gave Üstün a suspended 15-month prison sentence. Çelikkan is free, pending appeal.

Journalist briefly detained
Police in the Dargeçit district of Turkey’s southeastern Mardin province yesterday briefly detained Beritan İrlan, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish news website Dihaber, as she reported, Dihaber reported, without elaborating.

[May 16, 2017]

Police detain editor
Police in Istanbul on May 12 detained Oğuz Güven, the online editor of the pro-opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, the journalist wrote on Twitter and his employer subsequently reported. Police first took the journalist to Vatan Police Station, and prosecutors subsequently ordered him detained for seven days, according to Cumhuriyet.

The newspaper reported yesterday that the editor is being investigated on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” and “defaming a person’s memory” in relation to a headline Cumhuriyet briefly ran on its website, “A truck mowed down Chief Prosecutor [Mustafa] Alper, who drafted the first Fethullah Gülen Terrorism Organization indictment,” before replacing it with an edited version. Alper was killed in a car crash on May 10. Turkish newspapers routinely use the verb “to mow down” (“biçmek” or “biçme”) to refer to a vehicle or train crushing a person or a thing.

According to Cumhuriyet and CNNTurk, authorities are also investigating Twitter users who shared the article and online readers who commented on it.

Cumhuriyet is under heavy judicial pressure. Police have arrested Cumhuriyet journalists, staff, and directors.

Reporter released
Abdullah Kaya, former reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency or DİHA, was released from prison on May 11, Dihaber reported. Police in the eastern province of Ağrı arrested Kaya in January, CPJ reported at the time. Dihaber provided no further details about the journalist’s release.

Report: Turkish ambassador to Vatican says Pope’s plea could not secure Die Welt journalist’s release
Turkey would not release jailed Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel if the Pope himself asked for it, Turkish Ambassador to the Vatican Mehmet Paçacı told the Catholic News Agency (CNA), according to the Turkish service of Deutsche Welle. Yücel, a dual citizen of Germany and Turkey, has been jailed pending trial on charges of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization” and “provoking the people to hatred and animosity,” based on his journalism for Die Welt, since February 14.

German-Turkish news agency translator arrested
Police in Istanbul on April 30 arrested Meşale Tolu, a translator for the leftist Etkin News Agency (ETHA), the Turkish service of Deutsche Welle reported on May 12. German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer told journalists that the Turkish government “failed to fulfill their diplomatic obligation” to inform German counterparts that Tolu, a dual citizen of Turkey and Germany, had been arrested. On May 6, a court ordered her jailed pending trial on charges of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” and “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.”

According to the May 12 Deutsche Welle report, Schäfer told reporters that German consular officials were attempting to visit the detained translator.

Turkey ‘safe for foreign journalists,’ minister says
“Turkey is unequivocally safe for foreign journalists,” Turkish European Union Minister Ömer Çelik said in remarks quoted by the press on May 12. “My country is secure for those seeking to perform real journalism. Turkey is safe for real journalists. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t take necessary measures for those coming our country under the mask of journalism but helping terrorist organizations behind the scenes. Attending the terrorist’s meetings and joining the terrorist activities cannot be deemed within the scope journalistic activity.”

Leftist news website censored for 39th time
The Turkish telecommunications regulator BTK on Thursday blocked access to the leftist news website sendika.org for the 39th time, the website reported via its new address, http://sendika40.org.

Pro-Kurdish website blocked
The BTK also blocked access to the pro-Kurdish news website Rojava Medya, the news website Gazete Karınca reported on May 12. Ethnic Kurdish journalists founded Rojava Medya to fill the gap left by the government’s closure of Azadiya Welat, Turkey’s only Kurdish-language national daily newspaper, by decree using emergency powers it assumed following the failed military coup of July 2016.

Court orders censorship of dozens of social media accounts
Ankara’s Third Court for Penal Peace ordered the censorship of at least 22 accounts on the social media services Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and at least one iPhone app, according to a document published on Twitter by the volunteer press-freedom collective Ben Gazeteciyim (“I am a journalist”). The accounts had reported alleged fraud and other irregularities in April’s referendum on constitutional amendments that increased the powers of the presidency.

Suspended sentences for nationalist group that threatened newspaper
A Turkish court convicted members of a nationalist group of threatening and publicly insulting the bilingual, Turkish-Armenian, weekly newspaper Agos on the basis of race or religion by laying a black wreath in front of its office and releasing public threats against it in April 2015, Agos reported on May 12. The court gave each of the suspects a suspended, 10-month prison sentence, the newspaper reported.

[May 15, 2017]