A journalist holds a press sign next to a placard reading 'Enough!' during a World Press Freedom Day rally in Istanbul. Turkey is a leading jailer of journalists. (AFP/Ozan Kose)
A journalist holds a press sign next to a placard reading 'Enough!' during a World Press Freedom Day rally in Istanbul. Turkey is a leading jailer of journalists. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 7

Editor detained at courthouse
Police in Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse today detained Çağlar Özbilgin, an editor for the leftist news website sendika.org, his employer reported. Özbilgin was there to attend a hearing of his trial on charges of “insulting the president,” but police detained him for a separate criminal investigation into him on suspicion of “provoking the people to hatred and animosity,” according to sendika.org. Özbilgin was still detained in the courthouse at the time of writing.

Opposition party asks regulator to remove head of state broadcaster
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which campaigned against the April referendum on constitutional amendments increasing the powers of the presidency, asked the High Council of Radio and Television (RTÜK) to remove the director of the state broadcaster, TRT, on the grounds that the HDP and others opposed the amendments were allowed no airtime to present their case, the daily Evrensel reported.

The HDP said that its analysis of TRT’s coverage showed that 94 percent of the broadcaster’s live coverage was in support of the “Yes” campaign. Fifty out of the broadcaster’s 52 political talk shows featured only guests who supported the “Yes” vote only, the HDP said in its petition, according to Evrensel.

The laws governing the TRT require that it be politically impartial.

TV journalist briefly detained at airport
Police in Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport last night detained Nevin Yıldız, the former responsible news editor for the shuttered broadcaster Channel TV10, as she returned from Germany with her children, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported. The journalist was transferred to the Bakırköy Courthouse, a judge merged the ongoing criminal cases against her for her time as the channels responsible news editor–a post that made her legally liable for all the channel’s coverage before the government closed it by decree in September 2016–and released her pending the conclusion of her trial, which is scheduled to begin on July 18, 2017, according to Evrensel.

TV10 catered to an audience from Turkey’s Alevi sect of Islam, the country’s largest religious minority.

Jailed journalist petitions European Court of Human Rights
Lawyers for jailed author and Cumhuriyet journalist Ahmet Şık petitioned the European Court of Human Rights to rule for his release, Cumhuriyet reported today. In their petition, the lawyers noted that Turkey’s Constitutional Court had taken no action on their three-and-a-half-month-old petition asking that court to release him, according to the newspaper. Police arrested Şık in December in relation to his activity on social media, CPJ reported at the time.

[May 11, 2017]

French photographer detained
Police on May 8 detained Mathias Depardon, a French documentary photographer, in the historic Hasankeyf district of the southeastern Turkish province of Batman, according to media reports yesterday. Police approached Depardon as he photographed the area, which is expected to be flooded after the construction of a dam.

Police inspected his cameras and social media accounts and detained him for “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” because of four pictures he had published three years ago, according to the reports. Police initially called the Directorate General of Migration Management to take custody of the photographer, but the directorate refused, saying they did not have jurisdiction. Police then arranged a hotel room for him, but prevented him from leaving until he was transferred to the Direcorate’s Removal Center in Gaziantep.

Court denies journalist’s petition to be released pending trial
Istanbul’s 13th Court for Serious Crimes today denied Mehmet Baransu’s request that he be freed pending the conclusion of his trial on charges of “founding and running a terrorist organization.” CPJ attended the trial as an observer.

Baransu, a former journalist with the shuttered Taraf newspaper, faces the charges in connection with an alleged, elaborate conspiracy codenamed “Sledgehammer”.

In 2010, the daily published a series of articles alleging that Turkish military officers were planning to bomb mosques in the country and to shoot down a Turkish warplane in order to spark conflict with Greece and destabilize the newly elected Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

At his hearing today, Baransu said that he did not have enough opportunity to prepare his defense in prison, and that he could not access documents he needed. Prosecutors agreed, but asked that he be detained pending the conclusion of his trial, which is scheduled to resume on September 13.

[May 10, 2017]

Cumhuriyet reporter given suspended sentence
An Istanbul court on May 9 sentenced Canan Coşkun, a reporter for the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, to a suspended 10-month prison sentence for insulting the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), the online newspaper T24 reported. Coşkun will remain free unless she repeats the offense she was convicted of in the next five years. The 2nd Istanbul Court of First Instance found her guilty over a headline on a May 2016 Cumhuriyet story. The report was on an indictment about the MIT allegedly smuggling explosives to Syria with trucks apparently loaded with onions. The court ruled that Coşkun’s story — “Traces of the MIT at the Onion Truck” — insulted the institutions of the state under Turkey’s penal code 301. Coşkun’s lawyer, Abbas Yalçın told the court in his closing argument that the story was a standard court report and both the lawyer and Coşkun asked for the journalist to be acquitted.

[May 9, 2017]

Bursa Muhalif editor accused of making terrorist propaganda
A court has accused Ozan Kaplanoğlu, an editor for Bursa Muhalif, a local news website in the western province of Bursa, of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” via social media, the daily Evrensel reported on May 6. CPJ documented Kaplanoğlu’s arrest May 5.

Halkın Sesi journalists handed suspended sentence
An Istanbul court on May 5 sentenced Ali Engin Demirhan, an editor for the leftist online newspaper Sendika and a news editor for Halkın Sesi, to a suspended 15-month prison sentence for “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” Sendika reported. Demirhan will remain free unless he repeats the offense he was convicted of in the next five years. The court found the journalist guilty due to Halkın Sesi’s coverage of clashes between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces. The court cited a December 2015 report in Halkın that referred to the state as a murderer because of civilian losses during the clashes, according to the Sendika report.

[May 8, 2017]