Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stands in the presidential palace in Ankara, June 15, 2017. (AP/Presidency Press Service)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stands in the presidential palace in Ankara, June 15, 2017. (AP/Presidency Press Service)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of June 18, 2017

Prosecutor asks to reopen investigation into journalist for interview
Public prosecutor Umut Tepe petitioned a Turkish court to allow him to reopen his investigation into jailed Cumhuriyet reporter Ahmet Şık on charges of producing propaganda for a terrorist organization, Cumhuriyet reported yesterday. Tepe had previously dropped charges against the journalist for publishing an interview with members of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Salvation Party/Front (DHKP/C) who murdered a prosecutor they had held hostage in June 2015. Şık is in jail awaiting a verdict on a separate charge of propagandizing for a terrorist organization.

Assets, licenses of 22 shuttered media outlets to be auctioned
Assets of 22 media outlets the government ordered closed by emergency decree after a failed July 2016 military coup will be auctioned off and the proceeds will go to the state treasury, the news website Sol Haber Portalı reported today.

The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF or SDIS) will sell the broadcast licenses and physical assets of shuttered television channels: Barış TV, Can Erzincan TV, ÖRT, Hira TV, MC TV, Samanyolu Haber, Samanyolu TV, Mehtap TV, Tuna Shopping TV, and Yumurcak TV to the highest bidder. The physical assets of the shuttered newspapers Nazar, Yerel Bakış, Turgutlu Havadis, and Taraf, as well as the radio stations Özgür Radyo, Radyo Mehtap, Radyo Küre, Samanyolu Haber Radyosu, Burç FM, Haber Radyo Ege, and Dünya Radyo will also be auctioned off, in addition to those of the Sem News Agency, the website reported.

Regulator says public broadcaster did not break political coverage rules
The radio and television broadcast authority RTÜK rejected the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP)’s complaint that public broadcaster TRT did not cover the party’s activities in parliament, Dihaber reported today. The HDP is the third-largest party in the parliament, after the ruling Justice and Democracy party (AKP) and the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The RTÜK–whose members are selected from the parties based on the proportion of seats each has in parliament–rejected the HDP’s complaint, saying TRT could use news judgment to determine its coverage and was not obliged to cover anything.

[June 23, 2017]

Justice minister defends impartiality of Turkish courts
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ “very clearly stated” that the Turkish judiciary is fairer than those of western countries, the leftist daily Birgün reported yesterday. Speaking at a ceremony to mark the opening of a new school in Istanbul, Bozdağ’s remarks came as he criticized opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s planned “Justice March” from Ankara to Istanbul in protest of the arrest of parliamentary deputy and former editor Enis Berberoğlu.

“I am stating this very clearly,” Bozdağ said. “The judiciary of Turkey is a judiciary that rules with more justice, with more just verdicts than those of EU countries [and] the United States. This doesn’t seem possible to those who write and draw with an inferiority complex with regard to the west, who stand in awe of other countries. There are these miserable people who do not believe that their nation can do better.”

[June 22, 2017]

Erdoğan insists no one jailed for journalism
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 18 told the owners of media companies that no one was in jail for journalism in Turkey, returning to a theme he has repeatedly taken up in the past.

“Some organizations in the west always come to us. They chant ‘Journalists are in jail,'” he said, according to media reports. “We are told the same thing when we are overseas: ‘There are many journalists in your prisons…According to information from our [Justice] Ministry, only two of 177 people who are in prison and declared their profession as journalism have yellow press cards [officially accrediting them as journalists]. One of those 177 is in prison for murder, while the rest are in because of their ties to terrorist organizations.”

Turkish organizations representing journalists took exception to the remarks, the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet reported the following day.

Gökhan Durmuş, head of the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) the president’s remarks proved that the judiciary was not independent.

“Our advice to our president is that he should read the indictments, see whether the charges are [about] journalism, and then comment accordingly.”

Pinar Türenç, head of the Press Council, said the world does not believe the president’s statements. “The imprisoned journalists are [in prison] because they practiced journalism, chased the news, [and] searched for the truth. Anything else is empty words.”

“We have said this many times: The yellow press card granted by the office of the prime minister is not a license to practice journalism, according to us,” Faruk Eren, head of the press branch of the Confederation of the Revolutionary Workers Unions (DISK) said. “Not having a yellow press card does not equal not being a journalist…The government grants it to whomever it wants and does not grant it to whomever it does not want. Dozens of journalists had their cards canceled.”

[June 21, 2017]