A woman takes a selfie with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul, August 4, 2017. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)
A woman takes a selfie with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Istanbul, August 4, 2017. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of August 13, 2017

Court jails journalist pending trial for social media activity
A court in Turkey’s southeastern Mardin province ordered Mehmet Sıddık Damar, a former reporter for the shuttered, pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), jailed pending trial on charges of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization” in his social media posts, the news website Dihaber reported today. Damar had responded to prosecutors’ summons for him to appear for questioning at the Mardin’s Kızıltepe Courthouse, where he was quickly ordered jailed pending trial, Dihaber reported.

Two journalists released pending conclusion of trial
Istanbul’s 25th Court for Serious Crimes today ordered journalists Bünyamin Köseli and Cihan Acar released on probation, pending the conclusion of their trial on charges of “membership in a [terrorist] organization” and conspiring to plan the failed military coup of July 2016, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported. The two journalists were among 12 defendants re-arrested after the court ordered their release in March, according to media reports. Judicial authorities replaced the 25th Court for Serious Crimes’ judges after they first ordered the 12 defendants released on pretrial probation, according to media reports. The court’s new judges yesterday set the next trial date for October 24, Evrensel reported. All the defendants—Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Yakup Çetin, Bünyamin Köseli, Cihan Acar, Abdullah Kılıç, Oğuz Usluer, Atilla Taş, Hüseyin Aydın, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Seyit Kılıç, Yetkin Yıldız, and Ali Akkuş—pleaded not guilty. Akkuş is on pretrial probation. The others are jailed, pending the conclusion of their trial. All but Çulhaoğlu, a far-right, ultranationalist politician, are journalists.

[August 18, 2017]

Court jails nine journalists pending trial
A court in Istanbul yesterday ordered nine journalists jailed pending trial on suspicion of being a part of the “media structure of FETÖ”–the government’s name for followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the government accuses of masterminding the July 2016 failed military coup–the news website Diken reported. Istanbul prosecutors last week issued arrest warrants for 35 journalists and media workers on suspicion of using the mobile phone app Bylock, which Turkish courts have accepted as evidence of membership in the banned organization.

The court ordered Yusuf Duran, a former layout editor at the daily newspaper Vatan, and Ahmet Sağırlı, a columnist recently fired from the pro-government daily Türkiye, released on probation pending the conclusion of their trial, according to media reports.

The court ordered Burak Ekici, Muhsin Pilgir, Ömer Faruk Aydemir, Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, Cüneyt Seza Özkan, Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt, Mutlu Özay, and Yasir Kaya jailed pending the conclusion of their trial, the reports said.

[August 17, 2017]

Reporter released on probation
Deniz Nazlım, the Ankara correspondent for the news website Dihaber whom police detained on August 14, was released on probation, his employer reported yesterday.

[August 16, 2017]

Police arrest editor from home
Police in the northern Turkish city of Bartın arrested İzgen Gökçen, an editor at the communist news website İleri Haber, the website reported today. Police also confiscated her mobile phone and computer, according to the report. The report did not specify the what charges the editor might face, but said that four members of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) and one member of the Idea Cluns Federation (FKF), a which is close to the TKP, were also detained in scope of the same investigation.

Suspect in murder of two Syrian journalists arrested
Police in the southeastern Turkish city of Urfa arrested a man news reports identified only as Muaz Al-A, whom police suspect murdered Syrian journalists Fares Hamadi and Ibrahim Abd al-Qader in 2015. Turkish intelligence and police officers allege the man is a member of the Islamic State group and crossed the border to Syria after the killings, but that he recently returned to Turkey, the daily newspaper Habertürk reported yesterday.

New list of journalists, media workers wanted for arrest published
The pro-government daily newspaper Sabah, citing the official Anadolu news agency, yesterday published the full list of 35 journalists and media workers whose arrest police seek on suspicion of being followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the government blames for masterminding last year’s failed military coup. The wanted journalists and media workers are: Abdülkadir Gümüşsoy, Ahmet Doğan, Bedrettin Uğur, Yakup Üstün, Selim Sırrı Bayer, Mustafa Gürlek, Emrah Kamil Ülker, Ertuğrul Erbaş, Hüdaverdi Yıldırım, Hülya Tekin, İbrahim Yekebaş, İrfan Galip Dumlu, İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Levent Özkökeli, Mahir Etyemez, Mesut Ertanç, Murat Keskin, Mustafa Kılıç, Osman Çalık, Sedat Gülmez, Serdar Bal, Aysun Yazıcı Kurumahmut, Hasan Hüseyin Koç and Emrah Direk, according to the report.

Police have arrested 11 of the 35 journalists: Burak Ekici, Muhsin Pilgir, Ömer Faruk Aydemir, Sait Gurkan Tuzlu, Cüneyt Seza Özkan, Yusuf Duran, Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt, Ahmet Sağırlı, Mutlu Özay, Mehmet Ali Ay and Yasir Kaya.

Prosecutor bans reporting stabbing death of police officer
The Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul yesterday issued a ban on reporting any “news, interviews, or criticism” regarding the murder of a police officer by a suspected member of the Islamic State group while he was detained in an Istanbul police station, the newspaper Cumhuriyet reported.

[August 15, 2017]

Journalist jailed following show of solidarity for beleaguered newspaper
Veteran journalist and rights activist Murat Çelikkan today began serving an 18-month prison sentence on charges of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” for the contents of shuttered daily newspaper Özgür Gündem on the day on which he symbolically acted as the newspaper’s co-editor to protest authorities’ persistent judicial harassment of the newspaper and its staff, Bianet reported. Çelikkan was the only participant among dozens of journalists, activists, academics, and artists who symbolically acted as co-editor for a day over the course of the Spring of 2016 whom Istanbul’s 13th Court for Serious Crimes jailed, saying he “did not display a sufficient amount of regret in court.”

Urfa police arrest reporter in predawn raid
Police in the southeastern province of Urfa today arrested Hamdullah Bayram, an employee of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, from the house he shares with Dihaber reporter Arjin Dilek Öncel, in a predawn raid, Dihaber reported today. Police also confiscated two computers, a camera, flash memory disks, a book on female guerillas of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), notebooks, and a red scarf. Bayram was taken to a sports complex in Urfa which police use as a detention center, the report said.

Ankara police arrest reporter in predawn raid
Dihaber also reported today that police in Ankara detained the website’s Ankara correspondent, Deniz Nazlım, in a predawn raid of his home. Police also confiscated equipment from his home, Dihaber reported.

Government to sell shuttered broadcasters
The pro-government daily newspaper Sabah reported today that the government will sell the assets and frequencies of more broadcasters it closed by decree after the 2016 failed military coup. The government will sell the assets of Azadi Amed Radio, Azadi TV, Jiyan TV, Kanal Otuzbeş Company of Broadcasting and Communication, Hira TV, Radio Mehtap, Radio Küre, Mc TV, Samanyolu Haber TV, Samanyolu Haber Radio, Samanyolu TV, Burç FM , Mehtap TV, Sem News Agency, Haber Radio Ege, Tuna Shopping TV, Yumurcak TV, and Dünya Radio, according to the report. Proceeds will go to state coffers.

Shuttered broadcaster unable to appeal
At least seven broadcasters the government ordered closed by decree using emergency powers the government assumed after the July 2016 military coup have been unable to appeal the decree as Turkish protocols for states of emergency (OHAL) require, the news website Dihaber reported yesterday. The left-leaning broadcaster Hayatın Sesi TV, IMC TV, which catered to an ethnic Kurdish audience, TV10, which catered to members of Turkey’s Alevi religious minority, and the pro-Kurdish broadcasters Jiyan TV, Van TV, Özgür Gün TV, and Azadi TV have been unable to challenge the government’s decree because the government’s website for submitting appeals does not list them among the eligible media outlets.

Police arrest sports news editor
Police on August 12 arrested Yasir Kaya, the former news editor for the sports channel Fenerbahçe TV, the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet reported. Ekici was one of 35 journalists and media workers whose arrest a Turkish court mandated last week.

Columnist arrested from her home
Police in the coastal city of Izmir on August 10 arrested Filiz Yalçın, a columnist for the news website Demokrat Haber, from her home, the leftist news website sendika.org reported the following day. The report said the reason for her arrest was not immediately clear, but speculated it might have been for her activity on social media.

Police briefly detain two news website reporters
Police in the southeastern city of Mersin on August 11 briefly detained Berivan Altan, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish news website Dihaber, and released her on probation that night, her employer reported. Police in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır also briefly detained Dihaber reporter Aziz Oruç as he entered the website’s office there, the website reported.

Newspaper staffers released on probation
A court in Mersin on August 11 released Zinet Aşan and Cemile Çiftçi, two employees of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, on probation, the leftist daily newspaper Evrensel reported. Police arrested the two on August 1.

Wire journalist released on probation
Doğan News Agency on August 11 reported that a former reporter for the shuttered Cihan News Agency identified only as Mustafa K was released on probation by a court in the central Turkish province of Eskişehir. He had been brought to court on suspicion of having used the mobile phone app Bylock, which Turkish security agencies say followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen use to communicate with each other. The Turkish government accuses the preacher of maintaining a terrorist group and parallel state structure within Turkey that it blames for the July 2016 failed military coup.

[August 14, 2017]

EDITOR’S NOTE: This text has been updated to correct the name of the Fenerbahçe TV editor arrested,Yasir Kaya.