Activists march to a court in Istanbul on July 24, 2017, in protest against the trial of journalists and staff from the Cumhuriyet newspaper. According to CPJ research, Turkey is one of worst jailer of journalists. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Activists march to a court in Istanbul on July 24, 2017, in protest against the trial of journalists and staff from the Cumhuriyet newspaper. According to CPJ research, Turkey is one of worst jailer of journalists. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of October 15, 2017

Police conduct house raids, arrest at least 7 journalists

Turkish police detained at least seven journalists from leftist and pro-Kurdish media outlets during house raids that took place yesterday in Istanbul and today in Ankara, according to the independent news site Bianet.

Police today in Ankara detained five journalists: Jin news site editor Sibel Yükler and two of the site’s reporters, Duygu Erol and Habibe Eren, as well as two reporters from the news site Mezopotamya Ajans, Diren Yurtsever and Selman Güzelyüz.

Yesterday, police detained two employees of the socialist Etkin News Agency, İsminaz Temel and Havva Cuştan, during raids in Istanbul.

Other detainees in both cities include socialist lawyers and politicians, according to Bianet.

Turkish authorities have not publically announced the accusations against those detained.

[October 20, 2017]

Court releases journalist from custody, trial ongoing

A Turkish court yesterday released Mehmet Çakmakçı, a reporter for the website Medyascope, from prison for the duration of his trial, according to local press reports.

Authorities charged Çakmakçı with being a member of a terrorist organization, citing his presence at pro-Kurdish demonstrations and marches and his work as an instructor at the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s political academy, according to the reports.

The journalist denied the charges. Çakmakçı said that he was not an instructor at the academy, but went there sometimes for journalistic purposes, according to the press reports.

Resul Tamur, Çakmakçı’s lawyer, told the court that his client was at the pro-Kurdish demonstrations and marches as a reporter, and that police images from the protest that the prosecutor presented to the court show Çakmakçı with a camera and equipment, according to the news site Mezopotamya Ajansi.

The prosecution protested Çakmakçı’s release during court proceedings.

Police detained Çakmakçı at his home on July 5, and Turkish authorities arrested the journalist on July 12, CPJ has documented.

Turkish TV host fined after alleging ties between cabinet member’s husband and Gülen

The Turkish broadcasting regulator RTÜK fined Fox TV Turkey for running a segment about alleged ties between the husband of a cabinet member and Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government has labeled a terrorist, the online newspaper T24 reported yesterday.

An Istanbul court has also asked the segment’s host, İsmail Küçükkaya, to give official testimony to a city prosecutor in a separate legal process relating to the same comments, according to a Cumhuriyet article.

Küçükkaya, who regularly hosts a morning news show on Fox TV, said during a broadcast on October 16 that the husband of Family and Social Policies Minister Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya is on a list of people who have the Bylock app on their smartphones, according to T24.

Bylock is an encrypted messaging app that Turkish authorities recognize as evidence of being a member of the Gülen-linked FETÖ/PDY group, which authorities labeled a terrorist organization, according to media reports.

In the same show segment, Küçükkaya also said Kaya divorced her husband because of his alleged ties to Gülen.

The minister has denied these allegations.

Küçükkaya later apologized for falsely stating that Kaya was divorced, but insisted that her husband was on the official list of people with the Bylock app.

RTÜK ordered Fox TV to pay three percent of the channel’s monthly advertising revenue, according to the T24 report. Under Turkish law, the money from fines will go to the government treasury.

[October 19, 2017]

Editor issued suspended sentence for insulting Turkish president

An Istanbul court today sentenced Çağrı Sarı, the responsible news editor for the leftist daily Evrensel, to 11 months and 20 days on charges of insulting the Turkish president, her employer reported. As the responsible news editor, Sarı is held accountable under Turkish law for all of Evrensel‘s content.

The court suspended the sentence for one year under the condition that there are no repeat offenses, according to Evrensel.

Turkish authorities brought the charges against Sarı after Evrensel published an anonymous letter from a steelworker, which criticized the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Evrensel said it will appeal the verdict.

CPJ in June documented that Sarı was also found guilty of “insulting” Turkish-ness under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Evrensel is also appealing this verdict.

Journalist sentenced to 6 years, 3 months on terrorism charges

A Turkish court yesterday sentenced Mehmet Kuru, former reporter for the shuttered daily Zaman, to six years and three months in prison on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, according to press reports that cited the official Turkish news agency Anatolia Agency.

In his final statement before the court in the central Anatolian province of Eskişehir, Kuru denied that he is a terrorist, and said he had simply been working as a journalist, according to the press reports.

Before government-appointed trustees oversaw Zaman’s closure, the newspaper was linked to Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric and critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan living in self-imposed exile. The Turkish government has labeled Gülen a terrorist and organizations who support him as terrorist groups.

Turkish official: 889 press cards canceled in 2016

The Turkish justice minister said officials have canceled 889 press cards in 2016, the independent news site Bianet reported on Tuesday.

During a session of parliament, the minister, Abdülhamit Gül, said the cards were canceled due to the employee’s outlet being shut down, national security policies, lack of proper documentation, and other reasons, after an opposition party member asked Gül about the matter.

Turkish authorities, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, frequently deny that Turkey is one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists because those jailed do not have the yellow press cards.

The Turkish government has overseen the closure of hundreds of media holdings since the failed coup attempt of 2016, CPJ has documented.

[October 18, 2017]

Local journalists attacked multiple times while reporting

A local Turkish businessman and his associates on October 14 beat two journalists, İdris Yılmaz and Erhan Akbaş, on several occasions after the pair asked questions the businessman did not like, Akbaş told the daily Evrensel.

Following the initial attack, which took place in Van City in the eastern Van province, the journalists went to the local Erciş district police station to file a complaint against the businessman. At the station, the local police chief swore at the two reporters and punched Yılmaz, according to the Evrensel report.

The police then escorted Akbaş and Yılmaz to the hospital, which the businessman and about 100 of his associates and family members then raided. During the raid, someone from the businessman’s group punched Yılmaz and broke his nose, according to the Evrensel article.

The journalists told Evrensel that the hospital’s security, which is contracted from one of the businessman’s companies, did not intervene in the raid.

The doctors gave an injury report from the attacks to the businessman, rather than the journalists, according to Evrensel, which also stated that the police did not detain any of the attackers.

According to the news report, police released Yılmaz and Akbaş after they gave testimony about the events.

Yılmaz and Akbaş were reporting on an allegation that the businessman’s company was using the local municipality’s personnel and equipment for a construction project in breach of contract, Evrensel reported.

The two journalists previously worked for the shuttered, pro-Kurdish Dicle news agency, and went on to found their own local news website,

Convicted criminal who threatened journalist testifies in Istanbul court

A convicted criminal and outspoken government supporter, Sedat Peker, on October 13 gave testimony before an Istanbul court in a criminal investigation into a video he published online in which he allegedly made threatening comments against a journalist, Fatih Altaylı, the daily Hürriyet reported.

Altaylı mentioned Peker’s organized crime connections and an incident during which Peker was detained in his underwear in a column about the Turkish government’s warming relationship with organized criminal groups that was published in the daily Habertürk.

Peker then posted a video refuting his criminal connections, and said the best proof he’s not a mob boss is the fact that Altaylı is still alive, according to the Hürriyet.

Altaylı then filed a criminal complaint against Peker, who also faces a criminal trial for January 2016 comments in which Peker threatened to shower anti-government intellectuals in blood.

The prosecutor has not yet decided whether Altaylı’s case will go to court or if the investigation will be dismissed.

[October 16, 2017]