New decree shutters two more news outlets
The Turkish cabinet on December 24 issued a decree that prompted the closure of Akdeniz Gazetesi and Isparta Çınaraltı Gazetesi, two local newspapers in the southwestern province of Isparta, the daily Evrensel reported. Under the decree, the papers were considered threats to national security, according to Evrensel.
An appeals court in the Diyadin district of Turkey’s eastern Ağrı province on December 24 upheld a guilty verdict in the case of Abdullah Kaya, a reporter for the shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), the online newspaper 1habervar reported. The court sentenced Kaya to four years and two months in prison on charges of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” the newspaper reported. Turkish authorities detained Kaya in January 2017 before releasing him in May pending the outcome of his trial, the online new site Dihabar reported at the time.
An Istanbul court on December 28 released Ömer Faruk Aydemir, a news editor for the right-wing İhlas News Agency (İHA), his employer reported.
Aydemir was arrested on August 10, 2017 on suspicion of using the app Bylock, according to a report from the online news site Bianet. Turkish authorities claimed that the app was evidence of membership in the Gülenist movement, which they consider a terrorist organization.
According to İHA, Turkish authorities determined that Aydemir had not used the app.
Journalists held in custody
Police in the eastern province of Muş on December 19 detained Seda Taşkın, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya, while she was reporting, the daily Evrensel reported. Authorities questioned the journalist about her work and social media posts before releasing her on December 24, according to Evrensel. Taşkın is still under investigation, according to the news report.
Ankara police detained writer and columnist İsmail Beşikçi on December 27 and questioned him about a Twitter account opened under his name, the online newspaper Gazete Duvar reported. Authorities are investigating Beşikçi for allegedly “being a member of an armed terrorist organization,” in relation to statements made from the Twitter account, according to Gazete Duvar.
The writer’s lawyer said that his 78-year-old client does not use social media, Gazete Duvar reported. Police released him later that day.
Beşikçi previously worked as a columnist for the shuttered daily Özgür Gündem in the 1990s and spent nearly two decades in prison on charges relating to his columns and academic work, according to a non-profit foundation named after the writer.
Police in the western province of Bursa briefly detained journalist Hakan Gülseven on January 4, the daily Evrensel reported. Gülseven told the newspaper that police held him due to a clerical error relating to a previously settled case against him.
Journalists in court
The trial against opposition daily Cumhuriyet continued on December 25, the newspaper reported. Court authorities removed Ahmet Şık, a Cumhuriyet reporter, from the courtroom after the judges found his defense to be political. After Şık’s removal, his co-defendants–Murat Sabuncu, the paper’s former chief editor, and Akın Atalay, a lawyer and chairman of Cumhuriyet Foundation’s board of directors–refused to testify.
During a December 29 hearing in the same trial, the court ordered Cumhuriyet accountant Emre İper to be freed pending the outcome of the trial, the newspaper reported.
Istanbul prosecutors on December 22 said that they will seek two life sentences without parole for the man accused of murdering Syrian-American journalist Halla Barakat and her activist mother, the pro-government English-language newspaper Daily Sabah reported. Barakat and her mother were found murdered at their Istanbul home in September 2017. CPJ is investigating to determine if her journalism was a motive in the killing.
Turkish authorities on December 24 indicted three journalists on terrorism-related charges over 22 months after they were first detained, Gazete Karınca reported.
Ferzen Çatak and Mahmut Ruvanas, two reporters for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), and Kadri Esen, a reporter for the shuttered daily Azadiya Welat, were detained by police on February 28, 2016, while they were covering clashes between Turkish security forces and rebel Kurds in the İdil district of southeastern Şırnak province, according to the online news site Bianet.
Authorities charged the three journalists with “targeting those who combat terrorism,” and “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.” Çatak was also charged with “being member of a [terrorist] organization,” according to Gazete Karınca.
Sinan Aygül, chief editor for the local Bitlis Gerçek Gazetesi newspaper in the southeastern province of Bitlis, filed a criminal complaint against Bitlis’s Tatvan District Deputy Mayor Abdülbaki Menteş and his bodyguard after Menteş allegedly made death threats against the editor, the online newspaper Gazete Karınca reported on December 28. The deputy mayor allegedly threatened Aygül after Bitlis Gerçek Gazetesi reported on corruption allegations against the Bitlis’s Tatvan Municipality, according to Gazete Karınca.
Aygül told Gazete Karınca that his paper reported on the interior minister’s decision to allow inspections into alleged municipal corruption.
In a statement, the Tatvan municipality refuted the claims made in Bitlis Gerçek Gazetesi‘s report and said that Aygül is running a smear campaign against the local officials. The deputy mayor’s alleged threats against the journalist were not addressed in the statement.