A woman takes pictures with her cellphone as a ferry approaches Besiktas pier in Istanbul, Turkey on March 27, 2018. Turkish authorities continue to crackdown on the country's press. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)
A woman takes pictures with her cellphone as a ferry approaches Besiktas pier in Istanbul, Turkey on March 27, 2018. Turkish authorities continue to crackdown on the country's press. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 7, 2018

Journalists arrested

On May 3, authorities in the southern city of Mersin transferred İsmail Çoban, former news editor for the shuttered Kurdish language daily Azadiya Welat, to the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, where he will remain in custody pending trial, according to reports.

Police in Mersin arrested Çoban on April 23, on suspicion of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization,” the newspaper Gazete Karınca reported.

According to Gazete Karınca, the Diyarbakır court ordered the case sealed and the journalist’s lawyers will not be informed of the charges until the trial begins. No trial date has been set.

A court in the western city of Denizli on May 5 ordered that Gökhan Öner, a former reporter for the shuttered news agency Dihaber, be remanded in custody on charges of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” Gazete Karınca reported. Öner, who was detained on April 28, will remain in custody pending trial, the report said.

According to Gazete Karınca, Öner was detained following an anonymous police tip and charged based on notes police allegedly found on his computer. The paper did not specify the content of the alleged notes.

Journalist released from detention

An Istanbul court on May 8 ordered İhsak Karakas, chief editor for the newspaper Halkın Nabzı and columnist for the newspaper Artı gerçek, to be released on probation, and banned him from foreign travel, the online news website Diken reported.

Karakaş was arrested on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organisation” in relation to tweets in which the journalist criticized Turkish military action in Syria in January 2018, the online news site Bianet reported at the time.

Journalists in court

Turkey’s Interior Minister, Süleyman Soylu, filed a criminal slander complaint against the opposition daily Cumhuriyet and one of its reporters, Ahmet Şık, Diken reported on May 7.

In an article that appeared in Cumhuriyet‘s May 6 edition, Şık wrote that increasing political pressures precipitated an Istanbul police chief’s suicide and that police questioned several of Soylu’s bodyguards during their investigation into the death.

Nurcan Yalçın and Durket Süren, two journalists from the all-women, pro-Kurdish news agency Jin News, on May 8 filed criminal complaints against Diyarbakır police saying that officers harassed them while they were being held in custody and after their release, and that police tried to recruit them as informants, the news website, Artı Gerçek reported. Süren was held in custody from March 1-5; Yalçın was briefly detained on May 4.

According to the report, Yalçın and Süren held a press conference at the Diyarbakır branch of the Turkish Human Rights Association (İHD) before they filed complaints at the office of the Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

Media accused of ignoring political opposition

According to a May 9 report in the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, many Turkish news outlets are reluctant to feature information on political parties opposed to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ahead of June 23 presidential and parliamentary elections.

News channels including CNNTurk, NTV, and Haberturk ignored the first political rally of Muharrem İnce, presidential candidate for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in the western city of Edirne on May 9, according to Cumhuriyet. Instead, the channels covered a culture and sports festival that was sponsored by an organization chaired by Bilal Erdoğan, the president’s son. Cumhuriyet did not specify if the channels denied ignoring the political rally.

The opposition daily Sözcü reported on May 7 that a citizen named İsmail Saygılı filed a criminal complaint with the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s office against the state broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television (TRT). Saygılı said that TRT, which is funded by tax income, is required by law to be impartial, but fails to show impartiality when reporting on politics.