Journalist Mehmet Altan waves after being released from the prison in Silivri, near Istanbul, Turkey on June 27, 2018. (Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir)
Journalist Mehmet Altan waves after being released from the prison in Silivri, near Istanbul, Turkey on June 27, 2018. (Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of July 2, 2017

Journalists released

An Istanbul court on June 27 released Mehmet Altan from Istanbul’s Silvri prison pending an appeal of his conviction and life sentence, according to agency reports.

Altan was freed after a lower court refused to comply with an earlier ruling by Turkey’s Constitutional Court ordering his release, according to The Associated Press.

Altan, formerly a host with the now-shuttered Can Erzincan TV, was convicted on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole on February 16, 2018, according to CPJ research.

Erdoğan ally labels journalists “liars,” “slanderers”

Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right National Movement Party (MHP) and political ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, singled out several journalists in a sarcastic “thank you” advertisement message published in two of Turkey’s largest papers on June 25, according to Bloomberg.

The advertisement featured a large image of Bahçeli under the words “A Thank You Message,” and included a list of approximately 70 individuals including journalists, some of whom work for the papers that carried the ad, Bloomberg reported.

“I thank them for their countless slanders. I thank them for their shocking claims,” Bahçeli said in the ad. “We will never forget what they have done, what they have written, what they have destroyed.”

Threats against newspaper issued from crime boss’s Instagram

The owner of the daily Karar, Mehmet Aydın, and six Karar journalists were threatened in a message published on the Instagram account of Alaattin Çakıcı, a convicted crime boss, the news website Bianet reported on June 29.

A message posted from Çakıcı’s Instagram account, “alaatincakiciresmi,” ordered “anyone who loves me” to “carry out your duty” and kill Aydın, İbrahim Kiras, Hakan Albayrak, Etyen Mahçupyan, Akif Beki, Gürbüz Özaltınlı, and Ali Bayramoğlu. The post also expressed frustrations with the paper’s reporter Elif Çakıcı, but said that, since she is a woman, she should not be harmed.

It is unclear who authored the post, which was deleted the same day, since Çakıcı is currently in prison for having his wife killed in front on their son in 1995, according to media reports.

According to the same Bianet report, Çakıcı’s lawyer, Can Sevinç, said the crime boss suspended the order for three months after Karar retracted a June 26 article entitled “Insolent words from Çakıcı to Erdoğan.” Sevinç said that the threats will be retracted permanently provided the paper does not “make a mistake” for the next three months, according to Bianet.

Two Karar columnists, Mahçupyan and Çakır, stopped writing at the newspaper after the threat was issued but said they did not leave in relation to the Instagram threat, the news website Ahval reported on June 29.

Karar previously toed a pro-government editorial line, but has recently become more critical Erdoğan’s government.

President’s son uses courts to censor media

Ahmet Burak Erdoğan, one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sons, applied to an Istanbul court to have social media posts about him blocked on Turkish web servers, according to a June 22 tweet from academic and cyber rights activist Yaman Akdeniz.

The content–77 tweets, 22 Facebook posts, and 5 YouTube videos–all made reference to a 1998 incident in which Ahmet Erdoğan hit a woman with his car, who later died, according to Akdeniz. Erdoğan was acquitted of wrongdoing in the case.

CPJ has previously documented that an Istanbul court ruled that Turkish internet providers should block at least 24 online news stories about the younger Erdoğan’s alleged role in the woman’s death. The court ruled that the news websites violated the personal rights of Ahmet Erdoğan by publishing the stories.