A view of the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul on January 28. Journalist Ayşe Düzkan has started serving an 18-month prison sentence in an Istanbul prison over her participation in the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign. (AFP/Ozan Kose)
A view of the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul on January 28. Journalist Ayşe Düzkan has started serving an 18-month prison sentence in an Istanbul prison over her participation in the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of January 28, 2019

Düzkan starts jail term for Özgür Gündem campaign
Journalist Ayşe Düzkan started serving an 18-month prison sentence in Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul on January 29 over her participation in a solidarity campaign with the daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, the independent news website Bianet reported. A court sentenced Düzkan in November. Before turning herself in, Düzkanb told reporters that her morale was high.

Düzkan is one of several journalists, politicians, and activists who participated in the Özgür Gündem campaign in 2016 to raise awareness of the government’s oppression of the now-shuttered pro-Kurdish daily. Each participant acted as the symbolic chief editor for a day, attended the news meeting, and wrote a column for the following day’s edition.

Several journalists have been charged with participating in the campaign. A court hearing was held in Istanbul on January 28 for Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Şebnem Korur Fincancı, an academic and columnist for the leftist daily Evrensel, and Ahmet Nesin, a writer and columnist for the leftist news website Artı Gerçek, over their participation, Bianet reported. The court cancelled an order for the arrest of Nesin, who is in France, according to reports. The next hearing was scheduled for February 27.

CPJ has previously documented how prosecutors questioned all the participants in the campaign, and charged at least 38 with “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.” Three participants were jailed briefly in 2016 and one was jailed from August 14 to October 21, 2017.

Muş court sentences DİHA reporter to 8 years in prison

A court of the southeastern city of Muş on January 25 sentenced İdris Sayılgan, a reporter for the shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), to eight years and three months for “being a member of a [terrorist] organization [PKK]” and “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency reported.

Sayılgan has been in custody since October 2016. In his final testimony to the court, the journalist said he was strip-searched while being moved from prison. Sayılgan pleaded not guilty and asked to be acquitted, the report said.

Eren Erdem starts hunger strike over continued detention

Eren Erdem, former chief editor for the now defunct daily Karşı, is on a hunger strike in prison, the news website Ahval reported. In a written message, Erdem said, “I declare to the national and international public opinion that I indefinitely start ‘justice fasting’.”

Authorities on January 9 ordered Erdem to remain in custody pending an appeal, one day after a court ruled that the journalist should be released, CPJ documented.

Journalists in court: hearings for Coşkun, Akdeniz, Yurdal

  • The trial of Canan Coşkun, a former court reporter for the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, started in Istanbul on January 24, the news website T24 reported. Coşkun is accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a 2015 report headlined “Erdoğan ordered, journalism arrested,” which was about the arrest of Cumhuriyet journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül. Coşkun’s lawyers told the court the case should be dropped because it was filed after the statute of limitations had passed, according to the report. In Turkey, charges over something published in a daily newspaper must be filed within two months. The lawyers added that their client should not be held responsible for how her reporting was used in the newspaper and its website, and asked for her to be acquitted. The next hearing is scheduled for June 20, T24 reported. The journalist is free pending the outcome of her trial.
  • A Diyarbakır court on January 27 accepted an indictment that accuses Lezgin Akdeniz, a Mezopotamya News Agency reporter, of “making continuous propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” the Mezopotamya News Agency reported. Evidence cited in the indictment includes testimony from a witness and two Facebook posts that the journalist liked. Akdeniz, who is free pending the outcome of the case, finds the situation “absurd,” according to the report.
  • A Gaziantep court on January 31 acquitted Ali Vefa Yurdal, founder of the local news website Devhaber, of “provoking the people into animosity and hatred,” Yurdal’s outlet reported. Yurdal has been on trial for a year over a story about authorities demolishing houses in an Alevi minority village, according to the report.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The first paragraph has been updated to correct the date Düzkan started serving her prison sentence.]