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Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of July 4

Riot police use water cannons on crowds protesting the takeover of the Koza-İpek Media group in October 2015. An arrest warrant was issued this week for Tarık Toros, a former journalist at the group. (AP/Mehmet Ali Poyraz, Cihan News Agency)

Arrest warrant issued for TV journalist

An arrest warrant was issued yesterday for the Turkish journalist Tarık Toros, according to reports. The pro-government daily, Sabah, reported that Toros was one of more than 30 people against whom arrest warrants were issued as part of a police operation against the alleged terrorist group controlled by Fethullah Gülen. CPJ was unable to determine the charges Toros allegedly faces.

Turkey's Media Crackdown

Today, Sabah reported that Toros, a well-known television journalist for Bugün TV, had left Turkey. A Turkish journalist living in exile, and who asked not to be named for security reasons, confirmed to CPJ that Toros has left the country.

Toros worked for the pro-Hizmet Koza-İpek Media group, which was shut down last year by court-approved trustees, according to reports. Toros later worked for the daily, Özgür Düşünce. Attempts by CPJ to contact the journalist were not immediately successful.

[July 8, 2016]

Journalist detained for sharing political cartoon on social media

Özgür Paksoy, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was detained at a police checkpoint outside the town of İdil yesterday, DİHA reported.

Paksoy was questioned for allegedly "insulting the president" by sharing a political cartoon on social media, according to a later report by DİHA. CPJ was unable to determine what platform Paksoy allegedly shared the cartoon on, and on what date.

Paksoy was freed the same day, his agency reported. It is unclear if he will face charges.

A poster is held up of Tahir Elçi, a lawyer shot dead in Turkey last year. A reporter for DİHA was questioned this week for "insulting the president" after allegedly sharing a political cartoon about the lawyer's death. (AP Photo/Mahmut Bozarslan) The cartoon that the reporter allegedly shared is by political cartoonist Carlos Latuff. It features the body of Tahir Elçi, former head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, surrounded by spent shells that spell out the surname of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Elçi was killed in unclear circumstances, while making a press statement in Diyarbakır last year, according to reports. His death is being investigated, reports said.

[July 7, 2016]

DİHA correspondent held in pre-trial detention

A court ordered the arrest today of Şerife Oruç, a correspondent for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), according to local reports. Oruç was detained by police on July 3 while she was traveling in a car with two others, who are not journalists, between the provinces of Diyarbakır and Batman, according to reports quoting DİHA. Local reports also quoting DİHA said yesterday that all three were detained due to suspicion of "aiding a [terrorist] organization" and that prosecutors granted police an extra 24 hours' detainment period. After all three were questioned by a prosecutor today, they were arrested by the court on suspicion of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization." Oruç, who denied the charges in court, was sent to Batman prison pending trial. DİHA claimed Oruç was strip-searched at police headquarters in the city of Batman. The agency reported that she was on her way to cover a news story at the time of the arrest.

U.S. State Department questioned on Turkey's press freedom record

Turkey's crackdown on the press was raised at a U.S. State Department press briefing July 1, when John Kirby, the spokesman for the U.S. State Department, was asked to comment on critical news websites being shut down. In a transcript of the briefing, Kirby acknowledged being aware of the crackdown, and said, "We think that free expression, free press, access to that information are the kinds of principles that are enshrined in the Turkish constitution." When asked why, despite the trend becoming worse, there appeared to be little change on the U.S. side, Kirby said, "I don't--we don't believe that ... me standing up here and pounding my fist on the podium and getting all hot and bothered and lathered up about it is going to make it any better. Okay? We believe in freedom of expression. We believe in freedom of the press. I would think that you guys would appreciate that. And we believe it not just here at home, but we believe that any country that says it believes in democratic principles and has a constitution that enshrines those principles ought to feel the same way." He added: "To scream it and yell it, to use different verbs or nouns, as you described it, isn't going to change at all the fact that our concerns remain the same and that we're having the--unfortunately having to have the same conversations with Turkish officials."

A video of the full press briefing can be viewed here.(Minute 44:30):

News of LGBTI festival blocked by court

An Ankara court blocked access to stories on an annual LGBTI awards ceremony, local press reported on July 2. The event, Hormonlu Domates (Tomatoes on Steroids), is an award ceremony held as part of Istanbul's Pride Week, that highlights people, groups or organizations considered to be anti-gay. The awards have often been critical of the government. The Second Ankara Court of Penal Peace ordered access to stories about the awards ceremony to be blocked on sites including T24, Evrensel, Diken, Onedio, and İleri Haber. CPJ was unable to determine the reason for the ban.

Reports on Panama Papers leak blocked

An Istanbul court blocked access to stories on several news sites about the "Panama Papers" leak, which named pro-government Turkish businessmen allegedly mentioned in the leaked files, local press reported. Content about the leak of files from one of the largest off-shore law firms, was blocked in Cumhuriyet, Diken, Sözcü, Journo, and ABC Gazetesi on Friday. CPJ was unable to determine the reason for the ban.

Erdoğan calls for full ban of German poem

A lawyer representing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said July 2 that he has filed a complaint to a Hamburg court to have a satirical poem by the German comedian Jan Böhmermann be "banned in its entirety," Reuters reported. The lawyer said he wanted to have a partial ban imposed by the court in May, preventing parts of the poem from being re-published, extended to the full piece. Böhmermann had recited the poem on television in March.

'I am against social media' Erdoğan says

President Erdoğan talks to the press outside an Istanbul hospital in June after a police bus was attacked. At a news conference on the more recent airport attack, Turkey's leader said he was against social media. (AFP/Yasin Bulbul)

President Erdoğan has voiced his disapproval of Twitter again while answering a question on July 2 about the terrorist attack at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, local press reported. Borzou Daragahi, a journalist for BuzzFeed, had tweeted after the attack that taxi drivers were taking advantage of the situation by asking for more money to go the airport. When Erdoğan was asked about the claim during a news briefing by a reporter not identified in reports, he said: "You know that I am against this social media. I received many attacks because of this. I am against this Twitter and all that and I don't share [on] these. I do not use [them] myself. There are those who use in my name, that is another matter. Those who practice that immorality is for them. Do not pay any attention to those at all." Erdoğan has an official Twitter account with 8.5 million followers, which is used by his staff to share quotes from his speeches. The president has personally used Twitter at least once, sending a tweet in 2015 that carried his initials, the head of his public communications confirmed in reports at the time. Erdoğan made his views on social media known to CPJ in October 2014. In a meeting with a joint delegation in 2014, the president said, "I am increasingly against the Internet every day."

Editors fined for insulting president

Two editors at the socialist daily Birgün were fined for insulting Erdoğan on July 2, local press reported. Berkant Gültekin and İbrahim Aydın were each sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for "insulting the president in a public way" by the Second Istanbul Court of First Instance. The charges related to a report on corruption allegations. The sentence was commuted to a fine of 10,500 Turkish lira (USD$3,589) each.

News site protests blocking order

The pro-Hizmet daily Yeni Hayat protested a court order to block access to its website last week, in a half-Turkish half English front page published July 2. In the lead story, the daily claimed its website was blocked without notice on June 30 due to its exposés on the militant group, Islamic State, and for being critical of the government. Yeni Hayat stated online last week that it could not get an answer from Turkey's telecommunications regulator, the TİB, as to why the website had been blocked indefinitely. On July 3 the paper reported that the TIB said that the order came from the Prime Minister's office on grounds of "national security" and "public safety." The website is blocked in Turkey but can be accessed via a VPN.

[July 5, 2016]

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