Can Dündar (right) and Erdem Gül speak to reporters before their trial resumes in Istanbul, April 1, 2016. (Özgür Öğret)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of August 14

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on August 15, 2016 10:18 AM ET

Released journalists describe beatings in custody, headline 'Resistance continues'
Journalists from the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, the pro-Kurdish DİHA news agency and broadcaster IMC TV released yesterday alleged that police beat and mistreated them in custody, Özgür Gündem reported on its website, which continues to publish despite a court order temporarily closing the newspaper. The journalists said they intend to file criminal complaints regarding their treatment.

"They beat all of us while our hands were bound behind our backs. One of the policemen tried to take the contact lens from my eye out. I was hit with the butt of a gun," Özgür Gündem's Sinan Balık told his employer.

"I was subjected to beatings and insults for 36 hours before I was put to the holding cell," DİHA reporter Ender Öndeş said.

"They beat me in the face with their knees because my head was down," Fırat Yeşilçınar of Özgür Gündem said.

"They threw me down the stairs with my hands cuffed behind my back," Burcu Özkara, another of the newspaper's reports, said. "I was kept in the police vehicle for seven hours. They told us, 'You will see the power of the state and the Turk.'"

"I was pushed down the stairs from the second floor," said Elif Aydoğmuş, also from Özgür Gündem. "A few of the police hit me. I lost consciousness due to the blows."

Özgür Gündem reported that some of the journalists had asked the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (THİV) to help them get medical reports to corroborate their stories. Aslı Erdoğan, a columnist and member of the newspaper's publishing board detained from her house after the August 16 raid of the newspaper's office, was taken to a hospital yesterday for examination, brought back to police custody, and then to an Istanbul court today to answer prosecutors' questions, according to Özgür Gündem.

Editor-in-Chief Bilir Kaya and news editor İnan Kızılkaya are still in custody, according to the news agency ETHA.

"Resistance Continues," the newspaper, released again as a special edition of the socialist weekly Atılım, headlined this morning.

The newspaper staff today held their daily editorial meeting in the street in front of their office, which police sealed in an August 16 raid.

Court releases 24 state broadcaster employees held in purge
An Ankara court ordered 24 staff of the state broadcaster TRT released, the official Anatolia News Agency (AA) reported yesterday. They were among 43 staff members detained last week on suspicion of affiliation with the Hizmet movement, or FETÖ, as the government, which considers it a terrorist organization with a parallel state structure, calls it.

The news agency did not provide the names or positions of any of those detained, but said they included a news reader and comptrollers. The court released four people on their own recognizance, arraigned 19 suspects, and released another 20 on probation, pending investigation.

News agency reporter released
An Ankara prosecutor yesterday ordered Etkin News Agency (ETHA) correspondent Fatma Edemen released on probation, ETHA reported. Police had detained her from her home on August 14.

[August 19, 2016]

Turkish authorities search outside the damaged police headquarters after an explosion in Elazig, eastern Turkey, on August 18, 2016. Authorities banned news coverage of the blast. (Sahismail Gezici/DHA via AP)

Journalists detained in Özgür Gündem raid released
Most journalists and staff detained in Tuesday's raid on the offices of pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem in Istanbul on Tuesday were released today without charge, news website Bianet reported. Editor-in-Chief Bilir Kaya and News Editor İnan Kızılkaya were still in custody, according to the news agency ETHA. Aslı Erdoğan, a columnist and member of the newspaper's publishing board detained from her house after the August 16 raid of the newspaper's office, was also still in custody.

Those taken to the Çağlayan Courthouse for questioning and then set free are: Elif Aydoğmuş, Sevdiye Ergürbüz, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Amine Demirkıran, Günay Aksoy, Burcu Özkara, Kemal Bozkurt, Önder Elaldı, Ender Öndeş, Sinan Balık, Davut Uçar, Fırat Yeşilçınar, Zeki Erden, Bilir Kaya, Ersin Çaksu and Bayram Balcı from Özgür Gündem; Özgür Paksoy and Mesut Kaynar from Dicle News Agency (DİHA); and Gökhan Çetin and Gülfem Karataş of IMC TV. The DİHA and IMC TV journalists had gone to the Özgür Gündem offices after hearing news of the court decision to shut down the newspaper, and police detained them alongside Özgür Gündem staff. Three prosecutors questioned the journalists regarding accusations of "resisting the police," but no one was charged.

At least one of the journalists said she was mistreated in custody. IMC TV reporter Gülfem Karataş told Bianet that she was insulted, threatened with rape, subjected to racist swear words, hit in the back with a chain, and battered. The journalist said she was kept handcuffed with her hands behind her back for seven hours, suffering wounds to her wrists, and that her glasses were broken when a police officer hit her in the back with a chain. Karataş also said that while there were "minor discussions" after police entered the building but none of those detained had resisted the police.

Reporter released pending trial after 4 months in detention
Meltem Oktay, reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was released from prison today when her lawyer appealed her arrest in court, DİHA reported. As reported in the Crackdown Chronicle in the week of April 10, police detained Oktay during raid on a house in the town of Nusaybin in Mardin Province on April 11, alongside another DİHA reporter, Uğur Akgül. (Akgül was released on April 14 pending trial on charges of "making propaganda for a terrorist organization.") Oktay faces charges of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization" and "propaganda." At today's second hearing in her case, the 2nd Mardin Court of Serious Crimes released Oktay pending trial despite the prosecution's objection. Oktay is banned from foreign travel. The next hearing their trial is scheduled for November 8.

Authorities ban news coverage of bomb blast
The official radio and television watchdog RTÜK announced that the prime minister's office imposed a temporary ban on news about the bomb attack in the eastern city of Elazığ today, according to news reports. No coverage of the event is to be featured in the news except for official statements. While RTÜK officially has authority over radio and television only, the prime minister's office has the power to censor all media, according to the official text released by RTÜK.

[August 18, 2016]

A screenshot shows the shuttered newspaper Ozgur Gundem's defiant headline, "We will not submit," August 17, 2016, the day after a court ordered the newspaper to stop publishing and police raided its offices. The socialist weekly Atilim said it published the special edition as an act of solidarity.

'We will not submit,' newspaper headlines after police arrest staff, court orders closure
The socialist weekly Atılım today published a special edition produced by journalists from Özgür Gündem, Turkey's oldest pro-Kurdish newspaper, who put together a four-page edition under the headline, "We will not submit," despite a court's order to close the newspaper, a police raid of its office, and the detention of dozen of its journalists yesterday. Atılım published the edition under Özgür Gündem's logo as an act of solidarity, the weekly said in fine print on the front page.

Istanbul police detained Aslı Erdoğan, a columnist for Özgür Gündem and a member of its publishing board, from her home in Istanbul yesterday, according to news reports. Police also raided the home of Ragıp Zarakolu, publisher, former editor-in-chief and columnist for the newspaper. Police did not detain him, but broke his front door and confiscated his books, Zarakolu wrote in a Facebook post subsequently covered by news websites.

Police also raided the Istanbul home of the daily's former co-editor-in-chief Eren Keskin yesterday, the journalist said. Keskin said today that she was in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, that she flew back to Istanbul after the police raids, and that as far as she knows there is no warrant for her arrest.

Police also raided the Istanbul home of Filiz Koçali, a politician and Özgür Gündem columnist, last night. She also was not at home at the time, according the press reports.

Özgür Gündem reported that the Beyoğlu Municipality last night sealed the newspaper's office in central Istanbul, and that Özgür Gündem editor Bayram Balcı was transferred to hospital today because he had an operation to weeks ago and needs medicine. Two other detainees, M. Ender Öndeş and Fırat Yeşilçınar also have health problems and were unable to get medicine in detention, according to the same report.

Police detain TV reporter
Police today detained Yusuf İba, a correspondent for the local television station Denge TV, in the eastern town of Doğubeyazıt, the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem reported on its website. According to the newspaper's report, police detained İba in connection with his coverage of "democracy watch" events the government organized across the country after the July 15 failed military coup.

[August 17, 2016]

Demonstrators protest the June 19 arrest of three people, including the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders' Turkey representative, in central Istanbul, in charges stemming from their participation in a show of solidarity with beleaguered pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, June 21, 2016. Police raided the newspaper's Istanbul office on August 16 and detained dozens of journalists. (Ozan Kose/AFP)

Court shuts down newspaper, police raid offices, arrest staff
Istanbul's Eighth Court of Penal Peace today ordered the beleaguered, pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem to temporarily cease publishing, the newspaper reported. According an ostensible copy of the court order published on Twitter by the citizen-journalist collective 140journos, prosecutors accused the newspaper of producing propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization, incitement to insurrection, and publishing articles that threaten the security and territorial integrity of the state.

As this report went to press, police raided the newspaper's offices.

According to the news channel IMC TV and the pro-Kurdish DİHA news agency, police detained at least 17 Özgür Gündem journalists today: Günay Aksoy, Kemal Bozkurt, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Önder Elaldı, Ender Öndeş, Sinan Balık, Davut Uçar, Fırat Yeşilçınar, İnan Kızılkaya, Zeki Erden, Elif Aydoğmuş, Bilir Kaya, Ersin Çaksu, Sevdiye Ergürbüz, Amine Demirkıran, Bayram Balcı, and Burcu Özkaya. Police also detained two DİHA reporters at the scene, Özgür Paksoy and Mesut Kaynar, the news agency reported.

Police also detained IMC TV journalist Gülfem Karataş and cameraman Gökhan Çetin, who were filming the raid, the station reported. The station's live broadcast showed what were apparently plainclothes police confiscating the news channel's camera. Video posted to Twitter showed police taking the journalists away in buses.

The newspaper and its staff have suffered persistent judicial harassment, to the extent that dozens of fellow journalists, academics, civil society activists, and an actor this spring took turns symbolically serving as co-editor of the newspaper for a day in a show of solidarity for staff. Many faced criminal investigation on terrorism charges as a result.

TV station shut down, owner arrested
The RTÜK, Turkey's broadcast regulator, yesterday cancelled the broadcast license of television station Kanal 35, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported. The daily newspaper Hürriyet reported that police in Izmir had on August 8 detained businessman Ahmet Küçükbay -- whose company, the Küçükbay Business Group, owns Kanal 35 -- on suspicion of financing the Hizmet movement, or FETÖ, as the government calls it, accusing it of being a terrorist organization that maintains a "parallel state structure" that orchestrated a failed military coup on July 15.

Police detain newspaper columnist
Police in Turkey's western Uşak province yesterday detained Ali Ünal, a former columnist for the shuttered Zaman newspaper, the news website T24 reported. Ünal will be transferred to Istanbul for investigation on suspicion of affiliation with the Hizmet movement.

Newspaper reporter arrested, arraigned on terrorism charges
Istanbul's Fifth Court of Penal Peace today arraigned Arda Akın, a journalist for the daily newspaper Hürriyet, according to news reports. Akın faces charges of knowingly and willingly aiding the Hizmet movement, which the Turkish government considers a terrorist organization, the reports said. Hürriyet reported that authorities had questioned the journalist about his news reports and activity on social media. Akın denied being a member of any organization.

Courts ban reporting news of bomb attack and aspects of failed military coup
Turkey's broadcast regulator, the RTÜK announced yesterday that Diyarbakır's Second Court of Penal Peace had ordered a ban on publishing or broadcasting news regarding yesterday's bomb attack in the southeastern town. Today, the regulator announced that Ankara's Fourth Court of Penal Peace ordered a ban on reporting any information regarding events around Muğla Province's Dalaman Airport the night of the failed July 15 coup.

Telecommunication regulator dissolved under state of emergency
The Turkish government yesterday used emergency powers to shut down Turkey's telecommunications authority, the TİB, and to transfer the regulator's functions to the Information and Communications Technology Authority, or BTK by its Turkish acronym, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş announced yesterday, according to news reports.

[August 16, 2016]

Can Dündar (right) and Erdem Gül speak to reporters before their trial resumes in Istanbul, April 1, 2016. (Özgür Öğret)

CPJ awardee resigns from editorship, will not return to Turkey under state of emergency
Can Dündar, a recipient of the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2016 International Press Freedom Awards, announced in his column today that he was resigning as editor of the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, and that he would not return to Turkey until the government lifts the state of emergency declared after a July 15 failed military coup. Dündar argued that the government is exploiting that failed coup to eliminate all its opponents and to redesign the judiciary for its own purposes. The editor, who wrote that he would continue contributing a column to Cumhuriyet, compared trusting such a judiciary to "laying your head on the guillotine."

Istanbul's 14th Court for Serious Crimes on May 14 sentenced Dündar to seven years in prison, reduced to five years and 10 months, on charges of revealing state secrets that could harm the security of the state or its domestic or foreign interests, in connection with a 2015 report alleging the government was sending arms to Islamist groups in Syria. The court sentenced Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gül to six years in prison, reduced to five years, on the same charge. Both were acquitted of espionage and terrorism charges that could have resulted in life sentences, and both are free pending appeal.

Turkey's Media Crackdown

Police detain DİHA news agency reporter, threaten others with death
Police detained at least one reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) and threatened four others with death over the weekend, the news agency reported.

Police detained DİHA journalist Engin Eren on August 13 as he left the news agency's bureau in Turkey's southeastern Siirt Province, DİHA reported. The reasons for Eren's detention were not immediately clear. Turkish authorities have regularly harassed and detained reporters on suspicion of being a member of a terrorist organization or propagandizing for a terrorist organization since peace talks between the government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which the government classes as a terrorist organization, unraveled in 2015.

Police at a checkpoint in the southeastern city of Nusaybin on Sunday stopped four DİHA reporters and threatened to shoot them, the news agency reported. According to the report, police made journalists Fethi Balaman, Aynur İnedi, Selami Aslan and Mehmet Sıddık Damar stand with their hands above their heads while they searched them, telling them, "You work for the terrorist organization, your citizenship should be revoked," and, "You have large forehead, just right for a bullet."

DİHA reported that police told Aslan and Damar, "Especially you two: I hope God would let us meet during an event. We know what we would do to you then."

Journalist snared in night raids
Lice newspaper journalist Metin Bekiroğlu was among those police arrested from their homes late the night of August 13 in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, DİHA reported the following day. The reasons for his detention was not immediately clear.

Etkin news agency journalist detained from home
Police yesterday detained Etkin News Agency (ETHA)'s Ankara correspondent, Fatma Edemen, from her home, ETHA reported. The reasons for her detention were not immediately clear.

Press freedom advocates announce solidarity campaign for Kurdish journalists
The Free Journalists Association (ÖGC) started a campaign to draw attention to arrested journalists from Turkey's pro-Kurdish media, according to August 12 news reports. "Voluntary reporters," people who are not journalists by profession, will take turns working at the bureaus of pro-Kurdish media outlets across the country for five days each, to show solidarity with the detained journalists and to call attention to the government's persistent detention and harassment of journalist for pro-Kurdish media, the reports said.

Broadcast regulator announces ban on reporting testimony in coup investigation
Turkey's broadcast regulator, the RTÜK, yesterday announced a ban on reporting the testimony of witnesses and suspects in the continuing investigation into the July 15 failed coup attempt, the daily newspaper Hürriyet reported. The Izmir Chief Prosecutor's Office applied to the Izmir's Seventh Court of Penal Peace for the ban, according to the report.

[August 15, 2016]

EDITOR'S NOTE: The August 18 entry has been corrected to reflect that Bilir Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya, and Aslı Erdoğan were still in police custody as of August 19.

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