Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Istanbul, Turkey on September 8, 2017. An Istanbul court found Çağlar Özbilgin, an editor for the online newspaper Sendika and columnist for leftist newspaper Halkın Sesi, guilty of insulting the Turkish president for referring to the leader as a “would-be dictator” in a column. (Reuters/Osman Orsal)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of September 17, 2017

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on September 18, 2017 12:52 PM ET

Istanbul officials cancel press freedom award ceremony

Officials in Istanbul today canceled a press freedom awards ceremony, according to the anti-censorship platform Susma.

Beyoğlu city district officials informed the Taksim Hill Hotel that the ceremony for the 25th Musa Anter and Free Press Martyrs Journalism Awards, which the hotel was scheduled to host, was canceled due to the ongoing state of emergency in Turkey. The pro-Kurdish daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi organized the ceremony, and was informed of its cancelation by the hotel.

The Turkish government declared a state of emergency in the wake of the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Police detain pro-government journalist

Istanbul police last night detained pro-government journalist Ömer Turan, the daily Evrensel reported.

According to news report, Turan was under investigation over tweets and an article he wrote about Turkish Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan.

[September 22, 2017]

Court releases newspaper employee from state custody, trial ongoing

A Turkish court on Wednesday released Hayati Yıldız, a former employee at the shuttered Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, from prison during the first hearing of his trial, the online newspaper Gazete Karınca reported. The trial is ongoing.

According to Gazete Karınca, the court indicted Yıldız while he was in prison for being a member of a terrorist organization, and violating the law for firearms.

Police in Turkey's southeastern province of Diyarbakır detained Yıldız on February 17, and allegedly beat him in custody, CPJ documented at the time. A regional court then ordered the newspaper employee to be held in custody on March 1.

Erdoğan says most journalists jailed in Turkey are terrorists

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday said most of the imprisoned journalists in his country are terrorists and criminals.

Most of Turkey's jailed journalists "aren't journalists whatsoever. Most of these are terrorists. Many have been involved in bombing incidents or burglary," Erdoğan said during an onstage interview with Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait at the agency's Global Business Forum in New York City.

CPJ research shows that Turkey is one of the world's worst jailers of journalists and media workers, and frequently imprisons journalists on anti-state crimes in retaliation for their work.

[September 21, 2017]

Trial begins against shuttered Turkish daily Zaman

The trial of journalists, staff, and shareholders of the pro-Fethullah Gülen daily, Zaman, and the paper's subsidiaries began yesterday, the online newspaper T24 reported.

A court in Istanbul heard the testimonies of the defendants who all pleaded not guilty to charges of engaging in terrorist activities.

Twenty-one of the defendants are in custody, and nine are not in custody for the trial. Of those on trial, seven were in CPJ's prison census last year, and another seven of the cases are under investigation.

In March 2016, an Istanbul court ruled to appoint trustees for Zaman and its subsidiaries, after the prosecutor accused the publications of engaging in terrorist propaganda, CPJ documented at the time. At the time, CPJ issued a letter to Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was then prime minister, calling on the Turkish authorities to reverse the takeover.

The ruling came before the July 2016 failed coup attempt the government blamed on its former ally, Fethullah Gülen.

In the wake of the failed coup attempt, the Turkish government closed Zaman and its affiliates, along with more than 100 other media organizations.

As part of this wide-ranging government decree, the government also transferred many of the publications' assets, including Zaman's, to Turkey's national treasury.

[September 19, 2017]

Journalists accused of being members of terrorist organization

A Turkish court on September 15 formally arrested and jailed reporter Kemal Özer on accusations of being a member of a terrorist organization, according to his employer, the daily Evrensel. Özer had been in custody since September 2, CPJ documented.

Separately, CPJ issued a statement last week calling on Turkish authorities to immediately release photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan, and drop the anti-state charges against him. An Istanbul court on September 13 formally charged Erdoğan with terrorism, according to the online newspaper Gazete Karınca. Police detained the journalist on September 2 for photographing a National Intelligence Agency building, CPJ documented.

Turkish authorities release French journalist

Turkish authorities on September 17 released French journalist Loup Bureau, who had been held on terrorism charges since July 26, according to the English-language newspaper Hürriyet Daily News.

Istanbul court finds editor guilty of insulting Turkish president

An Istanbul court on September 14 found Çağlar Özbilgin, an editor for the online newspaper Sendika and columnist for leftist newspaper Halkın Sesi, guilty of insulting the Turkish president for referring to the leader as a "would-be dictator" in a column, Sendika reported. The court handed down a suspended prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days on the condition that Özbilgin does not commit this offense or any other in the future, according to Sendika.

Journalist briefly detained for insulting Turkish president

Istanbul police on September 14 briefly detained freelance journalist Gökhan Özbek for insulting the Turkish president on Twitter, according to a series of tweets Özbek wrote after his release. According to legal documents Özbek shared on Twitter, the journalist was released on a legal technicality. Özbek is facing separate charges for the tweets, and cannot not be tried twice for the same tweets.

[September 18, 2017]

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