Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of December 17, 2017

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on December 21, 2017 5:43 PM ET

Mesale Tolu holds a news conference at her lawyer's office in Istanbul, Turkey, December 18, 2017. Tolu, who worked in Turkey as a translator for the socialist Etkin News Agency (ETHA), was released pending trial, the German news agency Deutsche Welle reported. (Reuters/Osman Orsal)

Journalists sentenced

A court in Turkey's southeastern Hakkâri region on December 15 sentenced Nedim Türfent, a former reporter for the shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), to eight years and nine months in prison for "being a member of a [terrorist] organization," the independent news website Bianet reported.

Nineteen of 20 prosecution witnesses had recanted their testimonies at Türfent's trial and said that they were subjected to police threats and, in some cases, torture, to testify against the former journalist, defense lawyer Harika Karataş told Bianet after the sentencing.

The court accepted some of the witnesses' original testimonies as evidence, despite these discrepancies, according to Bianet.

Türfent has been in prison since May 12, 2016, according to CPJ research.

Media worker released

An Istanbul court on December 18 ordered Turkish-German dual citizen Meşale Tolu, who worked in Turkey as a translator for the socialist Etkin News Agency (ETHA), released pending trial, the German news agency Deutsche Welle reported. After her release, Turkish police detained Tolu and tried to deport her, according to ETHA. Authorities denied the deportation request, the site reported.

Turkish authorities in May detained Tolu and charged her with "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization," according to Deutsche Welle.

Journalist detained

Police in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır detained freelance journalist Sertaç Kayar on the morning of December 19, the daily Cumhuriyet reported.

Kayar told Cumhuriyet that police questioned him about his reports and then released in the afternoon.

Journalists on trial

The trial of Yol TV began on December 20 in Ankara, the online newspaper Demokrat Haber reported. The station, which caters to Turkey's largest religious minority population the Alevi, is petitioning to regain broadcasting rights.

The state-controlled satellite signal provider TURKSAT stopped broadcasting Yol TV in December 2016, per the state broadcast regulator's request, Bianet reported at the time. Since that order, Yol TV's broadcasts were available only online.

Journalist threatened

Fatih Portakal, an anchor for Fox News Turkey, said on December 19 via Twitter that he received a death threat. The journalist tweeted a screenshot of a text message that said the sender would kill Portakal and the owner of Fox TV for "employing a traitor."

Turkish police on December 21 arrested a 21-year-old man in connection to the threat, according to a tweet from Portakal, in which he thanked authorities.

Portakal's segments on Fox TV Turkey are among the few remaining critical news sources in the country.

President calls to censure caricaturist

Brazilian political cartoonist Carlos Latuff said in a December 18 tweet that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had asked Twitter to censor Latuff's cartoons of the leader. The Brazil-based cartoonist shared what he said were Turkish court documents in which Erdoğan's lawyers allegedly made the request.

Minister defends blocking of leftist news site

Turkey's transport, maritime affairs and communications minister Ahmet Arslan on December 17 defended the government's decision to block the leftist news site Sendika, Gazete Karınca reported.

While he was answering questions from parliament, Arslan said that blocking the website and Wikipedia was in keeping with the law on internet censorship, and to prevent "sexual harassment of minors, [the spread of] obscenity, and providing a platform for gambling."

Arslan said that authorities would continue to block Sendika and said that Turkey blocked Wikipedia because it insults Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Sendika, which reopens under a new url each time the old one is blocked, responded to Arslan's comments in an editorial in which it asked him to "stop lying and embarrassing himself in parliament." At the time of publication, Sendika was on its 62nd url.

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