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Turkish police special forces stand guard in Azaz, Syria on January 24, 2018. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım asked journalists to frame Turkey’s military incursions into northern Syria as an operation to protect the civilian population from terrorists, according to the online newspaper Odaty. (Reuters/Osman Orsal)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of January 22, 2018

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on January 25, 2018 1:22 PM ET

Journalists jailed

Istanbul authorities on January 18 ordered Veli Haydar Güleç, the former board member for the shuttered TV10, and Veli Büyükşahin, a former TV10 chairperson and current columnist for the online newspaper Artı Gerçek, to be held in pre-trial detention, Artı Gerçek reported.

Police took Güleç and Büyükşahin into custody on January 10, accusing both of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization," according to the report, which cites their lawyer.

The pair will be tried together, according to Artı Gerçek.

Their arrests were part of a larger operation in which 44 people were taken into custody across seven provinces. Of those, the court ordered 15, including the two journalists, to be held in pre-trial detention, according to Artı Gerçek.

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A court in Turkey's Van region on January 23 ordered local journalist İdris Yılmaz to be detained pending trial, the independent news website Bianet reported.

Authorities accused Yılmaz of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization." He is awaiting trial at the Erciş Prison, according to the report.

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A court in the southeastern city of Bitlis on January 23 ordered Seda Taşkın, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency, to be held in custody on accusations of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization, according to a report in the online newspaper Demokrat Haber that quoted her employer.

Police detained Taşkın while she was reporting in the eastern Muş region, and then released her under judicial control. She was taken back into custody in Ankara, and attended the court proceedings via videoconference from the capital, according to Demokrat Haber.

Journalists released

Turkish authorities released Sibel Hürtaş, the Ankara correspondent for the station Artı TV, on January 25, and Nurcan Baysal, a columnist for the online independent newspaper T24, on January 24, Baysal's employer reported.

Police detained the journalists earlier in the week after they criticized Turkey's military incursion into northern Syria, according to the online news site Bianet. Authorities were investigating the journalists for "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization," according to Deutsche Welle and Hürtaş's lawyer, who was cited by the journalist's employer. They are still under investigation, according to T24.

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Authorities in the southern city of Mersin on January 24 released Semra Özlü, former chief editor for the shuttered leftist radio station Radyo Ses, according to the online newspaper Gazete Karınca.

Özlü, who is being investigated for alleged ties to a terrorist organization, will remain in judicial custody pending the inquiry's conclusion, the newspaper reported.

Government's 15-point guide to covering Syria incursion

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım asked journalists to frame Turkey's military incursions into northern Syria as an operation to protect the civilian population from terrorists, according to the online newspaper Odatv. The military operation is focused in areas predominately controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces, according to media reports.

During a January 21 press conference in Ankara, Yıldırım provided journalists with a 15-point list of how they should cover the news, the newspaper reported.

According to Odatv, the prime minister instructed the media to say that the operation is targeted at eliminating terrorists and aims to protect the civilian population; that they should disregard anti-Turkey news from foreign news sources or consider national interests when covering them; and to say that the operation targets the Kurds as well as Islamic State militants.

Judicial deadlock continues

Turkish regional courts have continued to defy a high court ruling that the imprisoned journalists Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay, are being held illegally, and has refused to release them, according to media reports and Veysel Ok, a lawyer representing the journalists.

The journalists' lawyers separately filed complaints to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors against the local judges involved in the cases, the news website Platform 24 reported on January 17.

The local courts claimed they could not release Altan and Alpay because the high court's verdict was not public. However, the high court's website published the verdicts on January 19, BBC Turkey reported.

Following the verdicts' publications, the lower courts again rejected the journalists' appeals, the daily Cumhuriyet reported.

The lawyer, OK, told CPJ that the verdicts are final under the Turkish constitution. "Failing to implement the constitutional court's verdict is stealing the journalist's freedoms," he told CPJ.

Ok added that he believes the outcome of Altan and Alpay's cases would serve as a precedent for other cases in which journalists were arrested for alleged terrorist ties relating to their professional activity.


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