People look at the Bosphorus as they travel in a ferry from the Asian to the European side of Istanbul on March 1, 2018. The Turkish government continues its crackdown on the media. (AFP/ Bulent Kilic)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of February 26, 2018

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on March 1, 2018 2:36 PM ET

Journalists sentenced

An Istanbul court on February 28 sentenced Ahmet Altan, the former chief editor for the shuttered daily Taraf, to five years and 11 months in prison for "insulting the [Turkish] president," and "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization," the online newspaper Diken reported.

Last week, in a separate case, a court handed down a life sentence to Altan for attempting to topple Turkey's constitutional order in the failed July 2016 coup attempt through his journalistic activities, according to news reports.

The journalist has denied all charges against him, media reported.

Altan, who is also an internationally recognized novelist, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in response to his life sentence, entitled "I Will Never See the World Again."


An Istanbul court on February 28 found Burak Ekici, an online editor for the leftist daily BirGün, guilty of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization," and the same day sentenced him to six years and three months in prison, his former employer reported.

Authorities took into consideration time already served and released Ekici the same day, according to BirGün.

Ekici was arrested in August 2017 on suspicion of using the Bylock app, the news website Bianet reported at the time. Turkish authorities claimed that the app was evidence of membership in the Gülenist movement, which they consider a terrorist organization.

The editor has denied any ties to the movement, according to BirGün.

OSCE warns Turkey against proposed internet bill

Harlem Désir, the Freedom of the Media representative for the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), on February 28 warned Turkey against passing a bill that would expand the censorship powers of the federal TV and radio watchdog RTÜK.

"I have been closely following media freedom developments in Turkey, and remain worried about the decline of the pluralistic media space. Due to pressure on traditionally print-based media outlets, in Turkey the internet has become the main platform to share and access diverse information," Désir said in a letter to the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül. "Attempts to adopt measures which might restrict this space would only increase pressure on free media."

Parliament needs to approve the bill's remaining articles before it schedules a vote on the bill, according to the news website Haberturk. The bill has more than enough votes to pass and become law, according to the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah. A vote has not yet been scheduled, according to reports.

News website blocked

The online newspaper Ahval announced that Turkish authorities blocked access to its website form Turkey-based internet servers. Ahval reported that it did not know the reason for its site being blocked.

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