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Pedestrians walk by the latest work by the elusive British street artist Bansky along a wall in New York City on March 16, 2018. The work draws attention to the jailed Turkish artist Zehra Doguan.(AFP/ Getty Images/ Spencer Platt)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of March 19, 2018

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on March 22, 2018 4:41 PM ET

Media sales

Doğan Holding, one of Turkey's largest conglomerates, on March 21 announced that it would sell its media assets to the pro-government Demirören Holding, according to news reports.

Two of Turkey's top-selling newspapers, Hürriyet and Posta, and its main entertainment and news channels, Kanal D and CNN Turk, would be included in the sale, the news reports said.

According to Reuters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly accused Doğan Holding and its billionaire owner, Aydın Doğan, of harboring bias against his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). The company has denied this bias, Reuters stated.

"By this huge takeover including Hürriyet, Turkish mass media industry comes under the direct political control of President Erdoğan," said journalist Kadri Gursel on Twitter after the sale was announced.

After Demirören bought the dailies Milliyet and Vatan from Doğan in 2011, the papers' editorial lines became strictly pro-government, The New York Times reported.

Journalist moved from prison to house arrest

Istanbul authorities on March 16 released from prison journalist Şahin Alpay and placed him under house arrest for the duration of his trial, the online newspaper T24 reported.

According to the report, the journalist's release came after Turkey's Constitutional Court on March 15 ruled that Alpay's pre-trial detention violated his rights. CPJ documented in February how lower courts refused to implement the high court's decision, when the Constitutional Court previously ruled in favor of Alpay.

Alpay's lawyers filed an application with a local Istanbul court on March 20 for the journalist to be released from the house arrest, according to a copy of the application shared by the human rights news website Expression Interrupted.

The next hearing is scheduled for April 5.

Alpay, a columnist with the left-leaning daily Zaman, was arrested on terrorism-related charges in July 2016 following the failed coup attempt, according to CPJ research. He denies the charges, according to his indictment that was reviewed by CPJ.

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The European Court of Human Rights on March 20 ruled that Turkish authorities violated Alpay and journalist Mehmet Altan's rights during their arrests, Hürriyet Daily News reported. The court ordered Turkey to pay the journalist €21,500 (US$26,494) in damages, the report said.

In Altan's case, the high court twice ordered the journalist's release, but lower courts refused to comply with these rulings, CPJ has found. According to T24, Turkish authorities said that Altan, who was already sentenced to prison at the time of the high court's most recent ruling, should serve his term.

Formerly a host with the now-shuttered Can Erzincan TV, Altan was convicted on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to life in prison without parole on February 16, according to CPJ research.

Internet censorship

A bill that would force online broadcasters, including YouTube and Netflix Turkey, to be licensed and regulated by the federal TV and radio watchdog group RTÜK, passed through the Turkish Parliament on March 21, the daily Cumhuriyet reported. According to experts cited in local reports, the bill would extend RTÜK's regulation authority to include personal social media accounts and would expand internet censorship in Turkey.

Erdoğan is expected to sign the bill into law, according to Cumhuriyet.

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Turkey's internet regulator, TİB, blocked access to the high-security encrypted email server ProtonMail and 20 virtual private network (VPN) services, making them inaccessible via Turkish internet providers, online newspaper Ahval reported on March 16.

According to the report, the following VPN services have been blocked: pvanish.com, privateinternetaccess.com, purevpn.com, goldenfrog.com, tunnelbear.com, vpnunlimitedapp.com, hotspotshield.com, hidemyass.com, vpnunlimitedapp.com, expressvpn.com, betternet.co, expressvpn.host, f-secure.com, safervpn.com, zenmate.com.tr, zenmate.com, zenmate.com.ru, zenmate.de, nordvpn.com, and cyberghost.com.

Turkey recently made additions to its restrictive internet security laws that grant internet providers the authority to block VPN providers without a court order, the online newspaper Diken reported on March 16.

New Banksy is of jailed journalist Zehra Doğan

The anonymous street artist Banksy painted a 20-meter (66ft) high mural of journalist and artist Zehra Doğan on Bowery Wall in New York City to draw attention to Doğan's imprisonment in Turkey, according to reports.

A court in Turkey's southeastern Mardin region in March 2017 convicted and sentenced Doğan--a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Jin News Agency (JİNHA)--to two years, nine months, and 22 days in prison on charges of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization" and "propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization," according to CPJ's prison census. An appeals court upheld the verdict and police took Doğan into custody on June 12, 2017, according to reports.


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