AFP-Turkey.jpg
Children wave the Turkish flag outside the mausoleum of the founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara on April 23, 2018. A Turkish government minister in December 2017 said that Turkey blocked Wikipedia because it insults Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, according to reports. (AFP/Adem Altan)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 21, 2018

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on May 24, 2018 4:45 PM ET

Turkey will continue to block Wikipedia

During a May 18 press conference, Turkish Transportation, Maritime Affairs, and Communication Minister Ahmet Arslan said that Wikipedia will remain blocked in the country because the website portrays Turkey as a supporter of the Islamic State militant group, the daily Cumhuriyet reported.

The Wikipedia foundation, which operates the reference website, responded with an open letter to the minister expressing concern with his pronouncement.

Turkish authorities blocked access to Wikipedia on April 29, 2017, the BBC reported at the time. Arslan said in December 2017 said that Turkey blocked Wikipedia because it insults Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, Gazete Karınca reported at the time.

Journalists released

A court in the southeastern city of Hatay on May 23 released from prison Erdoğan Alayumat, a reporter and photographer with the shuttered pro-Kurdish news website Dihaber, pending the conclusion of his trial, according to the leftist daily Evrensel. The next hearing is set for October 19, 2018, according to Dihaber.

Alayumat was charged with "being a member of a [terrorist] organization," "aiding and abetting a [terrorist] organization," "being engaged in militia and collaboration activities in the name of a [terrorist] organization," and "revealing the secrets of the Republic of Turkey," in relation to pictures he took of grain silos, the Evrensel reported.

Alayumat has denied all charges against him, according to his employer.

Journalists in court

An Istanbul court on May 24 sentenced political cartoonist Seyfi Şahin to one year and 15 days in prison on charges of "publicly demeaning religious values that are embraced by a section of society," in relation to a caricature Şahin drew depicting Moses using curse words while leading the Israelites out of Egypt, the news website T24 reported.

Gırgır, one of Turkey's oldest cartoon magazines, was closed by its publisher after it printed Şahin's caricature in its February 17, 2017, edition, according to Agence France-Presse. The publisher, a group of the secular nationalist daily Sozcu, has taken a staunch editorial line against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

In court, Şahin said he had not meant to offend the Jewish people, according to T24. The same source reported that the cartoonist would not be arrested pending the conclusion of the appeals process.

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İdris Sayılgan, a former reporter for the shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) who is now in prison, was unable to attend his latest court hearing in the eastern Turkish city of Muş via teleconference due to a technical malfunction, according to a May 23 report on the news website Gazete Karınca. According to the report, Sayılgan has not appeared in court since his arraignment in October 2016; Sayılgan's lawyer Barış Oflas told the court that this is a violation of the journalist's rights.

The journalist is charged with "being a member of a [terrorist] organisation," according to the report.

The Muş court on May 23 decided that the journalist will remain in prison for the duration of his trial and set the next hearing for October 5.

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A court in the southwestern city of Diyarbakır sentenced Aydın Atar, formerly a responsible news editor for the shuttered Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, to six years and four months in prison for "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organisation," the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency reported on May 17. Under Turkish law, the responsible news editor can be held responsible for content published by a media outlet.

The prison sentence will not be enforced until the appeals process is over, according to the news agency.

Journalists and printing house staff indicted

An Istanbul court on May 22 indicted on terrorism-related charges 21 journalists and staff from the pro-Kurdish daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and the Gün Printing House, which Turkish authorities raided and took over on March 28, Evrensel reported.

Eight defendants will be tried for "willingly and knowingly aiding a [terrorist organisation]," while the other 13 face charges of "being a member of a [terrorist] organisation" and "printing and publishing a [terrorist] organisation's publications," Evrensel reported.

According to Evrensel, no trial date has been set.


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