Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, pictured at an event in Istanbul, in October 2018. A judge dismissed a complaint filed by Albayrak and his brother over a Cumhuriyet reporter's Paradise Papers coverage. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of March 24, 2019

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on March 28, 2019 1:21 PM ET

Court dismisses trial of Paradise Papers reporter Pelin Ünker
The trial of Pelin Ünker, a former reporter for the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, who faced charges related to her coverage of the Paradise Papers, was closed on March 28 after the judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired, Medyascope reported. Ünker was accused of "slander" in a complaint filed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son-in-law Berat Albayrak, who is also the treasury and finance minister, and Albayrak's brother, Serhat.

The judge hearing the case said, "Unfortunately, I detected a statute of limitations," according to the report. In a separate trial related to her Paradise Papers coverage, Ünker was sentenced to 13 months in prison for defamation and insult in January, according to reports. That complaint was filed by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his two sons. Ünker is free pending appeal in that case. CPJ documented last week how a court acquitted Çağrı Sarı, the former responsible news editor for the leftist daily Evrensel, over her paper's Paradise Papers coverage.

Journalists convicted of 'making propaganda' for the PKK

  • A Diyarbakır court on March 27 convicted Mezopotamya News Agency reporter Lezgin Deniz of "making propaganda of a [terrorist] organization" (PKK) and acquitted him of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization" (PKK), his employer reported. The court sentenced Deniz to a 15-month prison term, suspended unless he repeats the offense in the next five years. Secret witness testimony and two Facebook posts that Akdeniz "liked" were cited as evidence against him, according to reports.

  • An Istanbul court on March 26 found İhsak Karakaş, former chief editor for shuttered online leftist newspaper Halkın Nabzı, guilty of "making propaganda of a [terrorist] organization" (PKK), according to a tweet by the journalist. The court sentenced Karakaş to one year, six months, and 22 days in prison, suspended unless he repeats the offense in the next five years. The charge is related to Karakaş's tweets about Turkey's military operations in Syria in 2018. The journalist was detained last year from late January to early May, CPJ documented.

Columnist Perihan Mağden fined for insulting president

An Istanbul court on March 21 found the novelist and columnist Perihan Mağden guilty of "insulting the president" and ordered him to pay a 7,000 Turkish lira (US$1,255) fine, the freedom of expression news website Expression Interrupted reported. The charge relates to a column published by the news website T24 in 2016, in which Mağden compared participants in the Turkish version of the international TV show "Survivor" with President Erdoğan, the report said.

Police detain Halk TV host at hotel

Ayşenur Arslan, a host for Halk TV, which supports the main opposition CHP party, was briefly detained at a hotel in the central Anatolia city of Eskişehir on March 22, Cumhuriyet reported. Arslan, who is also a writer, was in Eskişehir for a book signing event, according to the report. The police detained the journalist for a brief period at the hotel, but did not bring her to a police station. Arslan called into Halk TV later that evening. Police detained Arslan because she had failed to attend a court hearing, the report said, without specifying further detail.

Court frees Mezopotamya News Agency reporter

A court in Ankara released Semra Turan, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, from custody on March 23, her employer reported. A prosecutor, who questioned Turan after she was detained in the southeastern city of Tunceli last week, had transferred her to the court and asked that she be detained, but the court released her with no conditions, according to the report. The report did not say what she was questioned about.

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