President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks during a parliamentary group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara on June 25, 2019. Two journalists are to stand trial, in separate cases, on charges of insulting the president. (AFP/Adem Altan)

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of June 23, 2019

By Özgür Öğret/CPJ Turkey Representative on June 27, 2019 12:15 PM ET

'Insult' trial for Free Journalists Initiative spokesperson
Hakkı Boltan, a spokesperson for the Free Journalists Initiative (ÖGİ), is due to stand trial in Diyarbakır on charges of "insulting the president" and "insulting a public servant because of their duty," the news website Gazete Karınca reported. The charges are related to Boltan's public statements about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in relation to clashes in the southeastern city of Cizre between Turkish forces and Kurdish rebels in 2016. Rohat Aktaş, a journalist for a Kurdish-language outlet, was killed after being trapped and injured during the clashes. The first hearing is scheduled to take place on November 14, according to the report. Boltan is free pending the outcome of the trial.

Former Evrensel news editor accused of insult

Cem Şimşek, former responsible news editor for the leftist daily Evrensel, will stand trial on the charge of "insulting the president" over a report on how German cartoonists pictured the Turkish president, his employer reported. The 2015 story is no longer available online. The trial is due to take place in Istanbul on October 10, according to the report. Şimşek is free pending the outcome of the trial.

Cost of being a journalist in Turkey

In a June 24 tweet, Eren Keskin, a lawyer and former co-chief editor of the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, calculated the total prison sentences and fines from her convictions while involved with the newspaper. She said they added up to 17 years and two months in prison and fines totalling 360,000 Turkish lira (US$62,400). "Our eyes are constantly at the door," she wrote in the same tweet, which suggested that she was anticipating another arrest. Keskin has been sentenced in over 100 cases related to her journalism, but remains free pending the final appeals processes, according to her tweets.

Call for guilty verdict for JİN reporter despite withdrawn testimony

A prosecutor on July 25 asked a Diyarbakır court to sentence JİN News reporter Beritan Canözer for "being a member of a [terrorist] organization" (PKK), during the second hearing of the trial, her employer reported. During the first hearing, two witnesses withdrew their testimony, and said they did not know the journalist and that police had forced them to testify against her, CPJ documented at the time.

Erdem loses hearing in one ear after year in jail

Eren Erdem, former chief editor of the defunct daily Karşı and a former parliamentary deputy from the main opposition party CHP, has gone deaf in one ear at prison, the news website Duvar reported. Utku Çakırözer, a CHP deputy who visited Erdem in prison, said that the journalist had about 30 percent hearing loss in one ear when he was sent to prison a year ago, but now he has lost hearing in that ear entirely. Erdem has "other important health problems" too Çakırözer said, without elaborating in the article. He said that Erdem has refused medical treatment because he does not want to be taken to the hospital in handcuffs and be kept handcuffed and in a bed in the basement.

Court releases suspects in Murat Alan attack

The four suspects detained after the attack on Murat Alan, a news editor for the Islamist, pro-government daily Yeni Akit, were released on probation by a court on June 20, after two days in prison, Alan's employer reported.

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