Faruk Akkan, the general director of the shuttered Cihan News Agency, was arrested shortly after a failed Turkish coup attempt in 2016 and was convicted for allegedly being a member of a terrorist organization. Akkan, who denies involvement in the coup, is serving a nine-year prison sentence.
Police detained Akkan at his home in Istanbul on July 27, 2016, according to a since-deleted message posted to his Twitter account on his behalf, referring to him in the third person.
Istanbul’s Third Court of Penal Peace ordered the journalist to be jailed pending trial "based on the strong suspicion" that he was a member of a terrorist organization. He was accused of being a follower of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of maintaining a terrorist organization and "parallel state structure" (FETÖ/PDY, by its Turkish acronym) and of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt.
According to legal documents, the court based its conclusion on Akkan’s employment at the Cihan News Agency, which it called "within the structure of FETÖ/PDY’s media arm." A court in March 2016 ordered the news agency’s parent company, the Feza Media Group, placed under government-appointed trustee, on the grounds that it was a Gülenist mouthpiece. Cihan was among the several media outlets and related media companies that were shuttered by the government in the aftermath of the coup attempt.
Akkan told the court that he started working at the news agency’s foreign desk in 2004 and then went to Russia in 2006 as a reporter, where he stayed until 2015, when he returned to Istanbul and became general director.
Akkan went on trial alongside 30 journalists and media workers and an academic. All were charged with “attempting, through violence and force, to disrupt and replace the order as recognized by Turkey’s Constitution,” “attempting through violence and force to eliminate or prevent Parliament from carrying out its duties,” and “being a member of an armed terrorist organization.” Not all of the defendants were in custody.
The trial’s first hearing began in Istanbul on September 18, 2017.
In the indictment, which CPJ reviewed, the prosecution said that the defendants’ journalism, including opinion pieces or their employment by pro-Gülen outlets such as the daily Zaman and Cihan News Agency, was evidence that the journalists were part of the FETÖ/PDY.
The indictment accused the journalists—whom it referred to as “the media force of the terrorist organization”—of producing false news to weaken the government, insult or humiliate the authorities, attempt to disrupt the peace, and to create an environment suitable for a coup.
Akkan denied the charges, according to the indictment.
A court in Istanbul on April 30, 2018, found Akkan guilty of “being a member of a [terrorist] organization” and sentenced him to nine years in prison. Time already served will count toward his sentence.
Akkan is being held in Silivri Prison in Istanbul.
As of late 2022, CPJ was unable to identify any lawyer representing Akkan who could provide updates on his case.
CPJ emailed the Turkish Ministry of Justice in October 2022 for comment but did not receive any reply.