Merdan Yanardağ

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

An arrest order was issued for Yanardağ, chief editor of the pro-Republican People’s Party (CHP) daily Yurt and the weekly Bağımsız, after the Thirteenth Court of Serious Crimes in Istanbul sentenced him in absentia on August 5, 2013, to 10 years and six months in prison on charges of being a member of an armed terrorist organization, which is what Ergenekon is considered, according to an updated list of imprisoned journalists provided by the Justice Ministry in November 2013 at CPJ’s request.

The alleged Ergenekon plot is a shadowy conspiracy that authorities claimed was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup.

Yanardağ was detained by police in Bodrum District of Muğla Province on September 13, 2013, a month after his sentence was pronounced.

When the Ergenekon investigation began, Yanardağ was a managing director at Kanal Biz, a television channel owned by Tuncay Özkan, a journalist and media manager sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in the Ergenekon case.

Some of the accusations against Yanardağ refer to his work as a news manager at Kanal Biz, which according to authorities was a propaganda tool of Ergenekon. Among the activities cited as evidence in the indictment are Yanardağ’s booking of guests for television shows, managing the station’s programming schedule, organizing the order of appearance of studio guests, and working on programming scripts, according to CPJ’s review of the indictment.

Yurt and Bağımsız share a pro-opposition editorial slant. Yurt, a daily newspaper, publishes hard news, while Bağımsız is a newsmagazine that focuses on analysis and commentary.

Yanardağ’s lawyer, Serkan Gürel, told CPJ, “From the point of view of the court, his one truly negative action was to publish Yurt newspaper and Bağımsız magazine while the lawsuit against him was going.”

Yanardağ is being held at Muğla E Type Closed Prison No. 1, according to the Justice Ministry’s updated list. His lawyers filed an appeal, but the appellate court had not ruled on the case in late 2013.