Soner Yalçın

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Several members of the ultranationalist-leftist news website Odatv were arrested in February and March 2011 on charges of having ties to the alleged Ergenekon plot, a shadowy conspiracy that authorities claimed was aimed at overthrowing the government through a military coup. Authorities charged all of the staffers with propagandizing on behalf of Ergenekon and lodged additional charges against some. Yalçın and Küçük remained imprisoned when CPJ conducted its December 1 worldwide census.

Odatv features news and commentary that promotes an ultranationalist agenda from a Kemalist perspective and is harshly critical of its perceived opponents. The targets of its attacks include the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Fethullah Gülen religious community, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and liberals. Much of Odatv’s critical commentary involves highly personal attacks.

Yalçın, owner of the site and an opinion writer for the daily Hürriyet (Freedom), was charged with attempting to influence court proceedings, inciting hatred, violating privacy rights, and disclosing classified military and intelligence documents. He denied the accusations and said the evidence amounted to the website’s published material and his professional phone conversations. He was being held at Silivri F Type Prison in Istanbul pending trial.

Küçük, an opinion writer for the site and for the daily Aydınlık, was also accused of being a leader of the Ergenekon organization, inciting hatred, violating privacy rights, and disclosing classified military and intelligence documents. In court, Küçük said the charges were without basis.

As evidence, authorities cited wiretapped phone conversations between staffers in which coverage was discussed. In one conversation, authorities alleged, Yalçın directed a columnist to write a piece suggesting that the ruling AKP was forcing the military’s hand to stage a coup.

Authorities also cited as evidence a series of digital documents found on Odatv computers during a police raid on the news outlet. The authenticity of the documents has been challenged by the defense. A team from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, which examined the evidence at the request of the defense, found that the computers contained Trojan files that left the machines vulnerable to outside manipulation. The team also found that the documents themselves were altered on the day of the police raid, further raising the possibility that the files could have been planted or manipulated.

Authorities said the documents included an Ergenekon media strategy memo, an ultranationalist text describing the AKP as dangerous, and directions on covering the PKK, AKP, army generals, and the Ergenekon investigation.

Authorities also cited two documents claiming that the well-known investigative reporter Nedim Şener had helped a former regional police chief, Hanefi Avci, write a 2010 book alleging that the Gülen movement had infiltrated the police force. Another document claimed Şener was also helping investigative reporter Ahmet Şık write a book about the Gülen movement. Authorities used those documents to link Şener and Şık to the Ergenekon plot. The two were jailed for more than 12 months before being freed pending trial; they continued to face anti-state charges related to the plot.