Counterterrorism police in the southern province of Antalya on July 23, 2016, detained Tuncer Çetinkaya, a former reporter for the shuttered outlets Zaman newspaper and Cihan News Agency, as part of a sweeping purge of journalists and others suspected of following exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, according to press reports. The government accuses Gülen of maintaining a terrorist organization and “parallel state structure” (or FETÖ/PDY, as the government calls it) within Turkey that it blames for orchestrating a failed July 15, 2016, military coup.
Zaman and Cihan News Agency were among the more than 100 news outlets the Turkish government closed by decree on July 27, 2016, using emergency powers it assumed after the attempted coup, saying the media outlets were FETÖ/PDY mouthpieces. Since then, CPJ research shows that Turkish authorities have jailed dozens of Zaman journalists pending trial on terrorism-related offenses.
On July 26, 2016, a criminal court in Antalya ordered Çetinkaya and eight other journalists detained in Antalya to be jailed pending trial on charges they are FETÖ/PDY propagandists, according to press reports. The reports gave no further details. CPJ tried to contact defense lawyers for the nine journalists. Those lawyers that CPJ was able to reach declined to provide the organization with further information or documentation.
As of September 2017, only three, including Çetinkaya, remained in prison, according to a local journalist who has followed the case and who spoke with CPJ on the condition of anonymity.
According to the indictment, all the defendants are charged with “being a member of a [terrorist] organization.” Prosecutors cited as evidence against Çetinkaya his account with Asya bank, which authorities alleged to be Gülenist institution; personal notes and articles; video of a Zaman regional meeting in which former Zaman chief editor Ekrem Dumanlı allegedly praised Gülen; and CDs of Gülen preaching. Other evidence included a U.S. visa in Çetinkaya’s passport. The indictment alleged that the journalist met Fethullah Gülen on three U.S. visits, but did not provide further evidence. Some of Çetinkaya articles were published on the local news website Bizimantalya, which is another outlet cited in the indictment as being Gülenist.
Çetinkaya denied the charges and said he was only a journalist, according to a copy of his testimony, viewed by CPJ.
Çetinkaya has kidney failure and has not received proper treatment for it in prison, according to the International Federation of Journalists. His daughter said that officials prevented him from seeing a doctor and denied him medication for the first three months of his detention, the organization said.
The journalist is detained in Antalya prison.