Press report from Turkey: Eight journalists sentenced to 26 years in September
ISTANBUL – Targets of rights violations, many journalists were thrusted into the courthouses as the new judicial year in Turkey started in September. Eight journalists were sentenced to almost a total of 30 years in prison, while new lawsuits are being opened one after another. On another note, long detention times against journalists are among the most common violations of rights.
Reported by Hasan Özhan Ünal, translated by Evren toprak
Press and media workers were the targets of direct and indirect violation of rights with the start of the judicial year in this September.
According to the reports in our newspaper and other media outlets journalists filled the corridors of the courthouse in September.
More than 60 press workers appeared in the court in September. Eight journalists were sentenced to a total of 26 years, and a journalist was fined.
Four of the journalists on trial were acquitted; however, one newspaper and two journalists were sued later this month.
Two journalists were detained while journalist Metin Duran was first rearrested and then released a week later in September.
On another note, five journalists formerly employed in the Cumhuriyet daily were released after the country’s top appeal court reversed the decision.
In addition to dozens of journalists thrusted into the courthouses, the press was also at the target of censorship, repression and attacks.
A journalist was attacked in Rize. Press workers were discharged from the Cumhuriyet daily and journalist Metin Cihan, who brought the suspicious death of 11-year-old Rabia Naz Vatan to the public attention, had to go abroad due to the oppression he faced.
Here are the details of our press report in September:
Detention, arrests and releases
- Journalist Metin Duran, who was imprisoned for more than 6 months even though he has a 93 percent disability, was reimprisoned on 11 September on the grounds that the report prepared by Forensic Medicine Institute has expired. The report was stating that “Duran can’t stay in prison”.
- Journalists Musa Kart, Güray Öz, Kemal Güngör, Hakan Kara and Önder Çelik were released after the Supreme Court reversed the decisions about the five journalists who had been sentenced in the Cumhuriyet daily case. Journalist were imprisoned for approximately five months.
- Journalist Metin Duran, who was arrested on 11 September on the grounds that the report of Forensic Medicine Institute has expired, was released on 18 September.
- Two former producers of Samanyolu TV, which was shut down under a decree, were detained on the grounds that they had a warrant against them.
Sentences and fines
- Reporter Ziya Ataman, who was working for now shuttered DİHA, was sentenced to 14 years and 3 months in prison on charge of “membership of an [terrorist] organization” at Şırnak 1st Heavy Penal Court. The court also ruled for the continuation of his detention. Ataman, who has been in prison for more than 3 years, has serious health problems and his health deteriorates day by day.
- JinNews reporter Melika Aydın, was sentenced to 1 year and 3 months prison by the decision of the 20th Heavy Penal Court in Bayraklı on charge of “propaganda of an [terrorist] organization”. The court postponed the announcement of the verdict.
- BirGün writer Barış İnce was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison in the case known as “acrostic defence”.
- Lawyer and the co-director of the Lawyer and Law Studies Association (MLSA) Veysel Ok and now shuttered Özgür Düşünce reporter Cihan Acar were sentenced to 10 months in prison. The decision was given by İstanbul 2nd Penal Court of First Instance on charge of “insulting the judical organs of the state”.
- Cem Şimşek, former reponsible news editor for the Evrensel daily, received a 41 thousand lira fine for “improperly publishing a correction”. Bakırköy 2nd Penal Court of First Instance acquitted Şimşek of “insult”.
- Journalist Hüsnü Mahalli was sentenced to 5 months prison on charge of “insulting Turkish Republic”.
- Hüseyin Özkan, a former reporter of now shuttered Taraf newspaper, was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months prison on charge of “being a member of an [terrorist] organization” by the Ankara 16th Heavy Penal Court.
- Photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan was sentenced to prison. While he was acquitted of “being a member of an [terrorist] organization”, he received a 1 year and 8 months prison sentence on charge of “making continuous propaganda for an [terrorist] organization”.The announcement of the verdict was postponed.
- The trial of Etkin News Agency’s (ETHA) reporters İsminaz Temel and Havva Cuştan at the 27thHeavy Penal Court was adjourned.
- Prison sentence was asked for writer Fikret Başkaya, who stood trial at the Ankara 21st Heavy Penal Court on charge of “propaganda of an [terrorist] organization”.
- Kemal Demir and Kemal Karagöz, former employees of TV 10 which was shuttered under a decree, stood trial at the Istanbul 28th Heavy Penal Court. The hearing was adjourned.
- Prison sentence was asked for Mezopotamya Agency reporter Barış Polat, who stood trial on charge of “membership of an [terrorist] organization” at the Gaziantep 7th Heavy Penal Court.
- Austrian journalist Max Zirngast, who was imprisoned for approximately three months in Turkey, was acquitted of “being a member of TKP/Kıvılcım” at the Ankara 26th Heavy Penal Court.
- Journalist Uğur Dündar was sentenced to 11 months 20 days in prison for “insulting” former prime minister and AKP parliamentarian Binali Yıldırım. The sentence was later changed to a mandate of reading books.
- 38 people, including six journalist, stood trial at the Istanbul 3rd Penal Court of First Instance due to the reports published in 2018 in Bloomberg about the “economic crisis” and “foreign currency”. Journalists Kerim Karakaya and Fercan Yalınkılıç, who published the reports were among the journalists who was put on trial. Court rejected the plea to be released and adjourned the hearing to January 27, 2020.
- Kibriye Evren, who has been behind the bars for 11 months, appeared at the Diyarbakır 5th Heavy Penal Court for the seventh hearing of the lawsuit against her on charge of “membership of an [terrorist] organization” and “propaganda for an [terrorist] organization”. The court board ruled for the continuation of detention and adjourned the hearing to November 12.
- Filiz Zeyrek, former reporter of JINHA which was shutdown under a decree, acquitted of “propaganda for an [terrorist] organization” and “membership of an [terrorist] organization” in her final hearing at the Adana 13th Heavy Penal Court.
- Having joined the protests of civil disobedience in support Academics for Peace, Reporters Without Borders [RSF] Representative to Turkey Erol Önderoğlu was acquitted of “propaganda of an [terrorist] organization” at the Istanbul 25th Heavy Penal Court.
- A lawsuit was filed against journalist Kenan Kırkaya due to his social media posts from 4 years ago. The hearing will be held at Ankara 32th Heavy Penal Court.
- The trial of nine people including Burak Akbay, the owner of Sözcü daily, columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru, and editor-in-chief Metin Yılmaz was adjourned at the İstanbul 37th Heavy Penal Court.
- The Constitutional Court concluded that journalist Erdal İmrek’s rights were violated. İmrek, who was beaten and was subjected to tear gas in the face from short distance, will be paid immaterial compensation.
- The 6th hearing of Evrensel daily columnist Yusuf Karataş stood trial at the Diyarbakir 9th Heavy Penal Court on charge of “establishing and leading an armed [terrorist] organization”. The hearing was adjourned.
- Journalist Deniz Yücel’s request for compensation was rejected by the İstanbul 17th Heavy Penal Court. Yücel, who was detained in February 2017 while working as a reporter for Die Welt, spent one year behind bars in Turkey.
- Fatih Polat, editor-in-chief of the Evrensel daily, stood trial for his third hearing on charge of “insulting the president” at the Bakırköy 31st Penal Court of First Instance. The hearing was adjourned.
- Journalists Tunca Öğreten, Mahir Kanaat, Derya Okatan, Ömer Çelik, Eray Sargın and Metin Yoksu, who made a report out of the leaked e-mails of the minister Berat Albayrak, stood trial at the İstanbul 29th Heavy Penal Code on charge of “membership of an [terrorist] organization”, “propaganda of an [terrorist] organization”, “breaching information systems” and “destroying data”. The court ruled that the judicial control measure shall continue to be in effect and adjourned the next hearing to February 2020.
- Serhat Albayrak, the Deputy Board Chair of Turkuvaz Media Group, filed a lawsuit for damages against the Evrensel daily demanding 200 thousand liras over an article by columnist Ceren Sözeri titled, “Who made the AKP lose votes?”
- Journalist İdris Yılmaz, who has been in prison since January 2018, appeared at Van 5th Heavy Penal Court on charge of “membership of an [terrorist] organization”. Court rejected the plea to be released in this second hearing and adjourned the next hearing to October 18.
- The first hearing of the lawsuit filed against journalist Hayri Demir on charge of “membership of an [terrorist] organization” and “propaganda of an [terrorist] organization” was held at Ankara 15th Heavy Penal Court. The court adjourned the hearing. The lawsuit was opened after two memory cards, which had photographs on it, were stolen from Demir’s home and later emerged at the security directorate.
- The second hearing of Kazım Güleçyüz, editor-in-chief of Yeni Asya daily, and Kazım Güleçyüz, caricaturist for Yeni Asya daily, was adjourned. Journalists are accused of “making continuous propaganda for an [terrorist] organization”.
- Imprisoned journalist Ahmet Altan was acquitted of “insulting a public official” in the second hearing of a trial for his article published in Taraf daily titled, “Big War Has Begun”.
- The hearing of Mümtazer Türköne, former columnist for now shuttered Zaman daily who is accused of “insulting the president”, was adjourned by Bakırköy 2nd Penal Court of First Instance.
- The tenth hearing of 18 former TRT employees, including presenter Beytullah Bayar, was held at Ankara 15th Heavy Penal Court and was postponed.
- Facing up to 22.5 years in prison on charge of “establishing and leading an armed [terrorist] organization”, journalist Ayşegül Doğan’s hearing at 9thHeavy Penal Court was adjourned to December 25. Doğan was working for now shuttered İMC TV as a program coordinator.
- Journalists Arif Aslan and Selman Keleş had hearing at Van 5th Heavy Penal Court. Court board rejected the plea of Aslan to be released.
- The first hearing of the lawsuit filed against journalist Deniz Yücel on charge of “insulting public official” due to his social media posts was held at İstanbul 24th Penal Code of First Instance. The next hearing will be held in June, 2020.
- The 20th hearing of Mehmet Baransu, a former correspondent for Taraf daily, and Murat Şevki Çoban, former editor-in-chief of the newspaper, was held İstanbul 10th Heavy Penal Court over the report published in November 2013 and titled, “The Decision to End Gülen was Made at the National Security Council in 2004”. The court adjourned the hearing
- A lawsuit was filed against Mehmet Y. Yılmaz, a columnist for T24, on charge of “insulting public official” over his articles asking for the reason of the increase of wealth of AKP parliamentarian Binali Yıldırım and his children. 4 years and 1 month in prison is asked for Yılmaz.
- Imprisoned journalist Ahmet Altan had his 4th hearing due to his 2009 column, “Who has left outside of mafia”. Altan is accused of “attempting to influence a fair trial” and “violating the secrecy of an investigation”.
Censorship, repression and assaults
- The internet regulation of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) and Information Technologies and Communications Authority (BTK) came into force on September 3. The regulation provides wide control and censorship authority for television and radio broadcasts on the internet.
- Cumhuriyet daily laid off 15 press workers, including reporter Ceren Çıplak Drillat, Şeyma Paşayiğit from Ankara Bureau and Mahmut Oral, who had been working for the newspaper for 22 years as the Diyarbakir Bureau Chief.
- The First Section of The Constitutional Court didn’t conclude the “violation of freedom of expression” application of Wikipedia, which is closed to access over 2 years in Turkey. The First Section decided to refer the application to the General Assembly.
- Gençağa Karafazlı, the head of the Contemporary Journalists Association’s (ÇGD) Rize branch, was subjected to an armed attack on the evening of 17 September.
- Özlem Albayrak, a columnist of the Yeni Şafak daily, told that her article titled, “Canan Kaftancıoğlu Decision” wasn’t published. Albayrak announced that she will be no longer writing for Yeni Şafak after censorship.
- Journalist Metin Cihan, who brought the suspicious death of 11-year-old Rabia Naz Vatan to the attention of public, told that he was forced to go abroad due to the oppression he faced.