Press report from Turkey: Releases in the shade of firings, detentions and hearings
ISTANBUL – Targets of rights violations, media workers experienced heavy repression once again along with Turkey’s military operation against north-eastern Syria. Many journalists were fired, detained, arrested, and sentenced to jail and fines. The prominent development in October 2019 was the releases of nine imprisoned journalists.
Reported by Hasan Özhan Ünal, translated by Evrim Şaşmaz
The press itself and press workers were the targets of direct and indirect violation of rights in October.
According to the reports in our newspaper and other media outlets, journalists filled the corridors of the courthouse in the month of October, as was the case in the previous month.
Tens of media members were brought to the judges whilst two journalists were sentenced to a total of 7,5 years of jail. Furthermore, two press workers were sentenced to pay fines.
Along with the military operation against north-eastern Syria launched by Turkey in October 9, many journalists faced repression.
While one of eight detained journalists have been arrested, some other journalists’ apartments were raided by the police.
On the other hand, Hürriyet Daily which was transferred to Demirören Holding in May 2018, terminated the job contracts of tens of press workers including editors, writers and reporters.
The internet regulation of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), in its turn, terminated the membership of Faruk Bildirici, the media ombudsperson.
As the first package of its Judicial Reform Strategy came into effect, the release of ten detained journalists shaded the targeting of press in October.
Here we note the journalist Hüseyin Aykol’s interview to Berivan Altan from Mezopotamya Agency, concurrent to his release: “The high number of imprisoned journalists make a difficult case in the eyes of the West. We will get debt from Europe. Big money is required about the refugee issue. We are released only temporarily as a gesture for them.”
So, what we have been through in October 2019? Here is our list:
Detentions, arrests and releases
- The web responsible of Birgün Daily, Hakan Demir, was detained after the police rais in his apartment.
- The editor in chief of the web news website Diken, Fatih Gökhan Diler, was detained in Istanbul.
- The reporter of Al Arabiya Zidan Zanklo was detained in the border when he was following up Turkey’s operation against North East Syria.
- The journalist Burcu Özkaya Günaydın was detained in Hatay on the basis of her reaction in social media, against Turkey’s operation in North East Syria.
- The distributor of Yeni Yaşam Daily, Veysi Aslan was detained in Istanbul.
- The reporter of Mücadele Birliği Daily, Özlem Oral, was detained on the basis of her reaction in social media, against Turkey’s operation in North East Syria.
- The journalist Emre Orman was detained in Istanbul. Orman, detained on the basis of his social media sharings, was later arrested based on the allegations of ‘propaganda of an [terrorist] organization’. Emre Orman, was released after his lawyers’ rejection on his arrestation was accepted.
- Uğur Akgül and Meltem Oktay, reporters of DİHA (Dicle News Agency) which had been shut down with a decree law, were released from the prison.
- İdris Yılmaz, the journalist who had been imprisoned for almost 21 months have been released from prison.
- The last defendant of Cumhuriyet Law Case, Emre İper who had been imprisoned since April 2019, was released.
- Hüseyin Aykol, the co-editor in chief of Özgür Gündem which had been shut down with a decree law, was released.
- Mehmet Sıddık Damar, the 17-months-long imprisoned reporter of DİHA which had been shut down with a decree law, were released from the prison.
- The journalist Nurcan Kaya was detained on the ground of her social media shares in Istanbul Airport.
- Kemal Sancılı, the publisher of Özgür Gündem which had been shut down with a decree law, was released.
- Abdullah Kaya, the reporter of DİHA (Dicla News Agency) which had been shut down with a decree law, were released from the prison t the end of 22 months.
Imprisonment and fine sentences
- Osman Akın, the ex-editor in chief of Yeni Yaşam Daily, was sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in the case he was judged with the allegation of ‘making propaganda of an [terrorist] organization’.
Tuğba Özer, the editor of Cumhuriyet Daily was sentenced to five thousands TL on the basis of of a news she made in 2016.
- Mümtazer Türköne, the columnist of Zaman Daily which had been shut down, was sentenced to pay 1.740TL with the allegation of “defamation”.
- The journalist İdris Yılmaz was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months of imprisonment on the basis of of ‘being member of an [terrorist] organization’ while being acquitted from the allegations of ‘making propaganda of an [terrorist] organization’.
Hearings and trials
- The first hearing of the trial against Osman Akın, the ex-editor in chief of Yeni Yaşam Daily, on the allegations of ‘publicly denigrating the military and security organisations of the State’ was adjourned.
- One to three years of imprisonment was requested for each of the seven journalists (Ömer Çelik, Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz, Selman Çiçek, Abdulvahap Taş, İnan Kızılkaya, Kemal Sancılı) who are put on trial with the allegations of targeting Musa Çitil, the Deputy Commander of Gendarmerie.
- The eight years and nine months of imprisonment decision about the journalist Nedim Türfent who has been imprisoned for more than 3 years, was approved by the Supreme Court.
- Necla Demir, the ex-publisher of Gazete Karınca, who had been alleged with “successively disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” was acquitted.
- ETHA (Etkin news agency) worker Adil Demirci’s hearing adjourned until 13 February 2020.
- Jinnews reporter Beritan Canözer who had been sued with the allegations of “being member to an [terrorist] organization”, was acquitted.
- Jinnews News Director Safiye Alağaş who had been sued with the allegations of “making propaganda of an [terrorist] organization” in the news published on the website, was acquitted.
The “KCK Press trial” where 46 journalists and media workers stand on trial for the last seven year, was adjourned until 25 February 2020.
- Nine persons, including the writers Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru, the editor in chief Metin Yılmaz from Sözcü Daily and its owner Burak Akbay have been standing on trial with the allegations of “helping FETÖ”; the trial was adjourned until 27 December.
- The trial on which Deniz Yücel stand with the allegations of “making propaganda of an [terrorist] organization” and “provoking the people to hatred and animosity” was adjourned until 13 February 2020.
- The trial against the journalist Çiğdem Toker in which a record 1.5 million TL in non-pecuniary damages over Toker’s article had been demanded, was dismissed based on the absence of the claimant’s lawyer.
- The trial on which ETHA editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp stand based on the allegations of “making propaganda of an [terrorist] organization”, the court issued an interim ruling, ordering the continuation of the judicial control measures and adjourned the trial until 11 December 2019.
- The law case demanded by the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan, based on the allegations of “violation of personal rights” with a record of 50 thousand TL was rejected because of acquiescence.
- ETHA reporter Meşale Tolu’s trial was adjourned until 25 February 2020.
- The trial where Cumhuriyet reporter Alican Uludağ and and its ex-diplomacy reporter Duygu Güvenç stand accused of “publicly degrading the judiciary” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) was adjourned until 9 January 2020.
- The trial where journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya — former co-editors-in-chief and managing editor of Özgür Gündem Daily which was shuttered with a decree law stand accused, was adjourned until 6 February 2020.
- The first hearing of the trial where Evrensel daily’s former Managing Editor Cem Şimşek face “insulting the president” charges took place.
- 17th hearing of the trial where Berzan Güneş faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charges due to his journalistic activities was merged with the one previously held in Iğdır. The next hearing was adjourned until 5 November.
- An investigation was launched against Evrensel columnist Ender İmrek on the basis of his piece on the Hermes brand bag of Emine Erdoğan who is married to the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the hearing of CHP İstanbul MP Canan Kaftancıoğlu.
- The first hearing of the trial against the journalist Rahmi Yıldırım with the allegation of “defamation” based on his piece called “I’m very sorry for the chief of general staff”.
- 21st hearing of the trial where the shut-down Taraf Daily reporter Mehmet Baransu and Managing Editor Murat Şevki Çoban face charges for a news report published in Taraf on 28 November 2013 titled “The Decision to end Gulen was reached at the National Security Council (MGK) in 2004” was held.
- The trial where Oda TV Ankara News Director Müyesser Yıldız faces “libel” charges was adjourned until 5 March 2020.
- The hearing of the trial where the imprisoned journalist Yetkin Yıldız faces charges of “encouraging suicide” as declared in the 20th item of Press Law was held.
- Seventh hearing of the trial where since shuttered Zaman daily’s Konya correspondent Şirin Kabakçı faces “membership in a terrorist organization” charges without detention was held.
- After the reversal by the Court of Cassation, the trial of six defendants, five of whom hae been imprisoned, including journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak was relaunched at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court.
- The trial of ETHA reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group” was adjourned until 13 December.
- Gazete Fersude co-editors in Chief Hayri Tunç ve Bengisu Kömürcü gave statements to the attorney general based on the investigation about the news they covered.
- The trial where journalist Hayri Demir is accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “making terrorist propaganda” charges was adjourned until 23 January 2020.
Censorship, repression and assaults
- Jinnews reporter Beritan Canözer’s apartment in Diyarbakır was raided by police with the alibi of her social media sharings.
- The journalist and writer Nurcan Baysal’s apartment in Diyarbakır was raided by police with the alibi of her social media sharings.
- The editor in chief of Mücadele Birliği Süleyman Acar’s apartment was raided by police.
- The journalist Barış Bektaş was stabbed to death from his heart and his abdomen in front of the café he owned in Fethiye, Muğla, when he was trying to separate a fight.
- Hürriyet Daily fired approximately 20 journalists including İpek Yezdani, the director of centrol office for the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and Çınar Oskay.
- The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) terminated the membership of Faruk Bildirici, the media ombudsperson.