Three journos released from prison in Turkey

Turkey released three journalists from prison today: Cevheri Güven (Nokta), Murat Çapan (Nokta) and Vildan Atmaca (JİNHA).

Cihan News Agency reported: “Nokta magazine Editor-in-Chief Cevheri Güven and Managing Editor Murat Çapan were released pending trial by the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court after the first hearing of their trial at the İstanbul Courthouse on Tuesday.”

The two Nokta editors were arrested on November 2, 2015. They will be tried without arrest.

Nokta editors released pending trial

Atmaca was arrested beside İdris Yılmaz from DİHA over their social media posts in early December. Both journalists were accused of PKK propaganda and Yılmaz was also accused of insulting the president. Bianet reported: “JINHA correspondent Vildan Atmaca, who had been taken into custody and arrested while following up news, will be on trial without arrest. The next hearing will be held on January 21, 2016.”

JINHA Correspondent Vildan Atmaca Released

Meanwhile, the accusation of insulting the president was dropped against Yılmaz but he remains under arrest due to the propaganda accusation. Local press reported that the investigation against the journalist is complete and a court date will be set for 2016.

Gazeteci İdris Yılmaz Cumhurbaşkanına hakaretten serbest, propagandadan tutuklu!



short updates from Turkey

  • Bianet reported: “Abdurrahim Boynukalın, former Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP, taking part in attack against Hürriyet daily has been appointed as Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports.” Boynukalın Partaking in Hürriyet Attack Becomes Deputy Minister
  • Bianet reported: “Journalist Tatari’s book “Grandma, I was not really in Diyarbakır” and Cemal’s books “Delila, A Young Woman Guerilla’s Mountain Diaries” and “Kurdistan Diaries in the Solution Process” have been ordered to be pulled off the shelves, Ahmet Işık has also been sentenced to a punitive fine of 1,232 euros for having defamed Binali Yıldırım, Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communication.” Tatari, Cemal Books Pulled Off Shelves, Punitive Fine for Ahmet Şık
  • Cihan News Agency reported: “Bayram Kaya, a reporter for the Zaman daily, was forced to submit defense statements for six lawsuits on Thursday based on an article he wrote about the alleged criminal histories of a number of police chiefs despite only being notified about the lawsuits on the same day” Journalist Kaya faces half dozen lawsuits for article 
  • Cihan/Today’s Zaman analysis: Doğan Media appears to bow to political pressure  “The reshuffling within the Doğan Media Group, which has been receiving threats from pro-government figures who have told the daily’s owner, Aydın Doğan, to fire certain journalists deemed anti-government, continues with new dismissals and postings.”
  • Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reported that their correspondent Mensur Küçükkarga is facing an investigation for “PKK propaganda.”
  • Today’s Zaman reported: “Hakan Albayrak, the editor-in-chief of the pro-government Diriliş Postası daily, was dismissed from his position for his columns that were critical of the government, he has said.”Pro-government editor-in-chief fired over columns critical of gov’t

New PEN report on Internet freedom in Turkey

Freedom of expression in the digital sphere has deteriorated dramatically in Turkey since the Gezi Park protests in March 2013 when peaceful demonstrations organised through social media were harshly repressed, according to a new report released today by PEN International and PEN Norway. The report is the third in a wide-ranging series monitoring and assessing such violations in the country since 2012.

Read the report here: Surveillance Secrecy and Self Censorship New Digital Freedom Challenges in Turkey.


Turkey arrested three more Kurdish journos in December

Turkey authorities arrested three Kurdish journalists on the 1st, 15th and 19th of December 2015. The journalists work for pro-Kurdish news outlets and are accused of being a member of, aiding or making the propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). There are no court dates set for any of the three cases which points that the journalists are imprisoned indefinitely until the prosecutors come up with indictments at future dates unknown.

Southeastern Turkey is not tense only by the Syrian civil war and the refugee crisis but it has been hot with clashes recently; since the police and the military are fighting PKK sympathizer Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, or YDG-H, at residential areas and journalists on the street are being rounded up and hurt by security forces.

Zeki Karakuş, owner of local news website Nusaybin Haber, was detained and arrested in Nusaybin District of Mardin Province on December 1 according to Cihan News Agency. Karakuş is at Mardin prison in, pending trial. Karakuş’s lawyer Gülsitan Duran said that her client received a call from the police that there is a search warrant about him and he is expected to testify. They went to the Nusaybin authorities and the journalist was arrested for “making propaganda of a terrorist organization via press” bu the Nusaybin Court of Penal Peace. The lawyer said there is a court order of secrecy over the investigation therefore they do not know what evidence is offered against Karakuş or what the exact charges are.

Deniz Babir, reporter for the Kurdish language daily Azadiya Welat, was detained at Sur District of Diyarbakır on December 15 and arrested on the same day as reported by local sources. Babir was following the clashes when he was detained by the police. Four other journalists were detained also at the hot zone alongside Babir but they were later released. Reporter Ferit Dere, also with Azadiya Welat, told the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) that the cops threatened them while in custody with comments such as: “one day you will be killed in confusion” and “you will see the power of the Turk.” Babir was carrying a false identification as he was a fugitive from military service which is mandatory in Turkey. His lawyer Resul Tamur said while his client is guilty on terms of carrying a false identification; he was doing his job at the time as he was arrested and was questioned about journalism; including the contents of his notebook. Dere also told DİHA that they were questioned about why are they are reporting from the hot zone and the police confiscated their cameras, note books and voice recorders even after they were let go. The verdict of the 2nd Diyarbakır Court of Penal Peace shows Babir plead guilty only for the false identification accusation but he was arrested on the “strong suspicion” of being a member of the PKK. Babir is at Diyarbakır D Type prison; pending trial.

Beritan Canözer, reporter for the all female, pro-Kurdish Jin News Agency, or JİNHA; was detained by plain clothes cops while covering social unrest also in Diyarbakır on December 16; local press reported. Canözer spent more than 48 hours under detention and arrested by a Diyarbakır court on December 19. According to reports, Canözer was transferred to the court after the prosecution demanded her arrest for “knowingly and willingly aiding a [terrorist] organization” and the night court of Saturday evening complied. The reports also stated that social media activities of Canözer happened to be the evidence against her. Turkish authorities have arrested two other Kurdish journalists, one of them again from JİNHA, under similar conditions last month.

updates from Turkey

Today’s Zaman journos receive suspended sentences

Today’s Zaman reported that their Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş, managing editor Celil Sağır and correspondent Sevgi Akarçeşme received suspended prison sentences for insulting the prime minister: “Three journalists from Today’s Zaman have been each given suspended prison sentences of more than a year for insulting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in tweets they wrote, in a move that has only contributed to the sense of deteriorating media freedoms in Turkey.”

Today’s Zaman journalists get suspended prison sentences for ‘insulting’ Davutoğlu

updates from Turkey (Nov 16 – Dec 08)

  • Insulting Erdoğan: “Daily Hürriyet columnist and former editor-in-chief Ertuğrul Özkök faces up to five years and four months in prison for “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an opinion piece published on Sept. 3.” Hürriyet Daily News reported. Daily Birgün reporter Onur Erem tweeted: “I’m under prosecution b/c of the interview I made with Tariq Ali, accusted of ‘insulting president Erdogan’.” Cihan News Agency reported: “BirGün daily Managing Editor Berkant Gültekin faces up to 32 years in prison in a total of eight cases filed against him on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in news reports that appeared in the daily.” Daily Evrensel Chief Editor Fatih Polat tweeted documents about a prosecutor dropping an insult complaint by the president. Polat stated that the prosecution decided writing about Erdoğan escalating violence in the country in benefit of his political goals is within the limits of freedom of expression. The indictment is ready for the investigation about journalist Bülent Keneş for “insulting” Erdoğan. Today’s Zaman reported: “Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş is facing the prospect of up to eight years and two months in prison on charges of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a series of tweets and statements that the journalist says was him simply expressing a critical opinion.”
  • Mistreatment in jail: Arrested journalist Mehmet Baransu wrote about the bad treatment he is exposed to in jail; Cihan News Agency reported.
  • Censored: Political cartoonist Carlos Latuff’s website is among the thousands of banned sites in Turkey. The cartoonist announced the situation with this post.
  • Detained: ETHA News Agency Editor İsminaz Ergün was detained on November 27 and about an opinion piece (titled “The Kurdish People wants an Honorable Peace”) she wrote and released after questioning.
  • Fired: Doğan Media Group is slowly “cleaning house;” firing journalist who are openly anti-AKP.  Zeynep Gürcanlı and Şükrü Küçükşahin from the Ankara office of the daily Hürriyet were fired on December 2; the daily Cumhuriyet reported. Hürriyet’s Digital Media Coordinator Bülent Mumay was fired on November 26. The Executive Director and Chief Editor of the Kanal D (Doğan’s and Turkey’s most popular TV channel) were also changed and CNNTürk is now directed by Erdoğan Aktaş; former news director of the pro-AKP news channel ATV; local reports from December 8 stated. Also, Today’s Zaman reported:”Eighty more journalists working for the Bugün and Kanaltürk TV stations were fired after the channels were dropped by the state-owned Turkish Satellite Communications Company (Türksat) from its infrastructure in a government-orchestrated crackdown on critical media.”
  • Another investigation against Nokta: Nokta reported that another investigation is launched against Nokta regarding its “Erdoğan selfie” cover. Nokta’s already arrested editors (due to Nokta’s “civil war” cover) Cevheri Güven and Murat Çapan will be investigated about the “selfie” cover for “insulting the president” and “making propaganda of a terrorist organization” alongside two new names: Ertuğrul Erbaş (news coordinator) and  Emrah Direk (digital publishing director). Originally, Çapan was the only suspect in the investigation with the accusation of “insulting” Erdoğan.

Turkey arrests two journalists over Syria coverage

Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, chief editor and Ankara representative for the daily Cumhuriyet are arrested on November 26 due to their coverage of Turkey allegedly sending weapons to Syria under the cover of humanitarian aid. The journalists are accused of exposing secret documents and espionage for the benefit of the alleged Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PYD).

Dündar and Gül were called to testify on November 26 about the allegations regarding the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) transporting weapons and munition to Syria by truckloads under the cover of humanitarian aid to Syrian Turkmens. Two trucks were stopped by the gendarmerie in southern Hatay and Adana provinces under the orders of local prosecutors on January 1 and 19 of 2014. The related gendarmerie and judicial personnel who were involved in the stopping of the trucks are also facing terrorism charges. Cumhuriyet‘s headline story of May 29, 2015 was on the truck stopped in Adana: “Here are the weapons that Erdoğan says do not exist.”

Both Dündar and Gül denied the accusations brought against them alongside any ties to the alleged FETÖ/PYD organization and they said their work is journalism, not espionage. This did not stop the court from arresting Dündar and Gül with “strong suspicion that a crime was committed” for “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization,” “terrorist organization membership” and “obtaining and exposing secret documents of the state for means of political and military espionage.” The journalists are sent to Silivri Prison, pending trial with no court date set. Cumhuriyet‘s legal team appealed the arrest verdict on November 30.

Despite the video and photographic proof, the authorities claim the visuals are forged; deny weapons were sent to Syria but insist that the contents of the trucks load is a matter of national security as it was mentioned in the prosecution questioning documents.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a personal criminal complaint on the Cumhuriyet coverage: “I also filed a lawsuit. What only matters to them is casting a shadow on Turkey’s image. I suppose the person who wrote this as an exclusive report will pay a heavy price for this… I will not leave go of him,” Erdoğan has said on live TV on June 1, 2015; implying Dündar, who has his byline on the MİT Trucks story. Alican Uludağ, correspondent for the Cumhuriyet, shared the document of Erdoğan’s complaint on social media on the day his colleagues were arrested and an Istanbul prosecutor started an investigation against him according to reports.

However, Erdoğan recently said: “what if the trucks were filled with weapons?” and Dündar has quoted him in his defense at court.

The allegations regarding the MİT Trucks were first reported by the daily Aydınlık months ago but no legal action has been taken against them. Aydınlık has criticized Cumhuriyet on May 29, 2015 for calling their reporting “exclusive” and stated that they have covered the trucks story 16 months ago; on January 21, 2014. Dündar has also stated in his court defense that he was not the first journalist to report on the MİT trucks. However, according to reports, a trial was started against the leftist news portal Sol Haber about the same coverage and the portal’s former responsible editor Hafize Kazcı will be heard by court for “violating the secrecy of an investigation,” facing one to three years in prison.

Also, Cumhuriyet Board Chair Akın Atalay tweeted on November 30 that financial inspectors will go over 2010 books of the daily which they have done 2.5 years ago. Financial inspection as an intimidation tool is a known method of the government; best known as the Doğan Holding tax fine incident in 2009.

Turkey arrests two journos over social media posts

Two journalists from pro-Kurdish news agencies in eastern Turkey city of Van were arrested over social media posts which are considered as “terrorist propaganda” and “insulting the president.” Idris Yılmaz from Dicle News Agency (DİHA) and Vildan Atmaca from Women’s News Agency (JİNHA) were detained by the police at Erciş District of Van on Friday and arrested by court on Saturday. The journalists are accused of being pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey. Yılmaz is reported injured as he was hurt in the ribs while being detained by the police and denied proper medical attention.

The journalists were detained as a part of a larger group on Friday. Who exactly were in this group which included 10 journalists according to reports is not clear. Some local reports, including the pro-PKK Firat News Agency (ANF) stated the journalists were covering clashes between the police and Kurdish rebels but Yılmaz’s testimony says they were drinking tea at a cafe as a group of journalists from DİHA, VAN TV and IMC TV when police approached him and said he will be detained for “producing biased news.” Other journalists did not want to give up their friend which ended in police shooting in the air to disperse the crowd around and detaining more people (see the video in the first hyperlink). Other detainees were released on Saturday but Yılmaz and Atmaca were transfered to the court with a demand of arrest from the prosecutor.

According to police, prosecutor’s office and court documents CPJ inspected, both journalists are questioned about social media posts; some of which are years old and others not owned.

Yılmaz is accused of terrorism propaganda as being the owner of a news source called Erciş Haberi (Erciş News) but he stated that he has no ties to it and as far as he knows it is a Facebook group that features posts from numerous users. According to visuals featured in the testimony document, Facebook lists the name İdris Yılmaz as the Chief Editor of Erciş Haberi and as the media organ’s website. Yılmaz said he used to have a DİHA subscriber news website with the same name at the mentioned address but it was inactive for months and he knows neither who runs the Facebook group nor who put his name there. Yılmaz is also asked about some pro-PKK posts from his own Facebook account and but he denied making propaganda of the organization. Yılmaz has also shared a caricature of President Pecep Tayyip Erdoğan defecating on Turkey. Yılmaz did not comment on that question at the police questioning and argued it is not Erdoğan in the caricature when asked about it again at the prosecutor’s office.

Atmaca asked the authorities some of the posts she is questioned about are two years old and why is she being questioned about them now when detained for a totally different reason. Atmaca was asked about sharing posts such as the picture of a woman YPG (PKK’s Syrian wing) guerrilla, a woman Kurdish journalist noted as a PKK member and a quote of convicted PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. She was also asked about two tweets from October 14, 2015 in which she accuses the police and the police chief firing on the people of Erciş with real bullets. Atmaca denied accusations of PKK propaganda and said she does not remember the incident regarding the tweets but she had no intention of provoking the people as it was mentioned in the question.

Erciş Court of Penal Peace arrested Yılmaz and Atmaca with “a strong suspicion” that they made terrorism propaganda and Yılmaz additionally insulted the president.