Doğan may be the next media victim

Pro -government daily Akşam claimed a Turkish prosecutor is about to go after businesspeople and media owners Aydın Doğan and, his daughter, Hanzade Doğan Boyner with accusations of running a fuel smuggling organization in a story published at the top story of their yesterday’s front page. Though the existence of such an investigation is not official yet, it caused a drop in the shares of the Doğan Holding shares according to Reuters. Doğan Media Group used to be the biggest media owner in the country before they let go some of their media organs to government-friendly businesspeople. Aydın Doğan have a rocky relationship with the ALP government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan throughout the years which can be remembered with the landmarks such as the massive tax fine against the group in 2009, cutting the ribbon together to open the Doğan-Trump partnership Trump Towers in Istanbul in 2012 and the accusations exchanged over a real estate permit issue in İstanbul last year. Turkey government recently made moves against pro-Hizmet Koza İpek Holding and Feza Journalism company through trustees attended by courts and they either shut down the featured media organs or turned them into government propaganda tools which leads to rumors enough to cause worry about whether if Doğan is next or not.

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Censorship at home, censorship abroad

Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reported on March 17 that their internet address was blocked from access in Turkey for the 33rd time and news website Demokrat Haber tweeted today that the had the same experience for a second time. DİHA’s original internet address diclehaber.com was blocked by Turkey’s telecommunications regulator, the TİB, on July 24, 2015 according to local reports. Demokrat Haber’s original address was blocked to access on January 28, 2016 alongside news websites sendika,org and Yüksekova Haber which were being blocked for the tenth and second times; local reports say. Blocking access to internet addresses and social media by TİB through selective court orders have been a constant problem for Turkey. Many Turkey citizens use Virtual Private Networks (VPN) or similar measures to mask their actual location to bypass the internet censorship in Turkey.

Der Spiegel reported also on March 17 that their Turkey correspondent Hasnain Kazim’s working permit was not extended and he had to be called back. Kazim had previous troubles in Turkey regarding his reporting; particularly interviewing a relatives of dead miners after a mine disaster and putting their angry statement at the president on a headline, which has led to his leaving of the country temporarily due to death threats.

Erdoğan says journalists are terrorists, again

On March 16, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the columnists who want his resignation are allies of terrorists in a speech he gave today; clearly stating there won’t be any recent end to crackdown on the Turkey press. The president spoke at a meeting with muhtars in Ankara which was broadcasted live as all speeches of Erdoğan and was reported by nearly all the media organs in Turkey including the independent news website t24 and pro-government daily Yeni Şafak.

Erdoğan said there are people, including columnists, who say Turkey would be peaceful if he would resign and continued: “Some columnists and so forth are almost touching elbows with Qandil. ‘Erdoğan must go. There won’t be consistency without Erdoğan.’ Were there consistency in Turkey at the end of 2002?” After declaring those who want his resignation from politics in line with the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK); based at Qandil Mountains in Iraq, the president continued: “So, he is a columnist, stating his opinion. I am not interested in whatever you may be. You are against me if your pen is standing on the side of the terrorist. The day is the day of struggle. The day is the day to advance upon the cruel in the harshest way.”

Two days ago, Erdoğan has said he saw no difference between “a terrorist holding a gun or a bomb and those who use their position and pen to serve the aims” of terrorists after the latest suicide bombing attack in Ankara and argued the definition of the term “terrorist” should be widened; BBC has reported. Turkey has been combating the PKK since the early eighties. The decades long struggle has caused many violations of press freedom and news blackouts which only intensified in recent months since the failure of a peace process in 2015 led to urban warfare at several hot spots in Turkey.

Özgür Gündem & Cumhuriyet may be next to follow Zaman

A “terrorism propaganda” investigation is started against the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem on March 14 and all the “yellow press cards” of the journalists at the daily got cancelled on March 15.

The terrorism propaganda is based on the daily’s headline after the latest suicide bomb attack in Ankara on Sunday. According to Özgür Gündem, Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office believed the headline “Footsteps of the Newroz (traditional spring festival)” was about the bombing.

Özgür Gündem journalists also received SMS from the state on March 15; stating that their yellow press cards are cancelled. The press cards in Turkey are granted by a bureau of the Prime Ministry according to the criteria decided by the state.

Moreover, pro-CHP daily Cumhuriyet, published a column with the byline Cumhuriyet and voiced worries about alleged plans to take over their newspaper. the daily reminded the pro-AKP columnist Ersoy Dede has stated Cumhuriyet will be next after Zaman and they reminded the slander campaign after the Ankara blast. Pro government accounts on twitter and some pro-government news ites and newspapers have claimed the suicde bomber was a Cumhuriyet reporter and the car used in the attack was hidden at Cumhuriyet car park. Cumhuriyet has announced that they never had a reporter with that name and they do not have a car park in Ankara.

Seized critical dailies transferred into propaganda pieces in Turkey

Turkey’s critical daily Zaman got immediately transferred into a propaganda piece for the government following the takeover by a court assigning trustees with the accusation of “terrorist propaganda.” Similar to what happened at the Koza İpek Holding takeover late last year, reports show that the police entered the Zaman building by force, pushed journalists around and the process continued with key journalists being fired and the Zaman‘s Internet archives are feared to be erased. As of Monday afternoon Turkey time, the website of Zaman was currently inaccessible with an under construction note on display.

Zaman‘s Chief Editor Abdülhamit Bilici and Today’s Zaman‘s former Chief Editor Bülent Keneş were the first to be fired by the new management according to reports.

Zaman’s sister publication, English language daily Today’s Zaman‘s website seemed operational at the same hours but Sevgi Akarçeşme, chief editor of the daily, said that as far as she knows the archives of the newspapers are not erased but the trustees have unplugged the servers so no new content may be entered.

Today’s Zaman has a weekend edition that stays at the newsstands for Saturday and Sunday both. Both dailies’ teams have sent the Friday editions early before the trustees arrived with the police. Saturday edition of the Zaman was perceived as a government propaganda organ as many independent observers foreign and domestic. As for Today’s Zaman, Akarçeşme said the trustees censored all the columnists to be featured on the Monday edition so her team removed their names from the newspaper; refusing to work with censorship. She said two more stories were removed from the daily later on Sunday evening before the newspaper went to print.

Akarçeşme said: “The trustees said today: ‘I do not want any story in this newspaper that denigrates Turkey.’ By denigrating Turkey, they mean criticizing [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan.” She also said the trustees threatened the staff: “The trustees say if we write anything critical against the new policy, they would fire us without paying compensation.”

The court order assigned the trustees to the Feza Journalism Group which houses Zaman, Today’s Zaman and Cihan News Agency. Zaman was one of the top selling dailies of the country and Today’s Zaman was one of the two existing English language dailies critical of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Cihan News Agency is the only other news agency in the country big enough to cover the election results live other than state controlled Anatolia Agency.

Short updates from February so far

detained and/or hurt journalists (January 5-25)

  • Bianet reported: “Reporters will keep solidarity watch and make reports in cities under curfew to stick with their colleagues working under difficult situation… The reporters will go in groups every week to cities where curfews have been lasting and make reports there.” Reporters Head for Cities Under Curfew
  • Hürriyet Daily News reported: “In 2015, 774 journalists were fired, 484 legal actions were taken by judicial authorities, 200 press members and seven media companies were subjected to an investigation, 156 journalists were detained, court cases were opened against 238 journalists and at least 32 journalists were currently under arrest, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chair Sezgin Tanrıkulu said on Jan. 11.” 774 journalists fired, 156 detained last year in Turkey: CHP
  • Detained and released: DİHA reporter Fatih Gönül was briefly detained by the police in Ankara while reporting from a murder trial on January 7. Muhabirimiz serbest bırakıldı Daily Evrensel reporter Eda Aktaş was detained while covering a protest in İzmir on January 9 and then later released. Muhabirimiz Eda Aktaş ve 12 kadın serbest bırakıldı IMC TV’s reporters Bekir Coşkun and Mehmet Dursun were detained and released in Van on January 10. The journalists were investigating a shootout between police and suspected PKK members which ended in 12 deaths. imc tv muhabiri Bekir Güneş ve kameraman Mehmet Dursun serbest DİHA’s Mardin reporter Murat Verim was also detained and released on January 10 during a house raid. DİHA Mardin Muhabiri Murat Verim Gözaltında Alp Kayserilioğlu (Neues Deutschland & Junge Welt) and photographer Sinan Tangay were detained and released in Diyarbakır, near Sur Area where heavy clashes take place, on January 20 Dargeçit’te 2 gazeteci gözaltına alındı Mizgin Adım, Cizre reporter for JİNHA; was detained and released on January 21. JINHA muhabiri serbest bırakıldı
  • Hurt and/or threatened: Bianet reported: “Detention warrant has been issued on journalist Rıfat Tekin injured by bullet as he was following up report in Cizre, there are police officers on duty in front of the hospital where Tekin has been taken into.” Detention Warrant on Injured Journalist Rıfat Tekin DİHA’s Nedim Türfent from Hakkari was hit in the foot by a gas pallet on January 9 according to his own tweet and he was threatened by the police by a phone call according to a DİHA story from January 19. Türfent says a police officer who did not give his name called him and said “come to the police situation if you know what is good for you.” Türfent’s lawyer says there is no warrant against his client. Polisten Gazeteci Türfent’e: Emniyet’e gelmezsen senin için iyi olmaz! Türfent also had a terrorist propaganda” investigation started against him on January 21 for appearing on pro-PKK TV channels Med Nuçe and Stêrk TV. DİHA muhabirine Med Nuçe ve Stêrk TV soruşturması Journalist Mürsel Çoban said he was threatened with death by police in Diyarbakır. The police tried to detain the journalist on duty on January 12 and said “we would disappear you in trenches” according to Çoban’s Facebook post. Haber peşindeki gazeteciye JÖH’ten ‘seni kaybederiz’ tehdidi Evrensel reported on January 20: Amine Bozkurt, distributor for the daily Azadiya Welat in Tunceli, said she was threatened by the police. According to Bozkurt, a police car stopped by near her and they said “how could your family identify you if an accident happens?” Polislerden ‘Başına bir kaza gelirse ailen seni nasıl tanıyacak?’ tehdidi

Updates (Dec 24-Jan 05)

  • Hürriyet Daily News Reported: “A lawsuit has been opened against Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin with a demand that the journalist serve five years in prison for “insulting president” due to a report in the daily.” Hürriyet editor-in-chief faces five years in prison for ‘insulting president’
  • Today’s Zaman reported that the same court also accepted a similar case against former daily Zaman chief editor Ekrem Dumanlı: “A court in İstanbul accepted an indictment against former Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin on Dec. 15 for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in tweets, according to a report by the Zaman daily on Friday. The first hearing in the case is scheduled for March 25, 2016.” Journalists Dumanlı and Ergin to be tried for ‘insulting Erdoğan’
  • Bianet reported: “DİHA website that is blocked as of July 25 has been censored 28th time.” 28th Access Block against DİHA Political news website siyasihaber.org also announced with this tweet that their website is blocked by TİB and they have a new address. It is their first time. According to this tweet featuring the court document from İnternet freedom activist Yaman Akdeniz, TİB blocked 8 other sites alongside siyasihaber.org and 10 twitter accounts. Social media accounts of Kurdish journalists and news sources have been systematically banned by TİB throughout the year.
  • Cihan News Agency reported: “An İstanbul court rejected a request by the lawyers representing journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, who are under arrest, for their release on Friday.” Request to release journalists Dündar and Gül rejected again
  • Bianet reported: “Imprisoned journalist, Mehmet Baransu, has been fined on the grounds of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s wife, Emine Erdoğan; the court hasn’t postponed the penalty over ‘inclination to crime’.” Baransu Fined for Insulting Emine Erdoğan
  • Today’s Zaman reported: “Bülent Ceyhan, the Millet daily’s former desk editor who was fired in early November by the trustees appointed to the İpek Media Group, appeared in court on Thursday on charges of insulting Interior Minister Efkan Ala” for
    writing “in a report on April 29 that Ala had been using a state-owned private jet for his personal use despite not holding public office at the time.” Journalist Bülent Ceyhan faces trial for insulting interior minister
  • Today’s Zaman reported: “The Turkish journalists Union (TGS) and the Pak Medya-İş union organized a demonstration in front of Silivri Prison on Thursday during which they called for freedom for their imprisoned colleagues.” Journalists welcome new year in front of Silivri Prison in support of jailed colleagues
  • Harassing of Kurdish journalists continued as: “DİHA reporter, Merdan Berk, following up protests in Diyarbakır has been wounded in both of his legs.” DİHA Reporter Merdan Berk Injured in Both Legs & “[JİNHA] reporter Duygu Erol went to the street of Gazi where the curfew was lifted last week but still the siege of police continues,in order to cover the news. Police stoped and threatened her by using the sentences; ‘We’ll send you to the cemetery. if it was up to me, I would execute you.'” Police threaten our reporter! & Kurdsat News cameraman Baran Ok was detained on duty in Diyarbakır on December 31 and not released until January 4. In this video, his colleague is captured trying to convince the police to release Ok, saying “O benim Kameramanım” (He is my cameraman” which ended up as a hashtag on twitter for the demand of the journalist’s release.
  • Today’s Zaman reported: “An İstanbul prosecutor has launched an investigation into the Sözcü daily for allegedly insulting president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a puzzle published on the front page of its Jan. 1 edition.” Turkish daily faces investigation for ’insulting’ Erdoğan in puzzle

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