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 ercishaberi.com 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.

Two Kurdish journalists arrested over social media posts

It was reported that a group of 10 journalists were detained and harnessed in Van on Friday where clashes between Kurdish rebels and security forces are ongoing as many other eastern and southeastern cities of Turkey.

Reporters from DİHA, İMC TV assaulted and detained by police

Van’da On Gazeteciye Gözaltı

While the names of the 10 journalists were not listed in the press properly, it was reported on Saturday that two journalists from the group were arrested while the others were released.

According to Bianet, İdris Yılmaz (Dicle News Agency/DİHA) and Vildan Atmaca (Women’s News Agency/JİNHA) were arrested on Saturday. Yılmaz is accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by sharing a caricature of him on social media while Atmaca is accused of terrorism propaganda for sharing the photograph of a Kurdish journalist killed by the ISIS.

DİHA ve JİNHA Muhabirleri Tutuklandı

Two reporters for DIHA and JINHA remanded in custody

Reporters arrested for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan, ’terrorist propaganda’ in eastern Turkey

Nokta editors arrested

Cevheri Güven and Murat Çapan, chief editor and news editor of the weekly news magazine Nokta, were detained by the police in Istanbul on November 2 and arrested by court the day after for “provoking the people to armed resistance against the government” (Turkish Penal Code TCK 313/1). The offense is punishable by 15 to 20 years jail time if the case makes it to trial with this charge standing and the journalists found guilty.

The court also practiced the Article 100 of the Law of Criminal Procedure for the cause of arrest as it is common with such cases. It is a lengthy article listing the justifications of arrest before trial and allowing arrest for charges such as those against the “national security” and “constitutional order.”

The cover for the November 2 issue of Nokta was first shared on the social media accounts of the magazine on the election night November 1; after it became clear that the Justice and Development Party scored a surprise win and received almost half the vote against expectations. The cover features a daily calendar sheet for November 2, transparent over President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s face, and the red line below reads “The beginning of the Turkey civil war.”

According to the documents shared by Nokta, Istanbul Prosecutor Umut Tepe sent an order to the police to detain Çapan and Güven to be questioned about the cover according to Turkish Penal Code 214/1-2 for provoking the people to commit crimes. According to the documents shared by Nokta, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of Istanbul also applied to the 5th Istanbul Court of Penal Peace and got a confiscation order for the printed copies of the last issue on November 2. Nokta’s website is also blocked from access in Turkey according a November 3 tweet from their account. Reports say the 5th Ankara Court of Penal Peace ordered the block for noktadergisi.net.

The journalists were detained at their offices on Monday and transferred to the 8th Istanbul Court of Penal Peace on Tuesday with a demand of arrest from Tepe. According to court documents shared by Nokta, Güven and Çapan both denied wrongdoing. They said the cover is about the expected chaos atmosphere in post-election Turkey according to the violent statements from both the government and the opposition; adding that it is not possible to provoke the people to start a civil war with a magazine cover. However the court said both suspects are responsible according to the 11th Article of the Press Law and there is strong suspicion of guilt according to the presented content; arresting the journalists as the details are explained above.

This latest incarnation of the 1980’s legendary weekly news magazine Nokta is a publication known to be close to the Fethullah Gülen.Therefore, Nokta is fiercely against the government and received harsh reactions from the government and the judicial system whether it be raided offices, blocked news, confiscated issues and detained journalists in the past months.

Columnist detained in Izmir, Arrested in Istanbul

Gültekin Avcı, columnist for the daily Bugün and lawyer, was detained by Turkish police in Izmir on September 18 and arrested by an Istanbul court on September 21.

Avcı and seven police personnel were detained in Izmir and Istanbul by anti-terror police on the 18th and they (all but one cop who was released after police questioning) were brought to Istanbul according to reports. The on-duty court was the 2nd Istanbul Court of Penal Peace which the suspects were transferred with a demand of arrest by the prosecution. The court arrested Avcı and 3 others. There is no known date for trial. The charges against Avcı are attempting to overthrow the government, founding and running a terrorist organization and obtaining secret documents of the government.

The columnist is sent behind bars pending trial in scope of the investigation publicly known as “Selam Tevhid.” Avcı is a former prosecutor and a part of the legal team that defends Samanyolu Broadcast Group Chair Hayrettin Karaca who was arrested in a former operation in this investigation.

VICE reporters arrested in Diyarbakır

A Turkish court leveled formal charges of terrorism at two VICE News journalists and their colleague on Monday, as global rights groups have called for the reporters to be released.

VICE News Condemns Turkish Government Over Detention of Its Journalists on Terrorism Charges

The details of the arrest and what the journalists are charged with was shady due to the court order of secrecy on the investigation. Internet newspaper Radikal’s İsmail Saymaz reported today that the journalists were detained by the police with the suspicion of collaboration with ISIS but they were questioned about PKK due to the recordings on their cameras.

According to the story, an anonymous informant called the police on August 27 and said journalist Jacop Philip John Gingell-Hanrahan, cameraman Philip John Pendlebury, fixer Muhammed İsmail Resul and driver Abdurrahman Direkçi were collaborating with the ISIS. The police detained the four with this claim but they were questioned about PKK, not ISIS. The journalists were questioned about their camera recordings (including scenes from clashes and interviews with Kurdish rebels) and personal notes on the PKK.

The prosecution transferred the suspects to the Diyarbakır 2nd Court of Public Peace with a demand of arrest. The court released the driver and arrested the other three for “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed organization despite not being featured in its hierarchy.” The 100th article of the  Criminal Procedure of Turkey was the base of the arrest order. The article is about the courts’ authority to arrest with the justifications of the possibility of suspects’ escape and the presence of reasonable evidence or suspicion that a crime was committed.

İngiliz gazetecileri IŞİD’çi diye alıp ‘PKK’ya yardım’dan tutuklamışlar

CNN Turkey also reported that the journalists did not have the necessary accreditation papers required to operate in Turkey.