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.
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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.

Journalist detained, released after questioning

Journalist Fatih Yağmur, known for exposure of alleged MİT trucks in Syria, was detained in Adana and released after prosecutor questioning. The journalist were asked about the MİT trucks. Yağmur announced that he is free from his twitter account.

Fatih Yağmur serbest bırakıldı

Award-winning journalist Fatih Yağmur briefly detained in Adana

Detained Journalist Yağmur Released

Short updates November 6-12

‘Terrorism’ investigation against 26 Kurdish jouros and writers

According to Today’s Zaman, “twenty-six journalists — including editors-in-chief, editors and columnists — from two dailies and a news agency have given statements to a public prosecutor at the Istanbul Courthouse” The investigation is about claims of “propaganda” favoring the illegal Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Investigation against 26 Journalist and Columnists

26 journalists testify in court over promoting terrorist PKK

26 Gazeteci ve Yazara Soruşturma

Short updates from Turkey

T24 reported: two new investigations against columnist and noverlist Ahmet Altan were started for “insulting the president.” One of the investigations were started by the Justice ministry and another on the demand of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lawyers who say Altan’s comments are “insufferable.”

Erdoğan ve bakanlık şikâyet etti, Ahmet Altan’a Cumhurbaşkanı’na hakaret soruşturmaları açıldı

“Hawk columnist” pro-government journalist Cem Küçük continues to threaten dissident journalists and media owners constantly. Lately, he warned the staff of the Fox News Turkey to “be smart” (a polite form of threat, Turkish style). Küçük named Fox’s news editor Ercan Gün and saying they won’t be able to work with him. Totally losing it after last sunday’s election victory, Küçük said on live TV that “they” will decide media mogul Aydın Doğan’s fate and he should fire known journalists  Eyüp Can, Bülent Mumay and Nazlı Ilıcak to be on the good side of the government.

‘Şahin yazar’ Cem Küçük’ün listesinde sıra Fox TV’de: Arkadaşlar akıllı olsunlar

İşten atılacaklar listesi belirleyen Cem Küçük: Artık seni de biz yöneteceğiz Aydın Doğan

Short updates from Turkey (Oct 20-28)

  • A leaked video from February, featuring Presidental Advisor Mustafa Varank discussing pro-Hizmet channels to be removed from the TURKSAT sattelite with pro-government journalists at a TV studio has surfaced.

Video showing censorship plan by Erdoğan’s chief advisor sparks outrage

Jurists call for legal action against Erdoğan’s adviser for media censorship plot

  • After confiscating the undistributed issue of the Nokta magazine with the Erdoğan selfie cover, blocking access to noktadergisi.com, blocking access to a story about leaked meeting notes from the AKP officials, the government practiced “preliminary censorship” on Nokta by presenting a court order that what kind of news they will not be able to report. The mentioned meeting notes were part of a series but Nokta reported on October 21 that they received a court order that says they cannot continue to publish the alleged notes. Nokta also stated that the police confiscated their magazine’s latest issue from some central newsstands in Istanbul without a court order.

Nokta Dergisi’ne yönelik baskılar basın tarihinin görmediği yeni bir boyuta yükseldi

  • Hürriyet reported on October 24: 12 news websites were blocked from access in 4 days. As listed below:

562b7c64c03c0e3ab08e3ab6

Dört günde 12 haber sitesine erişim engeli

  • Diken reported: A trial started against police officer S.G. for breaking the nose of Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Feyyaz İmrak as he was covering a protest event. The cop is on trial without arrest and faces a year of imprisonment if found guilty and pleads not guilty.

DİHA muhabirinin burnunu kıran polisin bir yıl hapsi isteniyor

  • Regarding the latest developments in the Hrant Dink murder case:

Dink murder indictment returned to prosecutor for including Dinç as suspect

Intelligence unit is temporizing the Dink investigation with fabricated reports

25 years sought for police chief in Dink murder indictment

Gülenist police chiefs face life sentence over Dink murder

Former police intel chiefs face up to 25 years in jail over Hrant Dink murder

  • Cem Küçük, pro government journalist who is famous for threatening colleagues and recently questioned by the police regarding the attack on Ahmet Hakan did it again. Küçük threatened CNNTürk news presenter Nevşin Mengü with ending her journalism career. Küçük has testified that his previous threats to Hakan were “irony,” not threats. During a daytime live TV debate, Küçük claimed Hakan has published his adress and other private information in his column (not true) and Mengü showed that newspaper clip on CNNTürk. “Mengü will see… I will end her life in media” Küçük said. Mengü said she welcomes the challenge.

Cem Küçük Bu Sefer de Nevşin Mengü’yü Tehdit Etti

Armed assault on pro-gov media boss, accusations, confidentiality order

“Star Media Group Chairman Murat Sancak has been attacked on Thursday by gunmen. Sancak survived unscathed from the attack. Two assailants, who were reportedly wearing masks, have opened fired on Sancak’s car and fled the scene immediately” the daily Sabah has reported on August 20.

Star Media Group Chairman Murat Sancak attacked by gunmen in Istanbul

Despite Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said the attackers were apprehended in a live TV interview weeks later; this was not confirmed. However, opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the PM said the same thing to him too. Reports from October 12 say.

Kılıçdaroğlu asks PM to reveal details of attack on Star Media Group CEO

Then, it was claimed that the attack was related to a gambling debt of Sancak.

Questions deepen over attack on Star Media CEO

Columnist Özkök claims Star Media CEO lost $12 million via gambling

Is Erdoğan the guarantor behind media boss’s gambling debts?

Three arrests were made on October 15

3 arrested over attack on pro-gov’t Star Media CEO

Police says perpetrators of attack on Turkish media group head ‘related to criminal group’

And most recently, a confidentiality order is brought over the investigation

Confidentiality order issued for drive by shooting of pro-gov’t media chairman

Short updates from Turkey

Since it is expected of Turkey to produce a news ban for every major disaster or slaughter, the Ankara bombing got one too but this time the ban included “criticism” also, not just news coverage. Some dailies refused to recognize the ban but there were incidents that guests on live TV political debate shows were hesitant on deciding what they can say and what not.

Hürriyet Daily News reported:

“A media ban on the investigation into the twin bombings in Ankara on Oct. 10 has been criticized by politicians from the three opposition parties and jurists, while the Ankara Bar Association took legal action against the ban.An Ankara court issued on Oct. 14 a broad media ban including “all kinds of news, interviews, criticism and similar publications in print, visual, social media and all kinds of media on the Internet” covering the investigation into the deadly attack in the capital on Oct. 10.”

Media ban on Ankara blasts widely criticized

Both investigations against columnist Hasan Cemal for insulting the president are discontinued. The prosecutors of the both investigations came to the conclusion that Cemal’s related columns are within the boundaries of freedom of expression.

Gazeteci Hasan Cemal’e ‘Erdoğan’a hakaret’ten takipsizlik: İfade özgürlüğü

Another insulting the president investigation is started against the daily Evrensel for using a visual comparing Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Lords of the Rings character Gollum.

VISUAL

“Access to the web link of a report by the Nokta weekly, which reveals the minutes of a high-level meeting of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), was blocked upon an order from the AK Party, which has also launched an internal investigation to find out the identity of the mole who disclosed the information to Nokta” Today’s Zaman reported.

AK Party blocks access to leaked meeting minutes, seeks mole