MEDIA FREEDOM
Turkey: Press freedom violations August 2019
17 Sep 2019
BY INDEX ON CENSORSHIP

Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project tracks press freedom violations in five countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Learn more.

18 Incidents

BirGün journalists to stand trial for news coverage

30 August 2019 – Four journalists from BirGün daily — İbrahim Aydın, Barış İnce, Can Uğur and Bülent Yılmaz — were charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” in a new indictment. The accusation stems from the journalists’ reporting about posts from before the year 2016 by the Twitter account that used the pseudonym “Fuat Avni,” Bianet reported.

The 16-page indictment was recently accepted by the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which will be overseeing the case. The indictment claims that the newspaper’s reporting about “Fuat Avni” helped “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ/PDY)” in their attempts to manipulate public opinion.

Link(s):

http://bianet.org/bianet/ifade-ozgurlugu/212463-birgun-gazetesine-algi-operasyonu-davasi

https://ahvalnews.com/turkish-journalism/turkish-journalists-face-legal-action-years-old-reports-tweets-whistleblower

Categories: Criminal Charges / Fines / Sentences

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

UPDATE: Journalist Mehmet Baransu ordered to remain behind bars at end of 21st hearing

Mehmet Baransu

29 August 2019 – The trial of former executives of the shuttered Taraf daily and reporter Mehmet Baransu for allegedly publishing a secret military document called the “Egemen Operation Plan” resumed on 27 August 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, P24 reported.

Baransu, the only jailed defendant in the case, who was brought to the courtroom from the Silivri Prison accompanied by gendarmerie, continued presenting his defense statement on the first day of the hearing, which was planned to continue for three days.

Taraf’s former executives Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur were not in attendance because they are exempt from personal appearance in court. The hearing scheduled for 28 August did not take place because the court failed to send a summons to the Silivri Prison for Baransu to be brought to the courthouse.

Baransu continued making his defense statement on the third day of the hearing on 29 August. In its interim ruling at the end of that hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Mehmet Baransu’s detention on remand on the grounds of “the nature and type of the alleged crime” and because he “has still not completed his defense statement.” The court set 10-11-12 December 2019 as the dates for the next hearing.

Link(s):

https://twitter.com/P24DavaTakip/status/1166239774442700800?s=20

Categories: Criminal Charges / Fines / Sentences

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

DHA reporter Ümit Uzun briefly detained

29 August 2019 – Ümit Uzun, a reporter for Demirören News Agency (DHA), was taken into custody in Istanbul as he was covering a news story for the agency.

Uzun was arrested and handcuffed behind his back as he was interviewing the owner of a store in the Gaziosmanpaşa district, where a car crashed into. The grounds for Uzun’s arrest was “disrupting the scene of the accident.” Uzun was released after interrogation. After being released, the journalist filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office about the officers who arrested him.

Link(s):

https://tele1.com.tr/dha-muhabirine-ters-kelepce-ile-gozaltina-alindi-80231/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dpH1hElhuI

http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/212451-journalist-handcuffed-behind-the-back-during-news-follow-up

Categories: Criminal Charges / Fines / Sentences

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

Local reporter injured by gunshot in Turkey’s Balıkesir

29 August 2019 – A local reporter in Turkey’s western town of Balıkesir was wounded by a gunshot on his foot fired by two unidentified assailants in front of his home in the early hours of 29 August.

Levent Uysal, who was the owner and publisher of the local newspaper Balıkesir Yenigün which recently closed down due to economic reasons, was taken to the hospital following the attack.

Uysal said the assault occurred around 1 a.m. at night. Two unidentified people wearing helmets approached him to ask for an address and fired six gunshots before taking off on motorcycles, he said.

The journalist said the police had obtained footage showing the assailants performing surveillance nearby his house a few days ahead of the attack. He added that he thought the attack was organized. “I’m not involved in any vendettas or inheritance dispute. I’ve recently made reports that disturbed and disfavored some [individuals],” he told local media according to DW Turkish. “I think that [the assailants] were instigated by them,” he said requesting from officials a thorough investigation into the case.

Uysal explained his reports were looking to shed light on the favors granted by high officials of the Balıkesir Metropolitan Municipality to their relatives as well as the establishment of new cliques in local institutions. “Questioning and monitoring those who work to serve the public is my task. If [my reports] contain errors or slanders I am ready to be held accountable of it,” he said. No trial or criminal investigation was launched for his reporting so far, Uysal said.

He also said he had to stop printing his newspaper and added that it was impossible for local media to survive without the support of local institutions.

The attack against Uysal came after a wave of attacks targeting journalists, including local reporters, during a heated local elections campaign. The attack was condemned by Balıkesir Journalists’ Association, Reporters Without Borders and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

Link(s):

https://www.dw.com/tr/gazeteci-uysal-haberlerim-nedeniyle-sald%C4%B1r%C4%B1ya-u%C4%9Frad%C4%B1m/a-50264071

https://www.tv100.com/balikesirde-levent-uysala-silahli-saldiri-haber-467190

https://www.haberturk.com/balikesir-haberleri/71443855-gazeteci-uysala-silahli-saldiri

Categories: Physical Assault / Injury

Source of violation: Unknown

UPDATE: Journalists arrested in Mardin released after police interrogation

26 August 2019 – Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporters Ahmet Kanbal and Mehmet Şah Oruç, JinNews reporter Rojda Aydın and journalists Nurcan Yalçın and Halime Parlak, who were arrested in Mardin on 20 August 2019, were released late on 26 August after giving their statements at the Mardin Police Department, Mezoptamya news agency reported.

All five journalists were arrested as they were covering demonstrations in Mardin in protest of the government’s recent removal of the mayors of Mardin, Diyarbakır and Van from office. They were held in custody for six days before being released. During police interrogation, all five were asked what they were doing on the scene of the protests. Oruç said after they were released that they were handcuffed behind their back while they were being arrested. The journalists also said in a statement that they were subjected to strip searches at the police department.

Reporter Yelda Özbek, who was arrested the same day in Diyarbakır, was released from custody on 21 August. The detention period of the five journalists under arrest in Mardin was extended for four more days on 23 August.

Link(s):

http://mezopotamyaajansi20.com/tum-haberler/content/view/67136?page=4

https://www.dw.com/tr/adil-demircinin-yurt-d%C4%B1%C5%9F%C4%B1-yasa%C4%9F%C4%B1-kald%C4%B1r%C4%B1ld%C4%B1/a-49218483

https://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/adil-demirci-darf-offenbar-die-tuerkei-verlassen-a-1272830.html

Categories: Arrest / Detention / Interrogation

Source of violation: Police / State security

UPDATE: Journalists arrested in Diyarbakır released after seven days in custody

26 August 2019 – Tümen Anlı, the press and media relations officer for the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), and Vedat Dağ, the press relations officer for the Diyarbakır branch of People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were released under judicial control measures by a court on 26 August after spending seven days in custody. They were both arrested as part of operations on the heels of the government’s removal of the mayors of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van from office late on 18 August.

Dağ said all 16 questions he was asked during his interrogation at the police department were about why he attended press statements by the HDP. Ziyan Karahan, an editor for the Mezopotamya news agency who was arrested as part of the same operation, was released on 22 August. Anlı and Dağ’s custody period was extended until 26 August.

Link(s):

http://mezopotamyaajansi20.com/tum-haberler/content/view/67503

Categories:  Arrest / Detention / Interrogation

Source of violation: Police / State security

Evrensel writer Ayşegül Tözeren released kept three days in custody

23 August 2019 – Ayşegül Tözeren, a medical doctor, writer, literary critic and a columnist for Evrensel daily, was taken into custody on 20 August 2019 during a midnight police raid on her Istanbul home.

The raid was conducted on the grounds of an anonymous “tip-off,” daily Evrensel reported. Tözeren was barred from seeing her lawyer during the first 24-hour period of her detention.

After having been held in custody for three days, Tözeren was brought to the Istanbul Courthouse on 23 August. The prosecutor investigating her file referred her to court for release under judicial control measures, without taking her statement. The 4th Istanbul Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to release Tözeren under an international travel ban. The court minutes showed that Tözeren is a suspect in an ongoing investigation launched for “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Link(s):

https://www.evrensel.net/haber/385154/yazarimiz-edebiyatci-aysegul-tozeren-gozaltina-alindi

https://medyascope.tv/2019/08/20/edebiyatci-aysegul-tozeren-gozaltina-alindi/

https://www.dw.com/tr/ay%C5%9Feg%C3%BCl-t%C3%B6zeren-serbest-b%C4%B1rak%C4%B1ld%C4%B1/a-50140785

Categories: Arrest / Detention / Interrogation

Source of violation: Police / State security

Two journalists briefly arrested in relation with protests, charged by court

23 August 2019 – Taylan Özgür Öztaş, a reporter for Özgür Gelecek newspaper, was arrested on 22 August 2019 in a midnight police raid on his home in Istanbul, P24 reported. He was arrested based on the claim that he took part in a demonstration on 20 August in Kadıköy in protest of the government-appointed trustees of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van.

Another Istanbul-based journalist, Tunahan Turhan, a reporter for the Etkin news agency (ETHA), was also taken into custody in Istanbul on 22 August. Turhan was detained following a criminal record check by the police in Kadıköy. The reporter was in Kadıköy to cover a demonstration by the HDP’s local branch in protest of the removal of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van mayors from office.

Both Öztaş and Turhan were brought to the Anatolian Courthouse on Istanbul’s Asian side on 23 August. There, they first gave their statements to a prosecutor, who referred both journalists to a court for release. The court released both journalists under judicial control measures.

Link(s):

https://tele1.com.tr/istanbulda-ev-baskinlari-ozgur-gelecek-muhabiri-taylan-oztasin-aralarinda-bulundugu-8-kisi-gozaltina-alindi-78226/

https://ilerihaber.org/icerik/besiktasta-kadinlarin-kayyumlara-karsi-yaptigi-eyleme-polis-saldirdi-102486.html

https://gazetekarinca.com/2019/08/istanbulda-ev-baskinlarinda-gozaltina-alinanlar-serbest/

Categories: Physical Assault / Injury

Source of violation: Police / State security

Local journalist Sami Harunlar assaulted in Mersin

23 August 2019 – Mersin-based journalist Sami Harunlar, the owner of the local newspaper Barış (Peace), was attacked by armed assailants near his home in Tarsus, Demirören News Agency reported.

The 58-year-old journalist was injured in the assault carried out by two unidentified men. Harunlar was hospitalized following the incident. Police has launched an investigation into the attack.

Link(s):

http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/tarsusta-gazeteciye-silahli-saldiri-41310153

https://www.mersinportal.com/tarsus/mersinde-gazeteci-sami-harunlara-silahli-saldiri-h51517.html

http://gazetekarinca.com/2019/08/mersinde-gazeteci-sami-harunlara-silahli-saldiri/

Categories: Physical Assault / Injury

Source of violation: Unknown

Journalist and video activist Oktay İnce briefly detained in İzmir

22 August 2019 – Oktay İnce, a member of the video activist collective Seyri Sokak, was taken into custody on 22 August in Izmir, online news website Gazete Duvar reported. He was arrested along with 26 lawyers from the Izmir Bar Association as he was covering the lawyers’ press statement protesting the removal of Mardin, Diyarbakır and Van mayors from office.

İnce was taken to the Izmir Police Department. He was released the same day after giving his giving his statement at the police department.

Link(s):

https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/gundem/2019/08/22/kayyim-protestosunda-26-avukata-gozalti/

https://www.evrensel.net/haber/386132/izmirde-hdpli-vekillerin-kayyum-eylemi-yine-engellendi

https://www.birgun.net/haber/izmir-deki-kayyum-eylemine-polis-saldirisi-26-avukat-gozaltina-alindi-265843

Categories: Arrest / Detention / Interrogation

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

Six journalists arrested while covering protests against government

20 August 2019 – Six journalists were arrested on 20 Auguıst 2019 in Mardin and Diyarbakır as they were covering public demonstrations in both cities in protest of the government’s recent removal of the mayors of Mardin, Diyarbakır and Van from office.

Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporters Ahmet Kanbal and Mehmet Şah Oruç, Jinnews reporter Rojda Aydın and journalists Nurcan Yalçın and Halime Parlak were arrested in Mardin while reporter Yelda Özbek was arrested in Diyarbakır.

Police dispersed the crowds who gathered in front of Diyarbakır and Mardin municipalities. The reporters were arrested as they were taking pictures of the protesting crowds.

Link(s):

https://www.bbc.com/turkce/live/haberler-turkiye-49381649

https://www.evrensel.net/haber/385164/diyarbakir-mardin-van-istanbul-ve-ankarada-kayyum-eylemlerine-polis-saldirdi

https://www.gazetefersude.net/kayyum-protestolari-mardin-ve-diyarbakirda-6-gazeteci-gozaltina-alindi-70762/

Categories: Arrest / Detention / Interrogation

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

Four journalists arrested in Diyarbakır during police operations

19 August 2019 – Four journalists were taken into custody o9 in Diyarbakır as part of sweeping operations across several cities. The operations followed immediately on the heels of the removal of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van mayors from office late on 18 August by the government, which appointed trustees to run these three cities.

The Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reported on Monday that Ziyan Karahan, an editor for the agency’s Kurdish edition, was arrested during a raid on her home in Diyarbakır as part of the operations. MA said Karahan was brought to the Diyarbakır Police Department’s anti-terror branch. The grounds for Karahan’s arrest were not immediately disclosed.

Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) Diyarbakır representative Mahmut Oral told P24 that journalist Tümen Anlı, the press and media relations officer for the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), Vedat Dağ, the press relations officer for the Diyarbakır branch of People’s Democratic Party (HDP), and Özgür Ülke, the press relations officer for the local Bismil Municipality, were also taken into custody during Monday’s raids.

The four journalists were among a total of 418 individuals, who also included local HDP politicians and municipal employees, arrested as part of the operations that took place in the early hours of Monday.

Link(s):

http://gazetekarinca.com/2019/08/diyarbakirda-gazeteci-ziyan-karahan-gozaltina-alindi/

https://nupel.net/mezopotamya-editoru-karahan-gozaltina-alindi-41244h.html

Categories: Arrest / Detention / Interrogation

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

Journalist Ergin Çağlar kept four days in custody

20 August 2019 – Journalist Ergin Çağlar, a Mersin-based reporter for Mezopotamya news agency, was arrested on 16 August 2019 at the Mersin Courthouse where he had gone to give his statement as part of an ongoing criminal investigation against him. He was released under judicial control measures by a Mersin court on 20 August after spending four days in custody, Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Çağlar’s apartment in Mersin was raided on 14 August as part of an investigation by the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which had also issued an arrest warrant for the journalist.

Çağlar was brought to the Mersin Police Department for interrogation after being arrested at the Mersin Courthouse. The journalist is charged with “membership in a terrorist group” and a confidentiality order was in place concerning the investigation.

Link(s):

https://www.evrensel.net/haber/384862/gazeteci-ergin-caglar-serbest-birakildi-2

http://bianet.org/bianet/diger/211932-gazeteci-ergin-caglar-serbest-birakildi

https://gazetekarinca.com/2019/08/gazeteci-ergin-caglar-serbest-birakildi/

Categories: Arrest / Detention / Interrogation

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

PİRHA reporter briefly arrested in Ankara

9 August 2019 – Cebrail Arslan, a reporter for the Pir News Agency (PİRHA) was arrested on 8 August 2019 along with five other people during a raid on his home in Ankara, online news website Gazete Karınca reported.

Arslan and the five other people were released one day after giving their statement. News reports said the six people were questioned in relation to their involvement in protests, called “White Flag,” against the military operations and curfews in civilian areas of the Southeast in 2016,

Link(s):

https://gazetekarinca.com/2019/08/pirha-muhabiri-cebrail-arslan-serbest-birakildi/

https://www.pirha.net/ajans-calisanimiz-cebrail-arslan-gozaltina-alindi-183437.html/08/08/2019/

Categories: Arrest / Detention / Interrogation

Source of violation: Police / State security

UPDATE: Journalist İdris Yılmaz’s trial adjourned

8 August 2019 – A court in the eastern province of Van ruled to keep imprisoned journalist İdris Yılmaz in pre-trial detention, online news website Artı Gerçek reported. The hearing was the first one after two separate cases where he is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” were merged.

Yılmaz was previously sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison but his sentence was overturned by an appellate court, which ordered re-trial. This case was then merged with another ongoing one in which Yılmaz is again charged with “membership of a terrorist organization.” Yılmaz attended the court hearing via court video-conferencing system from a prison in Elazığ further west, where he is held since his arrest.

The court ruled for Yılmaz’s continued pre-trial detention at the end of the hearing and adjourned the trial until 27 September.

Link(s):

https://www.artigercek.com/haberler/gazeteci-yilmaz-pkk-uyeliginden-ceza-aldi-karar-bylock-olarak-cikti

https://www.gazetefersude.net/tutuklu-gazeteci-idris-yilmaz-kuskusuz-tarih-ozgur-kalemlerin-karanliklari-aydinlatmak-ugruna-surdurdukleri-mucadeleyi-yazacaktir-69477/

https://twitter.com/ArtiTV_/status/1159821875486367744?s=20

Categories: Criminal Charges / Fines / Sentences

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

Court blocks access to 135 web sources, including Gazete Fersude and ETHA

7 August 2019 – The Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace has ruled for access to a total of 136 websites, web pages and social media accounts.

Among the websites blocked by the decision are those of news portal Gazete Fersude and Etkin News Agency (ETHA). The website geziyisavunuyoruz.org, which follows the trial of Osman Kavala and 15 others facing the charge of “attempting the overthrow the government” for their involvement in the Gezi protests, is also among those that were blocked for allegedly violating Turkey’s Internet law.

The ruling dated 16 July 2019 was rendered in response to a complaint submitted on the same day by the Gendarmerie Command which claimed that the mentioned sites violated Article 8/A of the Law No. 5651, which covers online publication and cyber-crimes.

The law allows judges to order removal of content or block access on one or more of the following grounds: to protect the right of life or security of life and property, to protect national security and public order, to prevent the commission of a crime, or to protect public health.

The ruling to block access to ETHA’s website etha10.com.tr, geziyisavunuyoruz.org and Gazete Fersude’s website gazetefersude.com was implemented following the decision of the Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace. Among the 136 Internet sources that the court ordered banned are websites and social media accounts including numerous Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest pages.

Details pertaining to the court decision that were obtained by bianet’s lawyer later revealed that bianet.org was erroneously included in the list of URLs to be blocked, although decision remains in effect for 135 other web addresses. Court documents obtained on 7 August by lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu showed that the complainant Gendarmerie Command had applied to the Ankara 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 17 July, stating that bianet.org was erroneously included in the list and requesting that the court decision be revised accordingly. The court, in response, issued a decision saying the order to block access to bianet.org was removed while the decision remains valid for the remaining 135 web URLs.

Link(s):

https://bianet.org/1/19/211456-bianet-in-engellenmesi-karari-sehven-135-adres-hala-yasakli

https://www.independentturkish.com/node/59601/medya/jandarma-bianet%E2%80%99-engellenmesi-karar%C4%B1n%C4%B1-%E2%80%98sehven%E2%80%99-talep-etmi%C5%9F

http://gazetekarinca.com/2019/08/135-adres-hala-yasakli-bianetin-engellenmesi-karari-sehven-alinmis/

Categories: Censorship

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

Regulation bringing online broadcasting under TV watchdog’s control goes into effect

1 August 2019 – A regulation that gives Turkey’s radio and television watchdog RTÜK tha authority to supervise content streamed online formally went into effect upon its publication in the Official Gazette.

The regulation, which raised concerns over possible censorship, makes it mandatory for online media content providers to obtain broadcasting licenses and permits from RTÜK, in return for significant sums. It also allows RTÜK to supervise content provided by them and introduce sanctions in case of non-compliance with broadcasting principles.

Streaming platforms like Netflix, local streaming platforms PuhuTV and BluTV will now be subject to RTÜK supervision and potential fines or loss of their license.

In addition to subscription services like Netflix, free online news outlets will also be subject to the same measures. Providers will be required to pay TL 10,000 (around $ 1,800) to get a license to provide radio services while TV and subscription-based service providers will need to pay TL 100,000 (around $ 18,000).

Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor and a cyber rights specialist, said access to the Netflix platform or to news outlets broadcasting from abroad could be blocked. Akdeniz also commented that media outlets such as Turkish services of the BBC or Deutsche Welle, which have emerged as sources of news not subject to government control over the past years, were possible intended targets of the regulation.

Kerem Altıparmak, a human rights lawyer, said the move was the “biggest step in Turkish censorship history” and said all outlets producing opposition news would be affected. “Everyone who produces alternative news and broadcasts will be impacted by this regulation,” Altıparmak wrote on Twitter. “Every news report that can be against the government will be taken under control.”

Link(s):

http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2019/08/20190801-5.htm

https://www.dw.com/tr/internet-televizyonlar%C4%B1na-rt%C3%BCk-denetimi-geldi/a-49841223

https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-49193378
https://bianet.org/1/13/211163-internetten-yayinlar-rtuk-denetimine-alindi

Categories: Legal Measures

Source of violation: Government / State Agency / Public official(s) / Political party

Online news websites T24 and Diken face terrorism investigation

1 August 2019 – The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against a group of media outlets, including independent news websites T24 and Diken, on the charge of “supporting a terrorist group without being its member.” Both websites are under scrutiny for reporting on Twitter posts of an anonymous account called “Fuat Avni” nearly five years ago.

T24 reported that the investigation was subject to a confidentiality order and that it was not clear what media outlets other than T24 and Diken were involved. It said editors and executives of T24 who worked there in 2014-2016 were summoned by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to give statements as part of the investigation.

Those summoned were asked questions on why they reported on “Fuat Avni” tweets, who prepared the reports and whether they had received any instructions to report on the tweets.

The account under the “Fuat Avni” nickname, which has since been deactivated, shared alleged inside information on secret dealings of then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other government members.

Link(s):

https://t24.com.tr/haber/t-24-ve-diken-in-de-aralarinda-bulundugu-bir-grup-siteye-fuat-avni-tweetlerini-neden-haber-yaptiniz-sorusturmasi,833117

https://www.independentturkish.com/node/57451/haber/t24-ve-dikene-fuat-avni-tweetlerini-haberle%C5%9Ftirdi%C4%9Fi-i%C3%A7in-fet%C3%B6-soru%C5%9Fturmas%C4%B1

https://www.birgun.net/haber/t24-ve-diken-e-fuat-avni-sorusturmasi-263707

Categories: Criminal Charges / Fines / Sentences

Source of violation: Court / Judicial

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