Press In Arrest October 2020 Press Freedom Report

3 JOURNALISTS APPEARED BEFORE A JUDGE PER DAY!

Nov. 6, 2020

In October in Turkey, in at least 45 press-related trials in 7 provinces, at least 74 journalists were prosecuted.

In the trials concerning these 74 journalists, the prosecutor’s offices,
demanded 3 counts of aggravated life sentences, and a total of 321 years 6 months to 916 years 4 months 15 days in prison.

Introduction and Methodology

Press in Arrest is an initiative founded to monitor, document, and commit to memory the prosecution of journalists in Turkey. Its objective is helping to restore the freedoms of press, thought and expression, and the people’s right to receive news.

Our monitoring efforts cover the entirety of legal proceedings, from the investigation stage to the conclusion of the trial.

We collect information on indictments, decisions reached in hearings, demands by the prosecutors and defense lawyers, district courts’ verdicts, and the appeal procedures at the courts of appeal and Court of Cassation (Yargıtay).

We gather this information through the analysis of the indictments, first-hand observation of hearings, direct interviews with the journalists on trial and their lawyers, as well as media monitoring.

Press in Arrest also issues “Hearing Observation Reports” concerning the hearings that it follows.

These hearing observation reports about the trials against journalists feature information on the circumstances prior to the hearing, procedures in the courtroom and during the hearing, demands by the prosecutors and lawyers; general observations about the hearings; as well as an evaluation of compliance with the criteria for “the right to a fair trial”.

Press in Arrest has gathered all the information it has collected during 2 years of monitoring efforts in its “Journalist Trials Database”.

Press in Arrest shares this information with the domestic and international community via the “Press Freedom Reports” issued on a monthly basis.

These reports are based on the information accessed by Press in Arrest, and do not claim to be exhaustive of all the information across Turkey.
More than one journalist may be on trial in one case, a journalist may stand trial in multiple cases, a journalist may appear before a judge more than once in a month in one or more cases; all of which may lead to differences between the total figure and subcategories.

Executive Summary

Barriers before the “the people’s right to receive news” crystallized this time in the detainment of 4 journalists who reported on the allegation that security forces had detained two citizens in Van and then threw them out of a helicopter.

The judiciary continued to be weaponized against journalists in Turkey, as confirmed by the fact that every day in October, an average of 3 journalists were obliged to defend in a courtroom their profession and the people’s right to receive news.

In October in Turkey, in at least 45 press-related trials in 7 provinces, at least 74 journalists were prosecuted. 21 of them were women.

In the trials concerning these 74 journalists, the prosecutor’s offices,
demanded 3 counts of aggravated life sentences, and a total of 321 years 6 months to 916 years 4 months 15 days in prison.

Women journalists appearing in court faced a total of 70 years 3 months 15 days to 185 years 8 months in prison.

In the legal proceedings during October,

  • 1 journalist was charged without a “legal justification”.

  • 26 journalists, 7 of whom were women, were charged with “terrorism” offences.

  • 8 journalists stood trial for allegedly “insulting the President”.

  • 10 journalists, including 4 women, were acquitted.

  • 4 journalists were sentenced to a total of 7 years 11 months of imprisonment and 500 TL of administrative fine.

  • The controversial “Simple Trial Procedure” was implemented in a trial against a journalist for the first time.

  • Panels of judges changed in trials concerning 40 journalists.

  • The “publicity of trial” principle was violated 32 times.

  • The “presumption of innocence” principle was violated 3 times.

  • The trials of at least 43 journalists prosecuted in October were adjourned until 2021.

Highlights from the legal proceedings:

  • Bank accounts of journalists will be examined to determine whether they made any financial gain via their social media posts and news stories.

Due to a 2018 news story about the “economic crisis linked to the depreciation of the Turkish Lira vis-à-vis the dollar”, 6 journalists stand trial for allegedly “violating the Capital Market Law”.

Back then, the USD-TRY exchange rate had shot up in two weeks from 4.70 TL to 7 TL as a political crisis erupted between the United States and Turkey for the imprisonment of pastor Andrew Brunson pending trial.

The prosecutor alleged that the news story “includes fabricated and ill-intentioned allegations to give the impression that our country’s banking and financial system is in dire straits”.

At the end of the fourth hearing, held in October, the court ruled to examine the journalists’ bank accounts to determine whether they made any financial gain from their news reports and social media posts.

  • Prosecutor requested sentence for a journalist without presenting a “justification”

Journalist Ender İmrek stands trial for an article he penned in June 2019 as regards President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s wife Emine Erdoğan’s French-made bag allegedly worth 50 thousand dollars.

In the third hearing of the trial, in October, the prosecutor requested that İmrek be sentenced. However, he did not present a “justification” for this request.

Lawyers objected to the prosecutor’s “judicial opinion without justification”. The judge overruled their objection.

As the debate between the lawyers and the judge raged on, the hearing prosecutor stated, “You must understand that my judicial opinion provides ample information.”

The trial was adjourned to receive İmrek’s defense against this “judicial opinion without justification.”

  • “Simple trial procedure” employed in a press trial for the first time.

The “simple trial procedure” was added to the judiciary system with the legal amendment popularly known as the 1. Judiciary Reform Package.

Accordingly, the legal proceedings concerning certain charges can be conducted on the basis of the case file, without holding a hearing.

Journalist Hikmet Tunç, who is charged with “insulting a state official on duty”, and his lawyer accepted the “simple trial procedure”. Accordingly, no hearings will be held during the legal proceedings, the defense statements and evidence will be presented in writing, and in case of a prison sentence, the prison term will be reduced by one fourth.

In the month of October, journalists had to face not only these ongoing legal proceedings, but also new investigations and lawsuits, as well as arrests:

  • At least 9 journalists faced a new investigation and/or criminal complaint, was detained or summoned to testify.
  • New lawsuits were brought against at least 2 journalists.
  • 4 journalists were arrested.

The full report:

3 JOURNALISTS APPEARED BEFORE A JUDGE PER DAY!

Barriers before the “the people’s right to receive news” crystallized this time in the detainment of 4 journalists who reported on the allegation that security forces had detained two citizens in Van and then threw them out of a helicopter.

The judiciary continued to be weaponized against journalists in Turkey, as confirmed by the fact that every day in October, an average of 3 journalists were obliged to defend in a courtroom their profession and the people’s right to receive news.

In October in Turkey,

  • In at least 45 press-related trials in 7 provinces, at least 74 journalists were prosecuted. 21 of them were women.

In the trials concerning these 74 journalists, the prosecutor’s offices,
demanded 3 counts of aggravated life sentences, and a total of 321 years 6 months to 916 years 4 months 15 days of imprisonment.

Women journalists appearing in court faced a total of 70 years 3 months 15 days to 185 years 8 months in prison.

At least 3 journalists appeared in court for lawsuits where a total of 300 thousand TL was requested in moral compensation.

  • 7 journalists appeared in court more than once this month:

4 journalists (Taylan Özgür Öztaş, Hazal Ocak, Alican Uludağ, Ahmet Altan) each stood trial in two separate courts for two separate cases.

3 journalists (Sabiha Temizkan, Necla Demir, Arafat Dayan) each appeared before a judge twice in the same court for the same case.

  • 30 journalists were prosecuted in high criminal courts, and 44 in criminal courts of first instance:

At least 30 journalists appeared before a judge in high criminal courts.

Trials against at least 44 journalists continued at criminal courts of first instance.

Under the scope of lawsuits for damages, 2 journalists appeared in a civil court of first instance, and 1 journalist in a commercial court of first instance.

  • 26 journalists were charged as per the “Anti-Terror Law”:

At least 26 journalists had to present their defense statements against charges of terrorism offenses.

At least 6 journalists were charged with “membership of an armed terror organization,” and at least 3 with “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terror organization”.

At least 3 journalists were prosecuted for “establishing or leading an armed terror organization”.

On the other hand, at least 8 journalists were accused of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization”. The prosecutor requested an increase in the prison sentence faced by two of these journalists, alleging that “the offense was committed via the media”; and two others for “committing a crime in a continuous manner”.

At least 3 journalists were charged with “targeting a state official who took part in anti-terrorism efforts,” and at least 3 for “publishing and disseminating the statements of terror organizations”.

  • 8 journalists were accused of “insulting the President”:

Lawsuits filed for allegedly “insulting the President” continued against at least 8 journalists .

The prosecutors demanded an increase in the prison sentences for 6 out of these 8 journalists as they allegedly “insulted the President” “publicly”.

The prosecutors also requested an increase in the prison sentences for 3 out of the 8 journalists, claiming that they committed this offense “in a continuous manner”.

  • “Insulting a state official,” “showing resistance to prevent an official from performing their duty,” “violating the Capital Market Law…”

The trials of at least 21 journalists charged with “insulting a state official” continued.

At least 18 journalists continued to stand trial for “showing resistance to prevent an official from performing their duty”.

At least 6 journalists stood trial for “violating the Capital Market Law”, and were accused of “spreading fabricated, false or misleading information in order to influence investors’ decisions.”

  • 14 journalists faced aggravated prison sentences:

The prosecutors requested an increase in the prison sentence faced by at least 10 journalists for allegedly “committing the crime in a continuous manner”.

The prosecutors also requested an increase in the sentence for at least 4 journalists for allegedly “committing the crime via the media”. As such, at least 14 journalists continued to defend themselves against requests of aggravated prison sentences.

  • 4 journalists were sentenced:

In October, at least 4 journalists were sentenced to a total of 7 years 11 months in prison and 500 TL in administrative fines.

At least 3 journalists were sentenced on “terrorism” offenses.

Journalist Arafat Dayan was sentenced to prison on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization and publishing and disseminating the statements of terror organizations in a continuous manner,” journalist İshak Yasul on the charge of “publishing and disseminating the statements of terror organizations,” journalist Sabiha Temizkan on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization via the media,” and journalist İnan Ketenciler was sentenced to an administrative fine of 500 TL for “recording or transmitting audio and video during investigation procedures without authorization.”

On the other hand, the prison sentences of 2 journalists were increased for committing the crime “in a continuous manner” and “via the media”.

  • 10 journalists were acquitted:

Journalists Çınar Ayser, Sertaç Kayar, Ayhan Bilgen, Barış İnce and Can Uğur were acquitted from “terrorism” charges, Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç from the charge of “denigrating judiciary organs,” Hazal Ocak from “publicly insulting a state official,” Taylan Öztaş, from “showing resistance to prevent an official from performing their duty,” and Necla Demir from “publicly insulting the President in a continuous manner”.

A court cited ECHR in its acquittal verdict:
The court which acquitted journalist Necla Demir, who was charged with “insulting the President in a continuous manner”, justified this verdict with references to the rulings of the Court of Cassation (Yargıtay) and the European Court of Human Rights.

The following statements were used in the justification section of the acquittal verdict for Demir:

“ECHR and Court of Cassation rulings have consistently emphasized that individuals engaged in politics have to put up with harsh, severe and even offensive criticism, and that this is an integral part of democratic social life.
This principle is based on the premise that politicians -unlike private citizens- have willingly chosen to become public figures, subject to the close scrutiny of journalists and the public.”

  • Prosecutor objected to the acquittal of 2 journalists:

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office objected to the acquittal verdict for journalists Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç.

The prosecutor’s office argued that the verdict went against the “basis and procedures of the law”, and stated that they will appeal against it.

  • The trials of at least 43 journalists were adjourned until 2021:

Out of the 74 journalists tried in October, 60 saw their trials adjourned. The trials of 43 of them were adjourned until 2021.

It was remarkable that the next hearing in the trial against journalist Deniz Yücel was scheduled for September 2021.

The Press in Arrest team reported the following in the trials that it monitored:

  • 2 journalists in prison stood trial, making their defense speeches via SEGBİS:

Ayhan Bilgen and Mehmet Baransu attended their trials from the prisons where they are held, via the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS).

Imprisoned for a separate investigation against him, Bilgen attended his press-related trial from prison, via SEGBİS.

  • Panels of judges changed in the trials of 40 journalists:

In the October hearings of the trials against at least 40 journalists, it was seen that the panel of judges had changed.

40 journalists had to submit their defense statements against the charges before a new panel of judges/new judges.

  • Charges against 9 journalists were revised:

In the October hearings of the trials against at least 17 journalists, the hearing prosecutors submitted their judicial opinions as to the accusations.

However, there were changes when compared to the indictments. In their judicial opinions, the hearing prosecutors changed the charges and sentences against 9 journalists.

As such, the prosecutors leveled different charges and requested different prison sentences against 3 journalists, while demanding the acquittal of 6 others.

Journalist Ayşegül Doğan, who was charged with “establishing or leading an armed terror organization” throughout the trial, was instead accused of “membership of an armed terror organization”.

Although journalist Sertaç Kayar was charged with “establishing or leading an armed terror organization” in the indictment against him, and submitted a defense against this charge throughout the trial, he was later charged with “membership of an armed terror organization”.

Journalist İnan Ketenciler was first charged with “obtaining and disseminating personal information in an illicit manner” in the indictment, but later on charged with “recording or transmitting audio or video during investigation procedures without authorization”.

On the other hand, the prosecutor in the trial against journalist Hazal Ocak, who was charged with “publicly insulting a state official”, also submitted his judicial opinion and requested that Ocak be acquitted.

The prosecutor based this request on the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkish Constitution, and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and Constitutional Court:

“Although some of the criticism and value judgments in the article are expressed in a harsh and aggressive style, the freedom of the press allows room for a certain degree of exaggeration and even provocation…
Even if expressions used by journalists in their articles are polemical, they cannot be considered as unfounded attacks against an individual if these are supported by arguments…
As such, the title and content of the news story fall within the limits of the freedoms of press/expression …”

  • 1 journalist was not asked for his final words, and the verdict was not read out to his face:

Journalist Arafat Dayan could not participate in the final hearing of the trial against him. The prosecutor had presented his judicial opinion against Dayan in a previous hearing. In this hearing, Dayan was supposed to be asked for his final words; however, the court did not receive his final words. Instead, his defense statements from the previous hearings were accepted as his final words. And the court did not read out the prison sentence of five years 10 months to Dayan’s face.

  • 1 journalist’s demand concerning her defense was rejected as it would not “add a novelty” to the case file. 1 journalist faced a sentence “without justification”.

Journalist Ayşegül Doğan’s lawyer demanded the expansion of the prosecution; however, the court rejected this demand arguing that it would not “add a novelty” to the case file.

Journalist Ender İmrek stands trial for an article he penned in June 2019 as regards President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s wife Emine Erdoğan’s French-made bag allegedly worth 50 thousand dollars.

At the third hearing of the trial in October, the prosecutor requested a sentence against İmrek, without however presenting any “justification” for this sentence.

Lawyers objected to the prosecutor’s “judicial opinion without justification”. The judge overruled their objection.

As the debate between the lawyers and the judge raged on, the hearing prosecutor stated “You must understand that my judicial opinion provides ample information.”
The trial was adjourned to receive İmrek’s defense against this “judicial opinion without justification.”

  • “Simple trial procedure” employed in a press trial for the first time:

The “simple trial procedure” was added to the judiciary system with the legal amendment popularly known as the 1. Judiciary Reform Package.

Accordingly, the legal proceedings concerning certain charges can be conducted on the basis of the case file, and without holding a hearing.

Journalist Hikmet Tunç, who is charged with “insulting a state official on duty”, and her lawyer accepted the “simple trial procedure”. Accordingly, no hearings will be held during the legal proceedings, the defense statements and evidence will be presented in writing, and in case of a prison sentence, the prison term will be reduced by one fourth.

  • The “publicity of trial” principle was violated 32 times:

In the hearings of at least 32 of the 74 journalists tried in October, the judges either closed the hearing to the public, or limited the number of observers in the courtroom, citing the measures taken against the coronavirus epidemic.

As such the principle of the “publicity of trial” was violated 32 times, and these trials were either listened to from the doorsills of the courtrooms, or followed through the hearing minutes.

  • “Presumption of innocence” was violated 3 times:

In the October hearings of the trials against at least 3 journalists, namely Ayşegül Doğan, Rojhat Doğru and Mazlum Dolan, law enforcement agents/private security guards were present in the courtroom. As such, the “presumption of innocence” principle was violated in the trials of 3 journalists held in the high criminal courts in the Diyarbakır Courthouse.

At least 21 women journalists stood trial:

21 of the at least 74 journalists prosecuted in October were women.

9 women journalists had to defend their news stories, articles or social media posts at high criminal courts, 10 women journalists in criminal courts of first instance, and 3 women journalists in lawsuits for damages.

Women journalists appearing in court faced a total of 70 years 3 months 15 days to 185 years 8 months in prison.

In the three separate lawsuits for damages against 3 women journalists, the complainants demanded a total of 300 thousand TL in compensation.

  • 7 women journalists were charged with “terrorism” offences:

1 women journalist was charged with “membership of an armed terror organization,” 1 women journalist with “establishing or leading an armed terror organization,” 3 women journalists with “spreading propaganda for a terror organization,” 2 women journalists with “targeting a state official who took part in anti-terrorism efforts”, 7 women journalists with “insulting a state official”.

  • 4 of the 10 journalists acquitted were women:

Çınar Ayser was acquitted of the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization,” Duygu Güvenç from “insulting the judiciary organs,” Hazal Ocak from “publicly insulting a state official,” and Necla Demir from “publicly insulting the President in a continuous manner”.

One of the 3 journalists sentenced to prison in October was a woman. Journalist Sabiha Temizkan was sentenced to 1 year 3 months in prison for “spreading propaganda for a terror organization via the media”.

Aside from the trials, in October,

  • At least 9 journalists were detained, summoned to testify or faced an investigation and/or criminal complaint:

The police detained Mezopotamya News Agency reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur as well as Jinnews News Agency reporters Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala who reported that in Van’s Çatak district, law enforcement officers detained two citizens and then threw them out of a helicopter.

Journalist Ayşenur Arslan indicated that she was summoned to testify as a ‘suspect’ by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Press Crimes Investigations Bureau

Journalist Selda Manduz was detained under an investigation in Kars. She was released on probation.

Pınar Gayıp, a reporter with Etkin News Agency (ETHA), was detained under an investigation conducted in Istanbul. She was released after her statement was taken by the police.

While following a news story in the Güçlükonak district of Şırnak, Zeynep Durgut of Mezopotamya News Agency was detained. She was released after giving a statement to the police.

Journalist Hakkı Boltan was detained under an investigation in Diyarbakır. He was later released on probation.

  • New lawsuits were brought against at least 2 journalists:

A lawsuit was launched against journalist Abdurrahman Gök for “membership of a terror organization” and “spreading propaganda for a terror organization”. The trial will begin with the first hearing to be held on February 23rd, 2021 in Diyarbakır.

A new lawsuit was brought against Özgür Boğatekin, the News Director of the Gerger Fırat Newspaper based in Adıyaman, for “spreading propaganda for a terror organization” and “targeting individuals who took part in anti-terrorism efforts”.

  • 4 journalists were arrested:

The police arrested Mezopotamya News Agency reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur as well as Jinnews News Agency reporters Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala who reported that in Van’s Çatak district, law enforcement officers detained two citizens and then threw them out of a helicopter, for “membership of an armed terror organization.”

During their interrogation by the judgeship, they stated that they were journalists, had press cards and rejected the accusations.

The judgeship negated the journalists’ defense with the following remarks:

“A valid press card is granted to those who meet the conditions set by the Directorate of Communications of the Turkish Presidency. Of course, the suspects are not members of the press as they do not meet the necessary conditions.”

Mezopotamya News Agency stated that the journalists’ cameras and technical equipment were confiscated by the police. Their lawyers indicated that the journalists were subjected to ill-treatment.

  • 2 journalists were released:

Faruk Bostan, the concessionaire of the newspaper Kocaeli Halk Gazetesi based in Kocaeli, and its editor-in-chief, Bülent Karagöz, had been arrested in September on charges of “slander”. The investigation was launched against “a news story about an alleged incident of sexual abuse in the Kartepe district”. In the news story, sexual abuse allegations were brought against certain individuals whose real names were changed, but political positions were mentioned. The two journalists were released in October.

  • A journalist was fined for ‘social distancing violation’:

Evrensel Newspaper’s İzmir reporter Eda Aktaş was fined 3150 TL for violating social distancing rules while following a news story.

  • Court of appeal upheld the verdicts in the Sözcü Newspaper Trial:

The court of appeal upheld the prison sentences handed down by the district court in the trial against the reporters, writers and managers of Sözcü Newspaper. The journalists will appeal against the ruling at the Court of Cassation.

  • A court declared journalist Can Dündar a “fugitive”, and the prosecutor requested imprisonment of up to 35 years:

The court declared that journalist Can Dündar shall be deemed “a fugitive”, and that his immovable will be identified and confiscated. The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) will manage the seized property.

At the hearing held on October 14th, 2020, the hearing prosecutor submitted his judicial opinion as to the accusations, charging Dündar with “obtaining confidential information for the purposes of political and military espionage” and “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terror organization, without being part of its hierarchical structure”. The prosecutor requested that Dündar be imprisoned from 22 years six months to 35 years.

(This report has been written by Press in Arrest editors Sinan Tartanoğlu and Yeşim Yavuzer.)

Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
+90 (312) 945 15 56 | pressinarrest@gmail.com

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