Press In Arrest June 2020 Press Freedom Report

July 3, 2020

In June, at least 60 journalists prosecuted in 30 trials in 5 Turkish cities faced a total of 3 aggravated life sentences, and at least 359 years 5 months 15 days to 919 years 10 months of imprisonment.

Yeşim Yavuzer

In mid-March, legal proceedings had been suspended in Turkey due to the coronavirus pandemic, and thus all hearings except those involving detained defendants were postponed.

During the hearings in this period, when most legal proceedings were suspended (March 17th – June 15th); * 92 journalists prosecuted in 59 trials in 9 provinces faced a total of 5 aggravated life sentences, 1 life sentence and at least 587 years 3 months to 1513 years 15 days in prison. All of the hearings were subsequently adjourned.

  • At least 61 journalists were summoned to testify, taken into custody or faced a criminal complaint. Lawsuits were brought against 18 journalists.

After the hearings resumed on June 16th, 28 journalists were prosecuted in 16 trials in 5 provinces. In certain trials, the lawyers did not attend the hearings, demanding to be excused due to the Covid19 outbreak.

In June, at least 60 journalists prosecuted in 30 trials in 5 Turkish cities faced a total of 3 aggravated life sentences, and at least 359 years 5 months 15 days to 919 years 10 months of imprisonment.

After being imprisoned for 4 months due to their news stories on the funeral of a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) officer killed during Turkey’s operations in Libya, Oda TV managing editor Barış Terkoğlu, Oda TV editor-in-chief Barış Pehlivan, reporter Hülya Kılınç, Yeni Yaşam newspaper’s editor-in-chief Ferhat Çelik, Yeni Yaşam managing editor Aydın Keser and Yeniçağ columnist Murat Ağırel appeared before a judge for the first time.

Journalists Barış Terkoğlu, Aydın Keser and Ferhat Çelik were released in this first hearing, while the court ordered the continuation of the detention of the remaining three journalists.

Oda TV’s Ankara News Manager Müyesser Yıldız was detained on charges of ‘espionage’ for a news story she did not pen, and arrested after 3 days in detention.

In Turkey, a major debate regarding the freedom of press turned around Habertürk TV’s program announcer Didem Arslan Yılmaz’s comments on their “not inviting the representatives of Turkish Parliament’s second biggest opposition party, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), to their programs”. Didem Arslan Yılmaz stated, “We are a private company, not a public once. It is our choice.” Afterwards, the debate continued when journalist Cüneyt Özdemir invited HDP representatives to his program.

In another debate, National Action Party’s (MHP) president Devlet Bahçeli made a call on Twitter for the retrial of journalist Mümtazer Türköne, in prison since 5 years. Hürriyet Newspaper’s columnist Abdülkadir Selvi, a figure with close connections to government sources, claimed that the government worked on a formula to release Türköne, where he would be sentenced not for “membership of a terror organization” but rather “legitimizing, encouraging and spreading propaganda for a terror organization without being its member”. As such, he would be released from prison, taking into consideration the time he has already spent behind bars. Faced with harsh criticism, Bahçeli responded, “He is the brother of our martyr. We don’t say, ‘He is innocent, or without any ties to FETÖ’. We do not demand his acquittal”.

Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu posted a tweet where he retorted against a news article penned by Sözcü Newspaper’s Ankara Representative Saygı Öztürk: “I am fulfilling my duty as a human being: Saygı Öztürk’s article is disgraceful. Bahar is a moral and virtuous woman. We are thankful to Ali, who gave a strong momentum to tourism in Trabzon. From now on, whoever supports this disgraceful individual shares in the same disgrace and is likewise a character assassin, in my view.”

In the meanwhile, in all the 81 provinces of Turkey, presidents of bar associations and lawyers who represent the defense, took to the streets wearing their robes to stand against a draft law, which may transform the structure of bar associations.

As this report was being penned;

In the Turkish Parliament, a commission was discussing the draft law proposed by the AKP and MHP alliance to transform the structure of bar associations and enable the creation of multiple bar associations in a city, and the bar association presidents were staging a sit-in in front of the parliament as they were not allowed inside.

The government was preparing to swiftly present to the parliament a draft law, which would ‘tighten controls over the social media’, and there were debates on TV discussion programs on “what should be the boundaries of online freedoms?”

And as you read this report at some point in history;

Journalists will be continuing to insist on people’s right to receive news stories and on their profession’s ethics, and lawyers on the right to defense and the rule of law.

Details of the report:

IN JUNE;

At least 8 journalists were detained or summoned to testify; faced investigations and/or criminal complaints!

  • Odatv’s Ankara news manager, journalist Müyesser Yıldız and Tele1 TV’s Ankara Representative İsmail Dükel were taken into custody under a “military espionage” investigation.

  • Mezopotamya Agency’s reporter Lezgin Akdeniz was summoned testify for an investigation launched due to his news story titled “Discrimination knows no virus: Mosques were sanitized, cemevi and churches were not”.

  • To Justice and Development Party’s Sakarya MP Ali İhsan Yavuz who declared, “The media does not cover pleasant developments”, Adapazarı Evening News newspaper responded with the headline ‘It’s great to have you!’ and all the news stories on the first page made ironic references to Ali İhsan Yavuz’s remarks. The newspaper’s concessionaire and managing editor Sedat Balta and news editor İsmail Erken were summoned to testify for “insult and slander against a public officer on duty”.

  • In Nazilli, Aydın, journalist Veysel Karahan was summoned to testify for an investigation launched after a criminal compliant by CHP’s Aydın MP Süleyman Bülbül.

  • Mezopotamya Agency reporter Sadiye Eser was summoned to testify under an investigation launched on the allegations that there are ‘propagandistic phrases’ in her interview titled “Öcalan’s 20 years in İmralı” with Abdullah Öcalan’s lawyer Mahmut Şakar.

  • Lawyer Celal Ülgen announced that a new investigation was launched against his client Murat Ağırel, a columnist with Yeniçağ Newspaper, in prison for almost 4 months.

3 journalists were arrested!

  • Odatv’s Ankara news manager, journalist Müyesser Yıldız was arrested after a 3-day detention, on allegations of “revealing confidential information”.

  • The Court of Cassation upheld journalist Cihan Acar‘s prison sentence of 6 years 3 months from the trial widely known as “FETÖ’s Media Organization Trial”, and Acar went back to prison.

  • Journalist Arif Aslan was arrested in a separate trial.

10 journalists were released!

  • In prison for about 4 months, Oda TV’s Managing Editor Barış Terkoğlu, Yeni Yaşam Newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Ferhat Çelik and Yeni Yaşam Newspaper’s Managing Editor Aydın Keser were released in the first hearing of their trial.

  • Court of Cassation’s 16. Criminal Chamber overturned the prison sentences against journalists in the trial generally known as “FETÖ’s Media Organization Trial”, and journalists Ahmet Memiş, Cemal Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız were released, though the trial continues.

  • Journalist Hamit Duman (Dilbahar), arrested on February 13th, 2010 and sentenced to 16 years in prison on charges of “membership of an armed terror organization”, was released after 10 years 3 months in prison.

3 journalists face new lawsuits!

  • A lawsuit was brought against Mezopotamya Agency reporter Ahmet Kanbal for a social media message he posted after Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu submitted his resignation on April 12th, on charges of “insulting a public officer on duty”.

  • A lawsuit was brought against columnist Mustafa Sönmez for his tweets from 2015 and 2016, on charges of “insulting the President”.

  • A lawsuit was filed against journalist Aziz Oruç, in prison for nearly 7 months, on charges of “membership of a terror organization” and “successively spreading propaganda for a terror organization via the media”. He faces a prison sentence between 9 years 4 months 15 days to 28 years 1 month 15 days.

2 journalists sentenced to prison!

  • Journalist Metin Uca stood trial for a tweet stating “The figures announced beforehand by Anadolu Agency regarding the Presidential and parliamentary elections of June 24th, 2018 were in perfect harmony with the actual results”. Anadolu Agency General Manager Şenol Kazancı and Assistant General Manager Mustafa Özkaya filed a complaint against Metin Uca, who was condemned to 1 year 2 months 17 days in prison in the trial subsequently launched for “insulting a public officer on duty”.

  • Six years on, the Court of Cassation upheld the 1 year 15 day prison sentence imposed on Gerger Fırat Newspaper’s news and intelligence director Özgür Boğatekin for criticizing Ömer Bilgin, the district governor of Gerger at the time.

60 journalists were prosecuted in 30 lawsuits in 5 cities, facing a total of 3 counts of aggravated life imprisonment and 359 years 5 months 15 days to 919 years 10 months in prison!

Amine Demirkıran, Bayram Balcı, Davut Uçar, Doğan Güzel, Elif Aydoğmuş, Ersin Çaksu, Fırat Yeşilçınar, Gökhan Çetin, Gülfem Karataş, Günay Aksoy, Kemal Bozkurt, Mesut Kaynar, Muharrem Ender Öndeş, Önder Elaldı, Özgür Paksoy, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Sinan Balık, Yetkin Yıldız, Mehmet Baransu, Murat Şevki Çoban, Can Dündar, İnan Kızılkaya, Zana Bilir Kaya, Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur, Kenan Kırkaya, Zehra Özdilek, Ali Sönmez Kayar, Havva Cuştan, İsminaz Temel, Mehmet Çakmakçı, Ayşegül Doğan, Deniz Yücel, Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan, Hazal Ocak, Rojhat Doğru, Onur Emre Yağan, Mustafa Gökkılıç, Rıfat Doğan, Ender İmrek, Aydın Keser, Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkoğlu, Erk Acarer, Ferhat Çelik, Hülya Kılınç, Murat Ağırel, Derya Okatan, Eray Sargın, Metin Yoksu, Ömer Çelik, Tunca İlker Öğreten, Hayri Demir, Sibel Hürtaş, Sabiha Temizkan, Oktay Candemir, Barış İnce, Can Uğur.

(In June, there were more than one hearing in the trials against journalists Hazal Ocak, İnan Kızılkaya, Hüseyin Aykol, Mehmet Baransu, Ahmet Altan and Deniz Yücel.)

Press in Arrest is a database, monitoring, documentation and collective memory study of Press Research Association.
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