Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of May 14, 2018

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Journalists imprisoned

Turkish authorities in the western province of Edirne on May 11 transferred Kemal Sancılı, the publisher of the shuttered pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, to Istanbul’s Silivri Prison, two days after he was detained on suspicion of terrorism-related activities, according to a report from the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya Agency.

Authorities in the eastern province of Artvin on May 11 sent Reyhan Çapan, a former editor for Özgür Gündem, to prison for 15 months after a local court convicted her of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” in relation to her editorial work, the news website Gazete Karınca reported.

Journalists released from detention

An Istanbul court on May 11 released from detention Ali Bulaç and Mehmet Özdemir, a former columnist and editor, respectively, for the shuttered daily Zaman, and placed them under judicial control for the duration of their trial, the news website Diken reported.

In the same proceedings, the Istanbul court placed former Zaman columnist Şahin Alpay under judicial control for the duration of the trial and removed the previous order to keep him under house arrest, according to Diken.

The court also decided that other Zaman journalists on trial in the same case–İbrahim Karayeğen, Mümtaz’er Türköne, Ahmet Turan Alkan and Mustafa Ünal–will remain in prison during the trial, Diken reported. The next hearing in the trial is scheduled for June 6.

Zaman journalists are on trial as a group for terrorism-related charges; the newspaper’s media workers were sentenced on April 30 in a separate group trial, CPJ has documented.

Journalists arrested

An Ankara court ordered that Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir, correspondents for the opposition outlet Artı TV, be remanded in custody on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” and “provoking the people into animosity and hatred” through their journalistic activity, the news website Gazete Duvar reported on May 15.

According to Deutsche Welle, Hürtaş and Demir were detained in January 2018 in relation to their coverage of Turkey’s military action in Syria’s Afrin region. The two journalists are now on trial together, Gazete Duvar reported.

Journalists attacked in Istanbul

Bystanders on May 16 attacked two journalists with the Israel Television News Company as they were conducting street interviews in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the news website Haaretz reported.

According to Haaretz, the broadcaster’s cameraperson Oded Bino and correspondent Ohad Hemo were shoved and cursed by locals who heard them speaking Hebrew. Hemo told Haaretz that the group also started shouting “Murderers, murderers!” and one person began hitting Bino, at which point the two journalists ran away.

They did not need medical treatment, Haaretz reported.

Relations between Turkey and Israel have soured over recent protests in the Gaza strip, and the two countries recently expelled each other’s envoys, Reuters reported.

News story blocked

The daily Cumhuriyet reported on May 14 that its story about construction on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s summer palace in the western Muğla province was inaccessible via local internet providers.

The blocked story, which was originally published in the paper’s March 1 print edition, was about protests around the removal of approximately 40,000 trees for the construction of the president’s palace.

Erdoğan in Britain

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 15 again denied that journalists jailed in Turkey are actually journalists during a joint press conference in London with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the Guardian reported.

“Are we supposed to call them journalists just because they have the credentials and identity cards [stating they are reporters]? Currently, the Turkish judiciary is prosecuting and sentencing individuals who have been associated with terrorism and involved in terrorist actions,” Erdoğan said.

While speaking with Turkish students in London the previous day, Erdoğan said that journalists imprisoned in Turkey are “legionaries” of other countries, Cumhuriyet reported.

When asked about the number of journalists jailed in Turkey, the president responded that those behind bars are “not journalists at all.” He said, “[a] terrorist organization handed them press credentials and they are terrorists.”

Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 73 behind bars when CPJ conducted its most recent prison census on December 1, 2017.



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