Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of June 19

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Court indicts TV journalist on terrorism charges for tweets

The Bakırköy Second Court of Serious Crimes in Istanbul indicted Hamza Aktan, news editor at the pro-Kurdish television station IMC TV, on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” in connection with nine posts he made to Twitter from 2015 through January 2016, IMC TV reported today.

Aktan told the court he had not written most of the posts and that he was not active on Twitter at the time they were written, IMC TV reported. After his April 30 arrest that police had questioned him about several tweets, including a “retweet” of a BBC call for eyewitness accounts of fighting in southeastern towns then under military curfew. His trial is scheduled to begin on October 27, his employer reported at the time. Aktan faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted. He is free, pending trial, but under “judicial control,” meaning he must regularly appear at a police station, according to the BBC’s Turkish service.

“Judicial control, like detention, is a form of punishment,” IMC quoted Aktan as saying after his release. “This is right neither as a journalist, nor as a citizen. This is a challenge to freedom of expression.”

[June 24, 2016]

Journalist freed after fourth months in jail, still faces terrorism charges

Dicle News Agency’s Gaziantep province correspondent, Nazım Daştan, was released from prison today after the first hearing of his trial, according to press reports. Antep’s Second Court of Serious Crimes did not acquit the journalist of charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” in his posts to Facebook, but released him pending the conclusion of his trial. Police detained Daştan in the southern Turkish town on Antep on February 10. He had been jailed since, awaiting the beginning of his trial.

[June 23, 2016]

Three indicted on terrorism charges following show of solidarity with newspaper

Prosecutors today issued indictments against Erol Önderoğlu, Turkey representative for the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, Şebnem Korur Fincancı, a rights activist and columnist for the left-leaning Evrensel newspaper, and Ahmet Nesin, a contributor to the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, Hürriyet reported. The three are individually accused of “openly provoking [the people] to commit crimes,” “praising a crime and a criminal,” and “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization.” They each face a maximum penalty of 14 years and six months in prison if found guilty. CPJ on Monday called for their immediate release and for any charges against them to be dropped.

Journalists and activists have been taking turns acting as co-editor of the newspaper Özgür Gündem for a day to show solidarity with the newspaper’s staff, who have been the subject of relentless judicial harassment. To date, authorities have opened criminal investigations into at least 37 of the journalists, academics, and rights activists who have participated in the campaign.

Journalists gathered in central Istanbul Tuesday evening to demand the release of the three, according to press reports.

Meanwhile, Fincancı, Önderoğlu, and Nesin released messages from prison via their lawyers.

“I was expecting this decision. I am not surprised. Being here in such a period is an indication that we have done something good. It is an honor to be arrested by the state in Turkey,” Fincancı, a rights activist, said, in remarks carried by the news website Bianet.

“I don’t remember a period in which legal intimidation has become this visible,” Önderoğlu, Turkey representative for the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, said in remarks reported by Bianet. “Embracing our values of freedom will gain us more strength.”

“If they think we will give up our demands for peace and democracy by arresting us, they are wrong,” Nesin, a contributor to the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, said in remarks carried by the local media.

Regulator faults TV station for coverage of bomb attack, fighting in southeast

Turkey’s broadcast regulator, the RTÜK, fined the left-leaning Hayatın Sesi TV channel for violating a partial ban on coverage of a March 19 bomb attack in Istanbul, and for the contents of interviews it aired on March 24 with residents of the southeastern town of Cizre, the site of fighting between ethnic-Kurdish youth and security forces, the daily newspaper Evrensel, which is owned by the same parent company, reported today.

The RTÜK issued a warning to Hayatın Sesi TV over its coverage of the bomb attack, and fined it 14,350 Turkish liras (US$4,948) for the substance of its interviews with residents of Cizre. If regulators find the station has violated its rules a third time within the year, they can ban the station from broadcasting for 10 days. A fourth violation in a year could result in the station’s losing its license, Evrensel reported.

[June 22, 2016]

Turkish foreign correspondent detained at Istanbul airport

Airport security officers detained Razi Canikligil, New York correspondent for the daily Hürriyet, was detained at the Istanbul’s Atatürk airport Monday evening as he passed through passport control, Hürriyet Daily News, his employer’s English-language sister publication reported. A prosecutor ordered him freed after hearing his testimony. Hürriyet Daily News reported that Canikligil’s detention apparently was the result of an administrative error, and stemmed from a cancelled 2015 arrest warrant stemming from his activity on social media.

Beleaguered editor among 109 people joining solidarity campaign for newspaper

Can Dündar, the embattled editor of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, today joined a campaign to express solidarity with the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem. He was the 45th person to symbolically act as co-editor of the newspaper to protest authorities’ relentless prosecution of the newspaper’s staff for its coverage of fighting between ethnic-Kurds and security forces in Turkey’s southeast. Evrensel journalist Fatih Polat, who has himself been the subject of criminal cases for his reporting, broadcast Dündar’s arrival using the mobile phone application Periscope.

At least 108 other people, mostly journalists, indicated they would also join the campaign in coming weeks, Özgür Gündem reported. The flood of sympathy followed the Monday arrest of three people, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s Turkey representative, Erol Önderoğlu. Journalists, academics, and activists circulated calls to protest that arrest in Istanbul on Tuesday evening.

German court rejects Erdoğan request for injunction against media mogul

A German appeals court rejected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appeal of a Cologne court’s May 10 verdict rejecting Erdoğan’s suit seeking an injunction on Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the media conglomerate Axel Springer, to keep him from insulting the Turkish president, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported on its website.

Döpfner had written an open letter to German comic Jan Böhmermann praising a profane poem mocking Erdoğan the satirist read on his television show.

[June 21, 2016]

Reporters sans frontières Turkey representative among three arrested for show of solidarity with embattled newspaper

Istanbul’s Second Penal Court of Peace today ordered the arrest of Erol Onderoglu, Sebnem Korur Fincanci, and Ahmet Nesin on charges of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” for symbolically acting as guest editor of the newspaper Özgür Gündem to protest its persistent harassment by judicial authorities. A CPJ correspondent was at the courthouse.

Onderoglu, the Turkey representative for the press freedom group Reporters sans frontières, Fincani, a forensic doctor, and Nesin, a writer and journalist, are among 44 journalists and activists who have participated in the solidarity campaign, 37 of whom have faced prosecution for their participation, according to the news website Bianet.

The three are in custody pending trial. A date for their trial has not yet been set.

Prosecutors also interrogated three other people today in connection with the solidarity campaign, the daily newspaper Evrensel reported: Cengiz Boysoy, İhsan Eliaçık, Beyza Üstün, and Kemal Can, a contributor to the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, were questioned on suspicion of “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” for acting as guest editor of Ozgur Gundem in part of the same solidarity campaign.

CPJ condemned the arrests.

Journalists and activists have since May been taking turns acting as co-editor of the newspaper for a day to protest prosecutors’ persistent harassment of the daily.

Police beat, detain journalists trying to cover Istanbul ‘Trans Pride’ march

Police beat and detained journalists attempting to cover a transgender-pride rally in central Istanbul Sunday, the LGBTQ-focused news website Kaos GL and journalists reporting from the protest on Twitter reported. Police used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber-coated bullets to disperse demonstrators, according to press accounts.

The governor of Istanbul’s office last week forbade a series of planned LGBTQ events planned for June after conservative groups threatened the groups organizing them.

Journalist Gokhan Bicici, following the incident at the scene, reported on Twitter that police prevented reporters from walking down streets in the area, and detained at least one, while allowing ordinary citizens to pass. In a video he posted to Twitter, a policeman can be seen telling journalists, “We do not want media.”

Journalist Ahmet Sik, reporting on the incident on Twitter, wrote that police detained journalists and tourists who did not have their passports with them.

Late on Sunday night, local time, protest organizers wrote on Twitter that police had released all those detained at the march.

It was not immediately apparent how many journalists police detained attempting to cover the march, or how long they held them.

*The original version of this article was published on CPJ website on June 20, 2016.

Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of June 19

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