Reporters Without Borders is resuming its news feed with updates about harassment of news providers in Turkey.
06.05.2014 - At least 12 reporters injured, one arrested on May Day in Istanbul
Reporters Without Borders calls for an investigation into the police violence that yet again marred demonstrations in Istanbul, this time those held on 1 May. At least 12 journalists were injured as police used force to disperse marchers converging on the city’s famous Taksim Square, where a court order had banned demonstrations.
Constant police violence
Murat Bay, a reporter for the Sendika.org news site, and Emin Sentürk of the newspaper soL were injured by rubber bullets, while two photographers, Sedat Suna of the European Photo Agency and Bülent Kiliç of AFP, sustained leg injuries from teargas grenades and Milliyet photographer Ozan Güzelce’s wrist was broken.
Two journalists, Ali Haydar Dogan of the ETHA news agency and Fethullah Senocak, were hospitalized with broken arms. Elif Örnek of soL sustained a head injury that needed ten stitches. Yusuf Ali Gümüslü of Mücadele Birligi, Hakan Gülseven of Yurt and Metin Günes of Durus Haber sustained arm, face and leg injuries respectively.
Baris Yarkadas, the editor of the Gerçek Gündem news website, sustained a minor injury while being interviewed on the air by Halk TV about the clashes in the district of Besiktas.
All the journalists covering the demonstrations were affected by the massive use of teargas and water cannon.
Three days in police custody
Deniz Zerin, the publisher of the T24 news website, was arrested in the Istanbul neighbourhood of Fulya as he tried to flee the teargas and return to his office, located in the direction of Taksim Square. Like most of the 171 people arrested during the demonstrations, he was not released until 4 May.
“Detention for such a long time is not only unusual but also illegal,” his lawyer, Can Atalay, told Reporters Without Borders. He added that suspects who refuse to answer questions in police custody should be taken immediately before a prosecutor.
Only journalists with a “yellow card” provided by the prime minister’s office were allowed to enter a perimeter established by the police around Taksim Square. Journalists without this press card were systematically turned back.
17.01.2014 - Eight TV stations warned over corruption scandal coverage
In mid-January, the Radio and TV High Council (RTÜK) issued a warning to eight TV stations – Samanyolu TV, Bugün TV, Kanal Türk, MTV, Cem TV, Sokak TV, Halk TV and Ulusal Kanal – for “violating the presumption of innocence” in their coverage of the corruption scandal that has rocked the government.
Two of the stations – Samanyolu TV and Bugün TV – are regarded as allied with the religious movement led by Fethullah Gülen.
Shortly after the first arrests of high-level suspects on 17 December, the eight TV stations broadcast images of bundles of foreign currency and the shoeboxes allegedly used to store bribes – details that were widely reported in the rest of the Turkish media.
RTÜK members appointed by the opposition CHP, BDP and MHP parties opposed the measure on the grounds that coverage of the case was in the public interest and that similar coverage in other leading political cases such as the Ergenekon trial had never been sanctioned. Their objections were overruled by the RTÜK majority appointed by the ruling AKP.
14.01.2014 - Near paralysis in Kurdish “media committee” trial
Reporters Without Borders condemns the virtual paralysis of the trial of 44 journalists who are accused of being members of a “media committee” created by the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK), an outlawed organization linked to the PKK armed movement.
The ninth hearing, which was scheduled to last a week, began on 13 January but the special court for terrorism and organized crime adjourned it the next day on the grounds that the heated political climate would endanger the impartiality of the proceedings.
The court granted none of the defence requests, which included termination of the trial and then dismissal of the jury. The only progress was Demokratik Modernite journalist Nahide Ermis’ release on bail. Eighteen of the journalists on trial remain in detention. Held since 20 December 2011, they have no possibility of being released before the next hearing, scheduled for 3 March.
10.01.2014 – Impunity fuels police violence against journalists
New demonstrations are resulting in renewed police violence against journalists, which has been encouraged by the fact that the approximately 150 attacks on journalists during last year’s “Occupy Gezi” protest movement remain unpunished.
Reporters Without Borders condemns these abuses and reiterates the importance of bringing those responsible for each of these attacks to justice.
“Occupy Gezi” police attacks on journalists go unpunished
The Istanbul prosecutor’s office announced on 23 December that it was dismissing the “abuse of authority” judicial proceedings that victims of police violence had brought against Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç and interior minister Muammer Güler.
Deputy prosecutor A. Cengiz Haciosmanoglu cited the alleged lack of seriousness of the accusations and lack of evidence as grounds for the dismissals.
The 12 plaintiffs included three journalists: Ahmet Sik of the Habervesaire website, Onur Erdem, a reporter for the left-wing daily BirGün, and Ender Ergün, a columnist with the left-wing monthly Express.
Sik complained about the teargas grenade that was fired at him on 12 June, hitting him on the head. Only his helmet spared him a second concussion less than two weeks after being seriously injured in the same manner. Erdem suffered from the inhalation of teargas employed abusively by the police. Ergün was hospitalized with serious injuries cause by a rubber bullet and blows with a knife.
In mid-September, the police general directorate announced an administrative investigation into 132 riot police officers and 32 police units chiefs. It appeared to cover all the complaints filed by journalists and demonstrators who had been the victims of police violence. But so far nothing has come of this investigation.
New demonstrations, new police violence
New anti-government demonstrations in connect with a major corruption scandal in late December saw more police violence. A dozen journalists were injured by police while covering the protests. The Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS), which said journalists’ equipment was also destroyed, has demanded a judicial investigation.
On the night of 27 December in the Beyoglu neighbourhood of Istanbul, Elif Ince, a reporter for the Radikal daily newspaper, freelance journalist Berna Sahin, CNN International reporter Mohammet Jamhoom and his cameraman, and a CNN Türk reporter were all hit by rubber bullets fired by the police.
Isminaz Ergün, a reporter for the ETHA alternative news agency, was one of several journalists who had water cannon trained on them by police in riot trucks. His colleague, Yildiz Tar, was injured. According to the TGS, police repeatedly kicked Vice News UK photographer Deniz Agah and beat freelance reporter Savash Porgham with their batons.
IMC television reporter Michelle Demishevich was throttled by a police officer, who threatened to kill her. Yusuf Durdu Emre, a reporter for the Aydinlik daily newspaper, and Safak Inan, the editor of the Seç Haber news website, were briefly detained.
A week before that, two journalists – BirGün reporter Elçin Yildiral and Songül Araç, a reporter for the far-left newspaper Özgür Gelecek – were injured by police while covering a 22 December demonstration in the Kadiköy district of Istanbul. A teargas canister hit Yildiral in the arm, while Araç was hospitalized with cuts to his eye caused by a rubber bullet that shattered his glasses.
In Ankara, it was demonstrators who attacked Rauf Maltas, a reporter for the government news agency Anatolia, on 28 December. Believing him to be a plainclothes policeman, they beat him with sticks although he identified himself as a journalist. His camera and mobile phone were also damaged.
(Photo: AFP / Bülent Kiliç)