Because of the increasingly frequent media freedom violations in Turkey, Reporters Without Borders is starting a Turkey news feed in which it will report significant incidents, in addition to its regular press releases.
09.11.2015 - Two more journalists investigated for “insulting” Erdogan
Reporters Without Borders has learned that Erdogan Alayumat, a Diha news agency reporter in the southern city of Mersin, is being investigated for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a mid-October interview with a politician. Referring to the JITEM (a secret gendarmerie unit responsible for atrocities in the 1990s), the interview was headlined: “Before it was JITEM, now it’s Recep.” Last week, the judicial authorities also began an investigation to determine whether Ataol Behramoglu, a columnist with the daily Cumhuriyet, insulted the president.
There has been a surge in prosecutions on charges of insulting the president under article 299 of the criminal code. As of 30 September, 11 journalists were being prosecuted on this charge and 19 others were being investigated, according to Bianet’s quarterly report on freedom of expression. Today’s Zaman editor Bülent Kenes was held for five days until freed conditionally on 14 October pending trial in connection with 14 Tweets critical of the president. Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate withdrawal of the charges and the repeal of article 299 on the grounds that it is absurd and disproportionate.
06.11.2015 - 26 journalists investigated for “PKK propaganda”
Reporters Without Borders has learned that 26 journalists with Kurdish media outlets are being investigated on suspicion of propaganda on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). They include Özgür Gündem co-editors Eren Keskin and Hüseyin Aykol and four other journalists who went to the Istanbul law courts on 6 November to make statements to prosecutors. All denied the allegations.
It is not yet know if this investigation, initiated on 1 July, will lead to prosecutions. The 26 journalists – 19 with the daily Özgür Gündem, six with the weekly Demokratik Ulus and one with Diha news agency – could face up to seven and a half years in prison under article 7-2 of the anti-terrorism law.
Prosecutors have cited articles about the autonomy demands of certain municipal officials and residents of Cizre and Nusaybin, in southeastern Anatolia, and interviews by some of the journalists with members of the YPJ, a Kurdish women’s unit fighting in Syria, for a report about the “revolution” in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Metin Yegin is being investigated in connection with a column in which he criticized the police for the way the body of a PKK fighter killed in the eastern province of Varto was dragged along the ground.
06.11.2015 - Police manhandle woman reporter during protest
Police manhandled Beyza Kural, a young reporter for the independent news website Bianet, during an attempt to arrest her while she was covering their use of force to disperse a student demonstration in Istanbul on 6 November. A policeman handcuffed her hands behind her back and, as he tried to force her into police vehicle, told her: “From now on, nothing will be the same as it was. We are going to teach you that.”
Her arrest was prevented by fellow journalists who intervened. After being examined by a doctor, who said she had sustained wrist injuries, Kural said she would file a complaint against the police. The Reporters Without Borders Turkey representative, Erol Önderoglu, visited her the same day and publicly condemned her mistreatment at the hands of the police.
03.11.2015 - 71 Ipek Media Group journalists fired
Reporters Without Borders condemns the dismissal of 71 Ipek Media Group journalists following the government’s forcible seizure of the group at the end of last month. On 3 November, 58 employees of Ipek Media Group-owned outlets Bugün TV, Kanaltürk, Bugün and Millet were turned back at a police checkpoint when they arrived for work in Istanbul. Thirteen Ankara-based colleagues learned they had been fired in the evening.
Interrupted when the police raided them on 28 October, the operations of these opposition media resumed the next day with a new, pro-government line after the management was replaced by government allies and the journalists were placed on forced leave. Some of their journalists have launched two new dailies, Özgür Bugün and Özgür Millet.
“This continuing purge of critical news media in the wake of the parliamentary elections bodes ill for the future of media freedom in Turkey,” said Johann Bihr, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
03.11.2015 - Two opposition journalists jailed
Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of Cevheri Güven, the publisher of the weekly Nokta, and Murat Capan, its editor. They were arrested last night on suspicion of “inciting criminal activity” in the wake of the parliamentary elections but an Istanbul court today ordered them held on the more serious charge of “inciting armed revolt against the government.”
Their arrests were prompted by the weekly’s latest issue (Issue No. 24), which had a photograph of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a calendar on the front cover together with the headline: “Monday 2 November, start of civil war in Turkey.” The police have seized all available copies and Nokta’s website has been blocked.
Highlighting the absurdity of the charges, the journalists said the issue was sent to the printers on 30 October, two days before the 1 November parliamentary elections. The cover did not, therefore, refer to the elections results, which have surprised most observers, but to the polarization in Turkey in the run-up to the elections.
The arrests of Güven and Capan have brought to five the number of pro-Gülen Movement journalists now detained. The others are Hidayet Karaca, Mehmet Baransu and Gültekin Avci. Capan is also being investigated in connection with an earlier cover in September said to have “insulted the president.”
(Photo: Ozan Kose / AFP)