13 journalists receive prison sentences in February, CHP lawmaker highlights in monthly “Rights Violations against the Press Report”

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Barış Yarkadaş, on February 28, released the latest edition of his monthly report in which he compiles cases of rights violations and oppression against press members in Turkey.

Thirteen journalists were handed down prison sentences in February, while 24 were taken into custody, and five were imprisoned, the report highlighted. Announcing his report at a press conference at the Parliament, Yarkadaş said he dedicated the report to Ján Kuciak, a young Slovak reporter who was shot to death on February 26 because of his reporting that focused on tax evasion in Slovakia.

Yarkadaş also added that books written by journalists and writers Ahmet Altan, Nurcan Baysal and İsmail Saymaz were banned in Turkey’s prisons in the month of February, which also saw a total of 120 press members — from newspaper distributors to reporters — appear before courts.

Ahmet Altan handed down yet another prison sentence

Journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan was found guilty of “insulting the president” and “terrorism propaganda” and sentenced to 5 years and 11 months in prison on February 28, 2018, at the final hearing of a case in which the accusations were based on a column the novelist and former editor-in-chief of the Taraf newspaper wrote in 2016.

A detailed report about the hearing, monitored by P24 in the courtroom, can be found here.

Prosecutor requests 13 years in prison for Hayatın Sesi executives 

The third hearing of a case in which three executives of the shuttered television station Hayatın Sesi — Gökhan Çetin, İsmail Gökhan Bayram and Mustafa Kara — stand accused of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” was held on March 1 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The prosecutor submitted his final opinion during the hearing, requesting up to 13 years in prison for “collectively conducting continued propaganda for a terrorist organization” for each of the three executives of the channel, which was closed down in September 2016 through a statutory decree.

The case is based on the allegation that the channel “conducted propaganda for the Islamic State (ISIS), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) organizations,” simultaneously. The accusation is based on five broadcasts in 2015 and 2016.

The court adjourned the trial to April 24 for the final defense statements to be prepared.

JinNews reporter Durket Süren detained in Diyarbakır

Durket Süren, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish feminist online news outlet JinNews, was taken into custody by police on March 1 in Lice, a district of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

Süren was detained on grounds of a search warrant against her. She was taken to the local police department, from where she was expected to be transferred to the Diyarbakır Police Department.

Access to Ahval news portal banned 

Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) banned access to the website of Ahval, an online news portal, as of February 28. Ahval announced via its Twitter account that the ban was arbitrary, and that it would launch a legal process shortly to have the blockage lifted.

TRT employee dismissed for criticizing 2017 referendum reinstated

Binali Erdoğan, the former chief cameraman for the İzmir branch of the state broadcaster TRT, who was initially dismissed by the TRT and later imprisoned on account of his critical comments on social media concerning Turkey’s 2017 referendum, was reinstated on March 1 in accordance with a court order.

Following his dismissal from the TRT, Erdoğan, who is also an executive of the trade union Haber-Sen, was imprisoned in October 2017 on the charge of “insulting the president” via his social media posts. He was released pending trial 32 days later, after the court accepted an objection filed by Haber-Sen lawyers.

An Izmir court held on January 17 that Erdoğan’s dismissal from civil service was unlawful and ruled for the journalist to be reinstated.

The trial in which Erdoğan stands accused of “insulting the president,” in the meantime, is still underway at the 25th Criminal Court of First Instance in Izmir. During the latest hearing of that case on February 2, Erdoğan gave his defense statement, in which he rejected the accusations. The court ruled at the end of the hearing that Erdoğan’s social media posts are examined by an IT expert to determine whether or not they had been posted by the suspect, and adjourned the trial to May 3.

Court issues decision of non-jurisdiction in Hüsnü Mahalli trial

An Istanbul court overseeing a case in which journalist Hüsnü Mahalli stands accused of “insulting the president” and “insulting a public officer due to the performance of his public duty” issued a decision of non-jurisdiction during the third hearing of the trial on March 1.

The accusations against Mahalli stem from his comments in his Twitter posts and the remarks he made on a television program on Halk TV. The journalist faces up to seven years and four months in prison if convicted.

Mahalli gave his defense statement during the March 1 hearing, in which he rejected the accusations and said that as a journalist, the opinions he expressed were based on public comments by politicians. Mahalli requested his acquittal.

The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case, stating that the case was within the jurisdiction of the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, the court that has jurisdiction over press offenses.

Journalists Union protests Cumhuriyet for firing workplace rep

The Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) held a demonstration in front of the Cumhuriyet newspaper’s head office in Istanbul on February 28 in protest of the laying off of reporter Deniz Ülkütekin, the union’s workplace representative in Cumhuriyet.

Reading a statement during the demonstration, the union’s Secretary-General Mustafa Kuleli said they expected Ülkütekin, who the union claims was laid off without just cause, to be restored to his position.

Kuleli said: “Our workplace representative was initially sent on 138 days of mandatory leave. Upon his return, he was prevented from producing content for the newspaper as a reporter. Our workplace representative was voted on by the Cumhuriyet employees. For Ülkütekin to be laid off without cause in spite of what the president of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, Orhan Erinç, had promised, is unacceptable.”

For a full list of all the imprisoned journalists in Turkey, visit this spreadsheet. Lists of all of the foundations and associations as well as media outlets shut down can also be found at the same link, although on different tabs of the same spreadsheet.