146 journalists behind bars and one TV presenter missing after alleged police detention
In the final week of November, journalists continued to experience detentions, press card cancellations and travel bans.
In the most alarming development, independent media reported on Nov. 30 that Müjgan Ekin, a former presenter for Özgür Gün TV, shut down by a government decree in August, had been missing since Oct. 24, when witnesses saw her being dragged into a police car. The young woman was in Ankara traveling in a taxi when she was abducted by individuals who identified themselves as police officers, according to eyewitnesses. No official statement has been issued about the allegations.
Coup investigation and other detentions
On Nov. 29, police detained Vedat Beki, editor-in-chief of the online news outlet Sözcü18, as part of the ongoing investigation into the July 15 coup attempt conducted by the Çankırı Prosecutor’s office.
On Dec. 1, a top executive for Doğan Holding – a conglomerate active in industrial production, energy, tourism and insurance; and the owner of many newspapers, television networks and other media including the Hürriyet daily, CNNTürk, KanalD, digital TV platform D-Smart, was detained as part of the coup probe. Barbaros Muratoğlu, the Ankara representative for Doğan Holding, was flown to İstanbul following his detention.
On Nov. 26, Hatice Kamer, a reporter for BBC Turkey, was detained and kept in custody overnight in the Şirvan district of Siirt province. Kamer was in the area to cover a recent landslide that claimed the lives of several miners in the region.
Reporters for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) Meltem Oktay and Uğur Akgül were sentenced to four years in prison on charges of propagating for a terrorist organization. The two journalists were initially detained in April, and Oktay had remained under arrest until her release on Aug. 18.
Fethi Balaman, another DİHA reporter, was detained in Mardin’s Kızıltepe district on Nov. 26. No explanation was offered by officials as to the reason for his detention.
On Nov. 30, the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office submitted an indictment into former Zaman reporter Ayşenur Parıldak to an Ankara court. Parıldak was arrested after the coup attempt on charges of membership in what judicial officials call the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), the name the Turkish government has used in the recent years to refer to the religious movement led by Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. The prosecutor demands between 7.5 to 15 years for Parıldak.
On Nov. 30, a court issued an international travel ban for Kerem Altan, a journalist who previously stood trial in relation with the accidental death of a television celebrity in Turkey. Kerem Altan is the son of journalist and writer Ahmet Altan, who was arrested in late September as part of the coup probe. Lawyers for Kerem Altan issued a statement, saying that the flight ban was aimed at “slandering and damaging the reputation” of their client.
Access bans and press card cancellations
On Nov. 23, access to the online news outlet Kurultay (kurultay.com.tr) was blocked. Authorities also cancelled the press card of the site’s editor-in-chief, Aydın Taş, who held the card as the Ankara Bureau Chief for the Azerbaijani newspaper Azadliq. Taş has claimed authorities were acting in accordance with a demand expressed by the Ilham Aliyev government.
On Nov. 30, authorities issued a gag order on reports about a dormitory fire, which claimed the lives of 11 young girls and one educator.
Reports and publications
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, who visited Turkey and met with representatives of independent media, civil society groups as well as Turkish officials, published an article on Nov. 29 where he shared his observations from the visit. “Turkey’s friends in the West need to do more to convince Erdoğan to recommit to the rule of law,” Kaye wrote in the column.
Another visitor to Turkey, US journalist Lindsey Snell who was held in prison on suspicion of espionage, wrote about her ordeal in the Daily Beast.