Number of journalists in prison falls to 147 following two releases, while CPJ confirms Turkey as the world’s top jailer of journalists

Following the release of Evrensel reporter Cemil Uğur on Dec. 13 and of JINHA news agency editor Zehra Doğan on Dec. 9, the number of journalists in Turkish prisons has fallen to 147.

Evrensel’s Cemil Uğur, who was arrested on Oct. 6 following his detention in Mersin province while reporting in the area, was released from prison in the first session of his trial. Another Evrenselreporter, Halil İbrahim Polat, who had been released in October pending trial, also appeared in court. A probation ruling for him, which necessitated his checking in weekly with a local police station was lifted also on Dec. 13.

Evrensel has reported that both reporters denied the accusations in their defense statements. The trial was adjourned until March 2, 2017.

Another journalist, Zehra Doğan, an editor with the shuttered news agency JINHAwas released on Dec. 9, also in the first session of the trial where she faces accusations of “membership in a terrorist group,” and “propagating for a terrorist group.” In her defense statement, Doğan — who delivered her court statement in Kurdish — said she had risked her life for conducting journalistic work to inform the public.

Doğan was released on probation despite the prosecutor’s demand to keep her under arrest on charges of terrorist propaganda. She was arrested on July 23.

Detentions of journalists

Hüsnü Mahalli, a Yurt newspaper columnist, was detained in his home on Dec. 14 on charges of “insulting state officials”, and “denigrating the Republic of Turkey.” Mahalli was taken to the detention center of the Fatih Police Station, where he collapsed according to Cumhuriyet. Mahalli, who is a Multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferer, spent the night of his detention in the Cerrahpaşa Hospital and will likely remain there until a prosecutor hears his testimony, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Barış Yarkadaş told the press. 

Seray Şahiner, a Birgün columnist, was detained on Dec. 11 in Bursa province, where she was visiting to attend a literature event organized by the Turkish Union of Doctors (TTB). Şahiner was released after one night in custody. It later emerged that she was detained in relation to a monetary fine issued to her by a court for referring to Bilal Erdoğan, son of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as “genius” in a column titled “Buraları Eskiden Hep Düz Liseydi” (All of this used to be regular high schools) published on Aug. 7.

On Dec. 11, Kenan Kırkaya, the Ankara Bureau Chief of the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was detained during a police operation in Ankara. Evrensel has reported that Kırkaya was detained as part of an operation into the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) administrators; although no official statement was made as to his detention.

Odatv trial: prosecutor asks for acquittal

The prosecutor demanded the acquittal of all suspects in the Odatv trial in a session heard on Dec. 14. The suspects include journalists Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener, Soner Yalçın and writer Yalçın Küçük. The trial was adjourned until Feb. 15, 2017. The suspects face charges of involvement in terrorist activity in relation to reports published on the news website Odatv.

CPJ report shows Turkey as worst jailer of journalists
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Dec. 13 released a report which stated that “at least 81 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, all of them facing anti-state charges, in the wake of an unprecedented crackdown that has included the shuttering of more than 100 news outlets. The 259 journalists in jail worldwide is the highest number recorded since 1990.”
The number of journalists on CPJ’s list is lower, as the organization doesn’t include employees of press outlets who are not directly involved in reporting. P24 considers all work done to sustain the operations of a media outlet to be related to journalism. As such, P24’s list includes individuals who might have been arrested for working at the legal department of a press organization or a press worker.