Five journalists and one newspaper employee detained purportedly over reports on hacked emails of Turkish energy minister

Five journalists and one newspaper accountant were detained on Dec. 25 in an operation believed to be about a recent hacking scandal, where a group calling itself RedHack posted  e-mail correspondence by Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s energy minister and President Erdogan’s son-in-law online.

The charges were put forward by officials as “propagating for an armed terrorist organization,” but did not specify the exact reason for the detentions. Observers said all of the journalists had written reports on the RedHack leak. Government and pro-government media reports stated the six journalists had “RedHack links” and that they were on a team to forge public perceptions in line with the purposes of the hacker group. The role of Mahir Kanaat, Birgün’s accountant, in reporting on the leaks was not immediately clear.

Those detained were Ömer Çelik, the news editor for Dicle News Agency (DİHA), shuttered under a Cabinet decree during Turkey’s post-coup State of Emergency; DİHA reporter Metin Yoksu; former Diken news website editor Tunca Öğreten; BirGün daily newspaper’s accountant Mahir Kanaat; Derya Okatan, managing editor of ETHA, which was also shuttered by a decree, and Eray Sargın, the news editor legally responsible for Yolculuk newspaper’s publications and also the owner of the same newspaper’s rights.

DİHA’s Ömer Çelik was detained in Diyarbakır, and later flown to Istanbul. Former Diken editor Tunca Öğreten and Birgün’s Mahir Kanaat  were being held at the detention center at the İstanbul Police Station at Vatan Street. Yolculuk newspaper’s rights owner Eray Sargın was reportedly banned from seeing his lawyer for the next five days.

Journalists assets confiscated

On Dec. 22, a court ruled to seize the assets of 54 individuals, mostly journalists as part of the investigation into the Fethullah Gülen group, followers of an Islamic-minded movement led by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who Turkish authorities say was behind the failed coup of July 15.

On 22 December, the 11th Istanbul Criminal Judicature of Peace issued a ruling ordering the seizure on the grounds that the journalists had “acquired their assets owing to their membership in a terrorist organization.” The ruling also stated that there was room for “reasonable doubt” to believe that these writers and columnists had allowed the use of their assets in line with the orders of the terrorist organization.

The journalists and others whose assets were taken over by the state were : Zafer Özsoy, Yüksel Durgut, Veysel Ayhan, Şeref Yılmaz, Şenol Kahraman, Süleyman Sargın, Şahin Alpay, Sevgi Akarçeşme, Sedat Yetişkin, Ömer Karakaş, Osman Nuri Öztürk, Oktay Vızvız, Nuriye Ural, Nevzat Güner, Mümtazer Türköne, Mustafa Ünal, Murat Avcıoğlu, Mehmet Akif Afşar, Mehmet Kamış, Lalezer Sarıibrahimoğlu, Kemal Soydemir, Hüseyin Döğme, Hilmi Yavuz, Hamit Çiçek, Hakan Taşdelen, Fevzi Yazıcı, Faruk Akkan, Faruk Kardıç, Erkam Tufan Aytav, Melih Kılıç, Ekrem Dumanlı, Cuma Kaya, Cevdet Türkyolu, Bülent Korucu, Bülent Keneş, Ali Bulaç, Ali Ünal, Ali Akbulut, Alaatin Güner, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Zeki Önal, Osman Nuri Arslan, Metin Tamer Gökceoğlu, Mehmet Özdemir, İhsan Duran Dağı, Hamit Bilici, Behçet Akyar, Adil Gülcek, Abdullah Katırcıoğlu, Abdullah Aymaz, Hüseyin Turan, İbrahim Karayeğen and Mehmet Özdemir.

Most of the names on the list are journalists and some of them are currently in prison.

TRT employees detained

Thirty-five former employees of the Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) network were detained on Dec. 22 on the grounds that the application “ByLock” — allegedly used by followers of the Fethullah Gülen movement who were involved in the coup attempt — was installed on their mobile phones. A total of 68 capture warrants were issued for former TRT members in the same investigation.

Also on Dec. 22, Sevim Korkmaz Dinç, a PEN member and the term spokesperson for the Women Writers Association, was detained in İzmir. No official explanation was offered as to why she was taken into custody.

An ETHA reporter, Pınar Gayıp, was detained on Dec. 19 and held overnight. ETHA has reported that Gayıp was detained while reporting on a protest event against the Back to Life operation on Dec. 19, 2000, where security forces brutally suppressed ongoing hunger strikes and death fasts across Turkish prisons, resulting in the death of 28 inmates and two soldiers.

DİHA news agency’s Ankara Bureau Chief Kenan Kırkaya, who was detained on Dec.12 as part of a police operation into the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was released on probation on Dec. 22, after ten days in detention.

Anatolia has reported that eight individuals had been detained in Adıyaman on Dec. 21 over their tweets and social media posts. The eight individuals were accused of “propagating for a terrorist organization,” the news agency said.

On Dec. 23, Belgian press  reported that journalist Maxime Azadi, a Belgian citizen originally from Turkey, was arrested on charges of terror propaganda. Azadi is the news editor for the Kurdish news agency ANF. He was released on Dec. 25 on a EUR 500 bail.

Capture warrant for Can Dündar

A capture warrant was issued for the former Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar in relation to his standing in as the editor-in-chief of the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily for a day, as part of a campaign to show solidarity with that newspaper. Dündar is already wanted as part of an investigation into Cumhuriyet. In the Gündem indictment, the prosecutor has asked between one to three years for Dündar.
Another Özgür Gündem temporary editor-in-chief, Ayşe Düzkan, appeared before a court on Dec. 15.

Hasan Cemal, who currently writes columns for T24 and who is the founding president of P24, was acquitted in two cases on Dec. 22 where he was accused of insulting the president.

Hüsnü Mahalli hospitalized

On Dec. 21, Yurt newspaper columnist Hüsnü Mahalli, who is in Silivri Prison on charges of insulting the president, was hospitalized in the Cerrahpaşa School of Medicine Hospital.  The journalist, who was arrested on Dec. 15,  has serious conditions.

Gag orders and other bans

On Dec. 22, the Supreme Radio and Television Board (RTÜK) ruled for the closure of Yol TV on the grounds that the network’s broadcasts had included insults to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

gag order was issued on reports regarding the Dec. 19 assassination of Andrey Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Ankara. The news ban on the incident was still in place as of Dec. 26.

On Dec. 22, Turkish authorities slowed down social media websites following the release of a video indicating that two Turkish soldiers were burned to their death by the Islamic State in al-Bab, Syria. The slowdown and that it has been achieved through government hands was confirmed byTurkeyBlocks, a website which monitors throttling data in Turkey. Many users also reported problems accessing  VPN services. On Nov. 4, The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) reportedly sent a notice to Internet service providers, ordering them to shut down all access to several VPN companies.

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