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09 December

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 168

Hasan Cemal faces investigation on “insulting the president charge”; courts rule to keep jailed journalists in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 168


Hasan Cemal faces investigation on “insulting the president charge”; courts rule to keep jailed journalists in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, ETHA trials behind bars


Veteran journalist Hasan Cemal, the founding president of P24 Platform for Independent Journalism, on 6 December gave his statement before a prosecutor at the Istanbul Courthouse as part of an investigation where he is accused of “insulting the president.”


The accusation stems from a column by Cemal, published in the online news outlet T24 in July.


In his oral statement before the prosecutor, Cemal explained that the expressions in his column constituted an exercising of his right to freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and asserted that they did not constitute any offense.


A report about Cemal’s statement can be accessed here.


No new releases in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial


The second hearing of the trial into 14 employees of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi on terrorism-related charges took place on 6 December at the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.


The pro-Kurdish newspaper’s Istanbul offices were raided by police and the newspaper was appointed a trustee in March before it was closed down in July through an emergency decree. Its publisher, İhsan Yaşar, and responsible managing editor, İshak Yasul, were jailed pending trial on 6 April on terrorism-related charges as part of the investigation. Editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Hicran Ürün, and bookkeeper and secretary Pınar Tarlak were jailed on 10 April. Tarlak was released at the end of the first hearing of the trial in September.


The defendants are accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “printing or publishing terrorist group publications.” News stories featured in the newspaper constitute the grounds for the accusations in the indictment. The other suspects in the indictment are Davut Uçar, Ersin Çaksu, Fırat Benli, Günay Aksoy, Mizgin Fendik, Önder Elaldı, Ramazan Sola and Yılmaz Yıldız.


P24 monitored the second hearing on 6 December, where the defendants made their defense statements. Rejecting the accusations, the jailed journalists requested to be released pending trial.


In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of the detention of all jailed defendants in the case. The court also kept the international travel ban imposed on the unjailed defendants in place and ruled to await the execution of the arrest warrants for six other defendants in the case. The next hearing in the trial is set for 21 February 2019.


Trial against Evrensel’s Fatih Polat adjourned until March


The third hearing of a trial where Evrensel daily’s Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat stands accused of “disclosing the private communication between two individuals” was held on 6 December in Istanbul.


The accusation stems from a news story published in Evrensel on 22 February 2010 -- when Polat was the responsible managing editor of the daily. The story covered the leaked tapes of an alleged phone conversation between former Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek and former AKP MP Burhan Kuzu.


The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul adjourned the trial until 7 March 2019, awaiting an expert report as to when Evrensel reported about the tapes.


“Insulting the president” case against Evrensel columnist adjourned


The third hearing of a trial where lawyer and Evrensel columnist Kamil Tekin Sürek is accused of “insulting the president” was held on 6 December at the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul. Sürek’s lawyer Devrim Avcı requested a continuance for the defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. The court agreed to grant additional time, adjourning the trial until 20 December 2018.


Kibriye Evren appears before court on terrorism-related charges


Also on 6 December, jailed reporter Kibriye Evren appeared in the first hearing of her trial on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”


Evren, a reporter for the women’s news collective Jin News, has been in pre-trial detention since October. She faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted. Evren’s overseas travels and her social media posts are held as evidence against her in the case file.


Making her defense statement during the hearing, Evren told the court that the secret witness testimony against her were false. Evren rejected the accusations and requested for her release pending trial.


The prosecution then requested the continuation of Evren’s detention. In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır ordered the continuation of Evren’s pre-trial detention on the grounds of “available evidence” and adjourned the trial until 10 January 2019.


Court dismisses compensation case against Çiğdem Toker


The Ankara 1st Civil Court of First Instance on 6 December dismissed a compensation case against journalist Çiğdem Toker, filed by the agricultural company Agrobay on account of a column in which Toker wrote about Turkish companies exporting tomatoes to Russia.


Claiming that Toker’s column damaged its public image and commercial standing, Agrobay had been seeking a record TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages for Toker’s column.


Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp remain behind bars at 2nd hearing


Etkin news agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp, jailed since April on terrorism-related charges, appeared before the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 5 December for the second hearing of their trial.


Addressing the court for their defense statements, both Şahin and Gayıp denied the accusations and said that this case was an attempt at criminalizing journalism.


In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to keep Şahin and Gayıp behind bars while releasing two other jailed defendants in the case under judicial control measures. The next hearing in the trial is set for 30 January 2019.


A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.


Mehmet Dursun released from pre-trial detention at his first hearing


The trial of Van-based journalist Mehmet Dursun, who has been jailed pending trial since April, got underway on 5 December in Van.


Dursun is accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” on account of his phone conversations with his sources.


Addressing the 4th High Criminal Court of Van for his defense statement during the hearing, Dursun denied the accusations and requested his acquittal.


In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Dursun under judicial control measures and set 15 May 2019 as the date for the next hearing in the case.


Rojhat Doğru jailed pending trial on terrorism charge


A Diyarbakır Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 5 December jailed journalist Rojhat Doğru pending trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”


Doğru was taken into custody in Istanbul as part of an investigation launched in Diyarbakır. He gave his statement to the 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace of Diyarbakır on 5 December. The journalist denied the allegations and requested to be released pending trial.


The judgeship jailed Doğru on the grounds of “strong suspicion” on account of his Facebook posts.


Appellate court rules to release former Zaman ad exec


An appellate court in Istanbul on 5 December ruled to release Beytullah Demir, a former advertising executive for the shuttered Zaman daily who had been jailed at the Silivri Prison for the past 21 months.


The ruling for Demir’s release came after the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the 7.5-year prison sentence imposed on Demir and sent his file back to the Regional Court of Justice in Istanbul, an appellate court.


Arrest warrants issued for Can Dündar and Memet Ali Alabora


Arrest warrants were issued for Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of the daily Cumhuriyet, and stage and screen actor Memet Ali Alabora, on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government.”


The arrest warrants were issued as part of an ongoing investigation into the nationwide Gezi Park protests of 2013. Osman Kavala, the executive board chairman of Anadolu Kültür Inc., has been jailed pending trial without and indictment for more than a year as part of the investigation.


Top court finds violation of press freedom in Bianet case


The Constitutional Court has found a violation of the right to freedom of the press in an access ban order for a 2006 news story published by Bianet.


In its unanimous ruling rendered on 30 October and published in the Official Gazette on 4 December, the Constitutional Court ruled that “the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, enshrined in articles 26 and 28 of the Constitution, have been violated” and ordered a retrial for the elimination of the violation.


Three printing house employees released in Gün Matbaacılık case


The trial into the 21 employees of Gün Matbaacılık, the company that printed the shuttered newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, resumed on 3 December in Istanbul.


The defendants are charged with “knowingly and willingly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization,” “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”


The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled at the end of the second hearing to release three jailed employees of the printing company -- Mürsel Demir, Polat Arslan and Kazım Göçer -- and adjourned the trial until 14 January 2019.


Kasım Zengin, the owner of the printing company, and employees Cemal Tunç, Erdoğan Zamur, İhsan Sinmiş, İrfan Karaca, Mahmut Abay, Mehmet Emin Sümeli and Musa Kaya remain in pretrial detention.


Eight other employees of the printing company had been released from pre-trial detention at the end of the first hearing of the case.


Çağdaş Kaplan gives defense statement in “Musa Çitil case”


Çağdaş Kaplan, the editor-in-chief of the daily Yeni Yaşam, gave his defense statement on 3 December before an Istanbul court as part of an ongoing trial in Diyarbakır.


Kaplan and six other journalists are charged with “making those involved in the fight against terrorism a target” in the case, where senior gendarmerie commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, who was cited in a news report published in February 2016 by the shuttered DİHA news agency, is the plaintiff. The journalists are accused because they shared the news story on social media.


Kaplan told the court during his statement that journalism was being put on trial in this case. He argued that Çitil was actually making journalists a target through this court case. Rejecting the accusation, Kaplan said he shared the news story for the public’s right to information.


The next hearing in the case, overseen by the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, is set for 16 January 2019.


Three more academics convicted for signing peace petition


Three more academics charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition were convicted this week.


On 6 December, Gülhan Balsoy was given a 15-month prison sentence at the end of the third hearing of their trial at the 28th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The sentence was deferred.


The same court on 4 December sentenced Yonca Güneş Yücel to 18 months in prison. Yücel was sentenced in absentia. The court deferred her sentence. Yücel will be subject to probation for the next two years.


Also on 4 December, the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted academic S.B. at the end of the first hearing of the case. The defendant did not request a continuance after the prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case, so the court went on to issue its verdict, sentencing the academic to 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison on the grounds that “the offense was committed successively.” The court then reduced the sentence to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in consideration of the defendant’s conduct in court. The sentence was deferred.


List of journalists and media workers in prison


As of 7 December 2018, at least 170 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.


The full list can be accessed here.


1    Abdulkadir Turay, DİHA reporter

2    Abdullah Dirican, Zaman local news editor

3    Abdullah Kaya, DİHA

4    Abdullah Kılıç, Habertürk

5    Abdullah Özyurt, Zaman reporter

6    Abdulvahap İş, freelance journalist

7    Adil Demirci, ETHA reporter

8    Ahmet Altan

9    Ahmet Feyzullah Özyurt

10    Ahmet Memiş, Haberdar news website

11    Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Zaman

12    Ahmet Yavaş, TRT (Erzurum)

13    Ali Ahmet Böken, TRT News coordinator

14    Ali Akkuş, Zaman

15    Ali Aşikar, Azadiya Welat

16    Ali Babür Boysal, Zaman page designer

17    Ali Ünal, Zaman columnist

18    Ali Yüce, TRT Radio broadcasts chief

19    Arafat Dayan, Demokratik Ulus

20    Aslı Ceren Aslan, Özgür Gelecek

21    Atilla Taş, Meydan columnist

22    Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak

23    Ayşenur Parıldak, Zaman, Haberdar

24    Aytekin Gezici, journalist/writer

25    Aziz İstegün, Diyarbakır Zaman representative

26    Bayram Kaya, Zaman reporter

27    Beytullah Özdemir, Zaman Düzce bureau chief

28    Burçin Dokgöz, former Zaman and Çorum reporter

29    Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Journalists and Writers’ Foundation

30    Cemal Tunç, Gün Matbaacılık employee

31    Ceren Taşkın, Hatay'ın Sesi

32    Cuma Ulus, Millet newspaper’s publications coordinator

33    Cumali Çaygeç, TRT Şeş news director

34    Cüneyt Seza Özkan, Samanyolu TV

35    Çetin Kurşun, Azadiya Welat

36    Doğan Baran, Odak magazine owner, managing editor

37    Ece Sevim Öztürk, Çağdaş Ses editor in chief

38    Emin Demir, freelancer

39    Emre Soncan, Zaman defense reporter

40    Ercan Gün, Fox TV

41    Erdal Süsem, Eylül magazine editor

42    Erdal Şen, former Meydan managing editor

43    Erdoğan Zamur, Gün Matbaacılık employee

44    Erol Yüksel, TRT News Department vice president

45    Erol Zavar, Odak magazine owner and newsroom director

46    Fahri Öztoprak, Cihan/Zaman Samsun correspondent

47    Faruk Akkan, Cihan news agency

48    Ferhat Çiftçi, Azadiya Welat Gaziantep bureau chief

49    Ferhat Parlak, Silvan Mücadele newspaper owner

50    Fevzi Yazıcı, Zaman chief designer

51    Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Türksolu columnist

52    Gurbet Çakar, Hevi women’s magazine

53    Gültekin Avcı

54    Habip Güler, Zaman reporter

55    Hakan Aksel, TRT producer-director

56    Hakan Ergün, Azadiya Welat and Özgür Gündem distributor

57    Hakan Taşdelen

58    Halil İbrahim Mert, TRT (Erzurum)

59    Hamit Dilbahar, Azadiya Welat columnist

60    Hamza Günerigök, TRT

61    Hanım Büşra Erdal, Zaman reporter and columnist

62    Hasan Bzokurt, Bugün reporter

63    Hasan Duman, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi distributor

64    Hasan Hüseyin Örs, former TRT production-broadcast operator

65    Hasan Taşar, former TRT Ankara reporter

66    Hatice Duman, Atılım newspaper owner and managing editor

67    Haydar Ergül, Demokratik Modernite editor

68    Hicran Ürün, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor

69    Hidayet Karaca, Samanyolu Media Group president

70    Hüseyin Aydın, Cihan reporter

71    İbrahim Halil Öztürkeri, former TRT production-broadcast operator

72    İdris Okur, Cihan New Agency Çorum reporter

73    İdris Sayılgan, DİHA

74    İdris Yılmaz

75    İhsan Sinmiş, Gün Matbaacılık employee

76    İhsan Yaşar, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi owner

77    İrfan Karaca, Gün Matbaacılık employee

78    İshak Yasul, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi responsible managing editor

79    İsmail Çoban, former Azadiya Welat managing editor

80    İsmail Ersan, Anatolia news agency

81    İsminaz Temel, ETHA editor

82    Kamuran Sunbat, former DİHA Çukurova reporter

83    Kasım Zengin, owner of Gün Matbaacılık

84    Kazım Canlan, Cihan news agency Ankara news director

85    Kemal Demir, TV 10

86    Kemal Özer, Evrensel

87    Kemal Sancılı, Özgür Gündem copyrights holder

88    Kenan Karavil, Radyo Dünya editor-in-chief

89    Kibriye Evren, JinNews reporter

90    Kubilay Çelik, Antropolog magazine responsible managing editor

91    Mahmut Abay, Gün Matbaacılık employee

92    Max Zirngast, Re:volt magazine

93    Mehmet Ali Ay

94    Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor

95    Mehmet Baransu, Taraf columnist/reporter

96    Mehmet Emin Sümeli, Gün Matbaacılık employee

97    Mehmet Güleş, DİHA

98    Mehmet Gündem

99    Mehmet Kuru, Zaman Eskişehir reporter

100    Mehmet Sıddık damar, DİHA

101    Meltem Oktay, DİHA reporter

102    Metin Arslan, Bugün reporter

103    Mikail Barut, Özgür Halk former editor

104    Miktat Algül, Mezitli FM broadcast coordinator

105    Mizgin Çay, Radyo Karacadağ

106    Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, owner of Subuhaber.com

107    Muhsin Pilgir, Zaman and Cihan news agency

108    Murat Aksoy, former Yeni Şafak columnist

109    Murat Çapan, Nokta

110    Murat Dağdeviren, Demokrat Gebze owner

111    Musa Kaya, Gün Matbaacılık employee

112    Mustafa Erkan Acar, Bugün news editor

113    Mustafa Gök, Ankara bureau chief for Ekmek ve Adalet magazine

114    Mustafa Gökkılıç, reporter, Radikal and Habertürk TV

115    Mustafa Göktaş, Özgür Gündem Şanlıurfa reporter

116    Mustafa Ünal, Zaman

117    Mutlu Çölgeçen, Millet, newsroom coordinator

118    Mutlu Özay, Cihan reporter

119    Mümtazer Türköne, Zaman columnist

120    Nadir Yücel, Çorum Yıldız local newspaper editor-in-chief

121    Nedim Türfent, DİHA

122    Nizamettin İzgi, Batman newspaper owner

123    Nuh Gönültaş, Bugün columnist

124    Nuri Durna, TRT

125    Nuri Yeşil, Azadiya Welat Dersim bureau chief

126    Nurullah Kaya, Gaziantep Zaman representative

127    Oğuz Usluer, Habertürk former broadcasts coordinator

128    Osman Yakut, Zaman Antalya

129    Ömer Oruç, Cihan newspaper

130    Özcan Keser, TRT reporter

131    Özden Kınık, TRT

132    Pınar Gayıp, ETHA reporter

133    Reyhan Çapan, Özgür Gündem managing editor

134    Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi editor

135    Rojhat Doğru, reporter for Gale Kurdistan TV

136    Sadık Demir, Radyo Karacadağ

137    Sait Gürkan Tuzlu, Cihan reporter

138    Sami Tunca, Mücadele Birliği magazine managing editor

139    Seda Taşkın, Mezopotamya News Agency reporter

140    Semiha Mete, Özgürlükçü Demokrasi reporter/distributor

141    Semiha Şahin, ETHA editor

142    Serhat Şeftali, Zaman regional bureau chief for the Med region

143    Serkan Aydemir, Bitlis Aktüel reporter

144    Serkan Canbaz, TRT Ankara reporter, news editor

145    Serpil Ünal, Mücadele Birliği reporter

146    Sertan Önal, Halkın Günlüğü reporter

147    Seyid Kılıç, TRT News

148    Seyithan Akyüz, Azadiya Welat Adana bureau chief

149    Sezai Yavaş, TRT Diyarbakır deputy regional director

150    Songül Yücel, Önsöz editor in chief

151    Süleyman Acar, Mücadele Birliği editor in chief

152    Şahabettin Demir, DİHA reporter

153    Şeref Yılmaz, Irmak TV

154    Şirin Kabakçı, Zaman Konya bureau chief

155    Togay Okay, Özgür Gelecek

156    Turgut Usul, TRT reporter

157    Ufuk Şanlı, former Vatan columnist

158    Uğur Akgül

159    Uğur Selman Kelekçiler, Gün Matbaacılık employee

160    Ünal Tanık, Rota Haber editor-in-chief

161    Vahit Yazgan, İzmir Zaman bureau chief

162    Veli Büyükşahin, TV10 executive

163    Veli Haydar Güleç, TV10 executive

164    Yakup Çetin, Zaman reporter

165    Yakup Şimşek, Zaman, marketing director

166    Yalçın Güler, TRT (Erzurum)

167    Yetkin Yıldız, Aktif Haber website editor

168    Yılmaz Kahraman, Özgür Halk editor

169    Zehra Doğan, Jinha

170    Ziya Ataman, DİHA reporter


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