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27 March

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 235

Journalists Sadiye Eser, Sadık Topaloğlu, musician Yılmaz Çelik released; journalists, lawmakers face investigation over Covid-19 reports, posts

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Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu released pending trial

Mezopotamya news agency reporters Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu, who were jailed pending trial on 3 December 2019, appeared before the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 26 March 2020 for the first hearing of their trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.”

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court released Eser and Topaloğlu under an international travel ban and set 15 October 2020 as the date for the second hearing.

A report about the hearing can be accessed here.

Musician Yılmaz Çelik released pending trial

The first hearing in the trial of musician Yılmaz Çelik on terrorism-related charges took place on 26 March 2020 at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Tunceli. In its interim ruling, the court released Çelik under an international travel ban and adjourned the trial until 14 May.

Çelik was arrested on 8 December 2019 following a concert appearance in Tunceli. He was jailed pending trial on the charges of “membership of a terrorist group” and “terrorism propaganda.” Çelik’s social media posts are held as evidence against him.

Newspapers excluded from running public ads may be banned in prisons

A clause preventing newspapers that are banned from running public ads by the Press Advertising Agency (BİK), such as Evrensel daily, from being distributed in prisons was reportedly included in a bill that will enable early release for up to 100,000 prisoners. The bill, the third “package” in the government’s Judicial Reform Strategy, is expected to be passed by the Parliament next week.

Independent newspaper Evrensel has been subject to a public ad ban since September 2019 on the grounds of “bulk buying.”

HDP lawmaker Gergerlioğlu faces investigation

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu over a social media post he shared on 25 March 2020, in which he wrote about claims that an inmate in the Ankara Sincan L Type Prison had tested positive for Covid-19. The investigation alleges that Gergerlioğlu’s social media post “caused panic and fear among people.”

İz Gazete reporter called in for questioning over Covid-19 coverage

Tugay Can, a reporter for the Izmir-based newspaper İz Gazete, was called in to give his statement on 25 March 2020 at the Izmir Police Department’s Cyber Crimes Unit. Can was questioned on the allegation of “causing panic and fear among people” in relation to a news report about two medical professionals in Izmir who reportedly tested positive for Covid-19.

Jailed journalist Aziz Oruç’s wife questioned over social media posts

Jailed journalist Aziz Oruç’s wife Hülya Oruç is facing an investigation on the allegation of “causing panic and fear among people” over her social media posts about fears of Covid-19 spread in prisons. Oruç gave her statement on 24 March at the Diyarbakır Police Department as part of the investigation launched by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Local journalists detained over Covid-19 coverage

İsmet Çiğit, founder and columnist of Ses Kocaeli, a local newspaper based in Kocaeli, was taken into custody in the early hours of 19 March 2020 in his apartment in the northwestern province. Çiğit was arrested in connection with a news report the newspaper published in its online edition on 18 March, about two individuals in Kocaeli who reportedly died of Covid-19. Authorities released Çiğit when Güngör Arslan, another columnist and a co-founder of the newspaper, who came to the police station where Çiğit was being questioned, said he wrote the report, upon which he was taken into custody. Arslan was released after giving his statement to the public prosecutor the next day.

Trials postponed as part of measures against spread of Covid-19

Trials and other legal procedures at numerous courthouses across Turkey -- except for trials of persons in detention on remand -- were temporarily put on hold as of 16 March 2020 as part of measures against the spread of Covid-19 in Turkey. Courts will remain open for emergency procedures.

The trial of journalist Rojhat Doğru, scheduled for 24 March at the 8th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, was postponed to 18 June 2020.

Journalist Beritan Canözer’s trial, scheduled for 25 March at the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, was postponed to 17 June 2020.

Journalist İdris Sayılğan’s trial, scheduled for 25 March at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş, was postponed to 13 May 2020.

The trial of journalists Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir, which was set to resume on 26 March at the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara, was postponed until 25 June 2020.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 27 March 2020, at least 100 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.



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