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04 July

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 249

Four HRDs handed down prison sentences in "Büyükada trial”; T24’s Doğan Akın acquitted; journalist Cihan Acar sent to prison

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Four rights defenders handed down prison sentences in “Büyükada trial”

The final hearing in the “Büyükada trial,” where 11 human rights defenders faced terrorism-related charges, was held on 3 July 2020 at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Announcing its verdict at the end of what was the 13th hearing in the trial, the court sentenced Taner Kılıç to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership of a terrorist organization,” Özlem Dalkıran, İdil Eser and Günal Kurşun to 1 year and 13 months each for “aiding a terrorist organization” and acquitted Ali Gharavi, Nejat Taştan, Veli Acu, İlknur Üstün, Nalan Erkem, Peter Frank Steudtner and Muhammed Şeyhmus Özbekli.

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

Sibel Hürtaş detained while covering sit-in by heads of bar associations

Journalist Sibel Hürtaş was detained by police on 3 July 2020 in front of the Parliament as she was covering a sit-in by heads of bar associations, who have been demanding to participate in talks in the Parliamentary Justice Commission concerning a bill proposing major structural changes to the organization of bar associations.

Announcing her arrest on Twitter, Hürtaş said she was subjected to ill-treatment as she was being taken to the Kavaklıdere Police Station. Hürtaş was released later in the day after being questioned at the police station.

T24’s Doğan Akın acquitted of “aiding terrorist group” charge

Doğan Akın, a founding member of P24 and the editor-in-chief of the news portal T24, was acquitted of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” at the third hearing of his trial, held on 2 July 2020 at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Akın was facing up to 15 years in prison over T24’s coverage of posts by an anonymous Twitter account that went by the name “Fuat Avni.”

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

Gov’t working on bill to bring social media “under control”

After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated during a televised appearance earlier this week that his government would introduce legislation to shut down social media and to bring it under control, details began to surface about the legislation his ruling AKP has been working on.

The bill proposes to make it obligatory for social platforms to appoint representatives based in Turkey and to store user data in Turkey. Sözcü newspaper reported this week that the legislation will mainly focus on the Internet Law (No. 5651) and the Law on Electronic Communications (No. 5809). Through amendments to be introduced to the above legislation, the powers of the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) will be further extended, enabling the BTK to block access to social media platforms.

Immediately on the heels of Erdoğan’s statement, the Directorate General of Security issued a written statement, in which it announced that it has been cyber patrolling across social media 24/7, focusing on “crimes” under the Law on Crimes Committed against Atatürk and Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which criminalizes “insulting the president.”

Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç’s trial adjourned 

The sixth hearing in a trial where journalists Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç stand accused of “publicly degrading the judiciary” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) took place on 2 July 2020 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The accusation stems from Uludağ and Güvenç’s reports about the developments surrounding US pastor Andrew Brunson, who remained in pre-trial detention in Turkey for two years before being released in October 2018.

Uludağ and his lawyer were not in attendance. Güvenç’s lawyer Abbas Yalçın was present in court. Yalçın said his client’s reporting was within the framework of freedom of expression and that Güvenç’s report was based on facts. Yalçın asked the court to acquit his client.

Accepting Uludağ and his lawyer’s letters of excuse, the court adjourned the trial until 22 October 2020.

“KCK Press trial” adjourned until December 

The 19th hearing of the long-running “KCK Press trial,” where 46 journalists and media workers face terrorism-related charges, was held on 2 July 2020 at the 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

None of the defendants were in attendance at the hearing, where they were represented by their lawyers. In its interim ruling, the court rejected the requests for the separation of the file against Çağdaş Ulus and his acquittal, and for Yüksel Genç to be granted exemption from personal attendance in court, and set 1 December 2020 as the date for the next hearing.

Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s trial postponed 

The trial of Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), on the charge of “insulting the president” that was scheduled to resume on 2 July 2020 at the Anadolu 42nd Criminal Court of First Instance was postponed until 1 October 2020 since the judge overseeing the case was on medical leave.

Journalist Berivan Altan’s trial gets under way

Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Berivan Altan appeared before the 2nd High Criminal Court of Mersin on 2 July 2020 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.”

Altan was asked about the witness testimony against her and the shuttered newspapers Özgürlükçü Demokrasi and Rojewa Medya. Altan told the court that at the time, both papers were being legally published and were distributed on newsstands after being approved by the Prosecutor’s Office responsible for the press. Altan rejected the accusation.

Ruling to hear one witness at the next hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 12 November. 

RTÜK imposes 5-day broadcast ban on Halk TV, Tele 1

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed five-day broadcast bans on the opposition television channels Tele 1 TV and Halk TV.

The broadcast ban on Tele 1 was imposed on account of comments about the Directorate of Religious Affairs during a news show titled “Karanlıktan Aydınlığa” that aired on 30 April 2020. Tele 1 was also given a maximum administrative fine over anchor Merdan Yanardağ’s remarks on Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II during the programme “18 Dakika.”

Halk TV was given a five-day broadcasting ban for journalist Hüsnü Mahalli’s remarks on an episode of the show “Medya Mahallesi” that aired on 16 June 2020.

Announcing RTÜK’s decisions on social media, RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı said the decision was taken by a majority vote and that the broadcasting watchdog would determine when the penalties would be implemented. Taşçı also wrote that if the two channels are given the same penalty again, they will lose their broadcast license.

Ferhat Tunç’s trial adjourned 

Musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial on the charge of “inciting the people to hatred and animosity” over his social media posts resumed on 1 July 2020 at the Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance. Ordering the continuation of the arrest warrant against Tunç, the court adjourned the trial until 2 December 2020.

Trial of BirGün executives adjourned

The fourth hearing in the trial of BirGün daily’s executives İbrahim Aydın, Barış İnce, Can Uğur and Bülent Yılmaz took place on 30 June 2020 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The journalists are charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” over the newspaper’s online coverage of tweets by the Twitter account “Fuat Avni” between 2014 and 2015.

P24 monitored the hearing. In its interim ruling, the court decided to investigate whether or not the defendants are members of any foundations, unions or trade associations, and after the completion of the inquiry, to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of their final opinion if there will be no requests for further inquiry at that point. The court adjourned the trial until 13 October 2020.

Publisher in Diyarbakır jailed pending trial

Azad Zal (Mehmet Güngörmüş), the owner of the J&J Publishing House based in Diyarbakır, was jailed pending trial on 30 June 2020 for alleged “membership of a terrorist organization.” Zal, who was arrested as part of an investigation into the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), was sent to the Diyarbakır D Type Prison.

Journalist Ayşe Kara and 12 others who were also taken into custody as part of the same investigation, have been released.

MA reporter Sadiye Eser faces new investigation

Journalist Sadiye Eser, an Istanbul-based reporter for Mezopotamya news agency (MA), is facing an investigation over an interview she made in 2019 with a lawyer representing PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Eser gave her statement to a prosecutor on 29 June at the Istanbul Courthouse in relation to the investigation, where she faces allegations of “propaganda.”

3 local journalists face investigation over newspaper’s headline

Mustafa Sarı, Sedat Balta and İsmail Erken, the executives of Adapazarı Akşam Haberleri, a local daily published in Sakarya, are facing allegations of “insulting a public official” and “libel” in a new investigation. The allegations stem from the headline story in the daily’s 15 June 2020 issue, which read “İyi ki Varsın!” (So glad you exist!), a sarcastic response to a recent statement by AKP Sakarya Deputy Ali İhsan Yavuz, who claimed that the media was “not covering good things that happen” in Turkey.

Journalist Cihan Acar sent back to prison

Journalist Cihan Acar, who was sentenced in 2018 to 6 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” as part of the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” returned to prison after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld his sentence in June. Acar surrendered to the Edirne Prison on 23 June 2020 to serve the remainder of his sentence.

For details, see this report.

List of journalists and media workers in prison updated

P24 has updated its list of journalists and media workers in prison, compiled using information available in open sources, upon discovering that former Zaman Gaziantep bureau chief Nurullah Kaya had been released from prison, and that journalist Cihan Acar was recently sent to prison.

Accordingly, as of 3 July 2020, at least 93 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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