New indictment accuses journalists Uludağ and Akça of “disclosing identities of informants”; Parliament passes early release bill, journalists and other political prisoners excluded
Journalists Ulucağ and Akça charged with “disclosing identities of informants”
A new indictment was issued against Alican Uludağ, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, and Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, the responsible managing editor of the daily, accusing both journalists of “disclosing or publishing the identities of informants.” Uludağ and Akça are accused for a news report about the 2015 Ankara train station bombing trial, published on 22 November 2019.
The indictment against the two journalists, taken up by the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, seeks up to 3 years imprisonment for Uludağ and Akça each. The trial is set to get under way in November.
Parliament passes early release bill
The Turkish Parliament on 14 April passed a bill jointly drafted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) proposing a reduction in sentences for certain convictions through a set of permanent amendments to the Law on the Execution of Penalties and temporary amendments to regulations on probation.
Following the approval of the law by the President, it was published in the Official Gazette on 15 April 2020 and persons imprisoned for certain ordinary crimes began to be released from prisons. However, scores of journalists and political prisoners locked up on “terrorism-related” charges are not eligible for early release and will be remaining behind bars.
A report on the new law can be accessed here.
Request for release of journalists arrested in Odatv investigation denied
Petitions seeking the release of six journalists placed in pre-trial detention in connection with a news report published on Odatv in March about the burial of a Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative killed in Libya were rejected.
Lawyers representing Odatv Editor-in-Chief Barış Pehlivan, News Director Barış Terkoğlu, reporter Hülya Kılınç, Yeni Yaşam daily’s Editor-in-Chief Ferhat Çelik, Responsible Editor Aydın Keser, and Murat Ağırel, a columnist for Yeniçağ daily, requested their clients’ release based on the recent amendments to the Law on the Execution of Penalties. The 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace rejected all release requests. The names of Çelik and Keser were left out in the judgeship’s ruling.
Constitutional Court to review Çelik and Keser’s applications
The Constitutional Court took up the applications filed on behalf of jailed Yeni Yaşam journalists Ferhat Çelik and Aydın Keser. Both journalists have been behind bars in Silivri prison since being jailed pending trial on 8 March on the charge of “disclosing the contents of documents and information concerning the duties and operations of the National Intelligence Organization.” While ruling to proceed with their individual applications, the top court rejected Keser and Çelik’s requests to be released pending trial on the grounds that “their imprisonment posed no serious threat on the applicants’ right to life or moral or material integrities.”
RTÜK imposes broadcast ban on Fox TV news show
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) issued a three-day broadcast ban on Fox TV’s daily news show hosted by Fatih Portakal over the anchorman’s remarks during the episodes that aired on 30 March, 31 March and 1 April.
Finding the remarks in the episodes aired on these dates to be “in violation of” Article 8/1/b of the the law numbered 6112, which stipulates that “broadcast services may not incite the public to discrimination, hostility or violence based on social class, race, religion, sect, gender or regional differences,” RTÜK imposed a maximum fine in the form of 3 percent of the channel’s advertising revenue and ruled to ban the airing of the programme three times.
RTÜK also imposed a maximum fine on another Fox TV show titled “İlker Karagöz ile Çalar Saat” over a news segment.
Journalist Ahmet Kanbal questioned over Twitter post
Mezopotamya News Agency reporter Ahmet Kanbal faces a new investigation for allegedly “insulting a public official” and “degrading the organs and institutions of the state” in relation to a post he recently shared on Twitter. During his questioning at the Mardin Police Department on 13 April, Kanbal was asked if his post was referring to Süleyman Soylu’s recent resignation.
Izmir-based journalist Ulvi Tanrıverdi assaulted
Ulvi Tanrıverdi, the owner of the local radio station and newspaper Çağrı, was hospitalized after being attacked on the night of 11 April in Izmir. The assailant was identified as D.E. and was subsequently arrested. Tanrıverdi had been penning articles on issues of corruption.
Sabiha Temizkan charged with “propaganda” over 2014 Twitter post
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office drafted an indictment against journalist Sabiha Temizkan on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” over a Tweet she posted on Twitter in 2014. Temizkan was called to the police station in February for questioning on the allegation of “incitement to hatred and animosity” concerning the post. The first hearing of Temizkan’s trial is set for 25 June 2020 at the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.
Journalist Gamze İşler faces investigation
Gamze İşler, the Izmir correspondent for Odatv news portal and the publisher of the e-gazetem.com news portal, is facing an investigation for allegedly “insulting the president” over a 28 August 2019 video on Odatv titled “Kadın cinayetlerinde bu adamların hiç suçu yok mu?” (Do men bear no responsibility for the murder of women?). İşler was called in for questioning at the police station last week.
Trials postponed as part of Coronavirus containment measures
Trials and other legal procedures at courthouses across Turkey -- except for trials of persons in detention on remand -- have been temporarily put on hold as of 16 March 2020 as part of efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Courts remain open for emergency procedures.
The trial of journalist Zehra Özdilek, scheduled for 14 April at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 5 June 2020.
Musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial, set for 14 April at Büyükçekmece 16th Criminal Court of First Instance, was postponed until 13 October 2020.
Journalists Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç’s trial, set for 16 April at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, was postponed to 2 July 2020.
The trial of Doğan Akın, the editor-in-chief of T24, scheduled for 17 April at the 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 2 July 2020.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 18 April 2020, at least 101 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.