Turkey ranks 154th out of 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index; indictment issued against journalists jailed in Odatv investigation; journalist Hazal Ocak charged with “insulting public official”
Odatv indictment accuses 8 people of “exposing confidential information”
An indictment was issued against 8 people including the 6 journalists jailed pending trial in March over a news report about the burial of a Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative killed in Libya.
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 were put behind bars for alleged transgression of the Law on the State Intelligence Services and the National Intelligence Organization.
The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) is listed as the complainant in the indictment, issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. In addition to the six imprisoned journalists, the indictment also accuses journalist Erk Acarer, a columnist for BirGün daily, and E.E., a press officer with the local Akhisar Municipality, run by the CHP. Each defendant faces between 7 and 18 years in prison on the charges of “disclosing classified information crucial to the state’s security and interests” and “exposing the contents of documents and information concerning intelligence operations.”
Turkey ranks 154th in Press Freedom Index
Turkey came in 154th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Turkey moving up three places from the 157th spot in the 2019 list was due to the worsening conditions in other countries and the impact of some journalists being released with the 1st Judicial Reform Package. Norway, Finland and Denmark topped the list for enjoying the freest press.
Comedian Emre Günsal released from pre-trial detention
Comedian Emre Günsal was released from Maltepe Prison in the early hours of 21 April. Günsal was arrested on 10 April and placed in pre-trial detention for “insulting” Atatürk and Rumi during a stand-up performance.
Selahattin Demirtaş charged with “propaganda” in new indictment
Jailed politician Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is charged with “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” in a new indictment.
The accusation stems from Demirtaş’s speeches at the 2nd Extraordinary Congress of the now-defunct Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the 2nd Ordinary Congress of HDP; an interview he gave to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper on 3 September 2016; a complaint filed on 12 February 2019 to the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER) against him; and a photograph taken in Kandil in northern Iraq during the peace process.
The 17th High Criminal Court of Ankara accepted the indictment and set 14 July 2020 as the date for the first hearing.
Nurcan Baysal faces new investigation over pinned Twitter post
A new investigation was launched against writer and rights defender Nurcan Baysal on the charge of “inciting the people to hatred and animosity” over a post pinned on her Twitter account.
Ses Kocaeli local newspaper’s offices attacked
Unidentified gunmen opened fire on the offices of Ses Kocaeli, a local newspaper and news portal based in the Kocaeli province, in the early hours of 20 April. Newspaper staff who came to work the next morning notified the police. In its investigation, the police determined that the unidentified assailants had fired eight shots at the building.
Access to Independent Türkçe website blocked
Access to a number of news portals including Independent Türkçe and Saudi Arabia’s official news agency from Turkey were blocked based on an order issued by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK). Nevzat Çiçek, the editor-in-chief of Independent Türkçe announced the access block on 19 April on Twitter.
Journalist Hazal Ocak charged with “insult” in new case
Hazal Ocak, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, is charged with “insulting a public official” in a new indictment, where the accusation stems from her coverage about Finance Minister Berat Albayrak’s purchase of a plot of land along the route of the Istanbul Canal project.
In the first indictment, the prosecution had sought Ocak to be tried on the charge of “insulting a public official.” However, the Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor asked the indictment to be reviewed and the sentence sought for Ocak to be increased on the grounds that “the offense was committed publicly and through the press.” The new indictment, dated 31 March 2020, requested Ocak to be sentenced to no less than 1 year to up to 2 years in prison.
The indictment was taken up by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The first hearing is set for 18 June 2020.
Online access to Cumhuriyet daily’s report blocked
An access ban was imposed on Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak’s 14 April 2020 news report about a structure that the Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun ordered to be built on a piece of land meant for public use. The 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ordered the access block on 17 April.
Local newspaper owner arrested for failing to pay judicial fine
Bülent Karagöz, the owner and director of the Kocaeli Cumhuriyet news portal, was taken into custody on 17 April on the grounds that he failed to pay a TL 1,700 judicial fine he was handed down by a court over an article he had penned about Melih Gökçek, the former mayor of Ankara. Karagöz, who was sent to the Kocaeli Courthouse, was released after his family paid the fine.
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.
Jailed novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official,” a case originally launched in 2008 and scheduled to get under way on 21 April at Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, was postponed to 11 June 2020.
List of journalists and media workers in prison updated
P24 has updated its list of journalists and media workers in prison upon discovering that Mevlüt Öztaş, the former Uşak correspondent for the shuttered Cihan News Agency, was in prison.
Accordingly, as of 24 April 2020, at least 102 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.