Cumhuriyet journalists called in for questioning; Erk Acarer faces arrest warrant; indictment issued against Fox TV anchor Fatih Portakal; journalist Buse Söğütlü to stand trial over her Twitter posts
Journalist Erk Acarer faces arrest warrant as part of Odatv indictment
An Istanbul Criminal Judgeship of Peace has issued an arrest warrant for journalist Erk Acarer, a columnist for BirGün daily, who is one of eight journalists accused of violating the Law on the State Intelligence Services and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) over Odatv’s coverage of the funeral of a MİT operative killed in Libya. The Public Prosecutor’s warrant request said Acarer left Turkey on 7 April 2017 and never returned, that he was currently in Germany, and that there were numerous arrest warrants currently in place for Acarer.
Reporter Sena Şat briefly detained
Sena Şat, a reporter for Önsöz TV, was arrested on 1 May in Istanbul as she was reporting on a group of demonstrators who attempted to march towards Taksim Square to mark May Day. Şat and a number of demonstrators were taken to the Karaköy Police Station, where they were all freed after being imposed administrative fines for defying the coronavirus lockdown.
Fatih Portakal faces up to 3 years in prison in new indictment
An indictment was issued against Fox TV news anchor Fatih Portakal, accusing the journalist of violating Article 74 of the Banking Law for his tweet on 6 April about the coronavirus aid measures initiated by the government. If the indictment is accepted, Portakal will stand trial, facing up to 3 years in prison.
The Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office had launched an investigation against Portakal following a complaint filed by the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK).
The indictment alleges that Portakal’s tweet was aimed at manipulating public opinion and creating the false impression that the government may temporarily seize bank deposits of individuals to use the cash in the fight against the pandemic. According to the indictment, the Istanbul 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ordered an access ban on Portakal’s tweet on 8 April.
Four Cumhuriyet journalists called in for questioning
Four journalists from Cumhuriyet daily were called in to the Istanbul Police Department on 30 April for questioning in connection with an investigation concerning a news report, dated 14 April, about a structure commissioned by the Presidential Communications Director, Fahrettin Altun, on a plot of land he rented in Kuzguncuk.
Managing Editor İpek Özbey, Responsible Editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, reporter Hazal Ocak and photojournalist Vedat Arık said in their statements that the news report in question was part of the right of access to information.
Halk TV show banned by RTÜK
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed a five-day broadcast ban on the Halk TV show “Medya Mahallesi,” presented by journalist Ayşenur Arslan. İlhan Taşçı, a RTÜK member from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), announced the ban on 30 April through Twitter.
Journalist Buse Söğütlü accused of “disclosing the identity of an official”
Buse Söğütlü, a reporter for the news portal Gazete Yolculuk, will stand trial on the charge of “making an official assigned in the fight against terrorism a target” over her tweets about Akın Gürlek, the presiding judge of the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Söğütlü was taken into custody over her tweets back on 19 November 2019 and was released two days later. Söğütlü’s trial is set to get under way on 14 October 2020.
Investigation launched against journalist Zülal Koçer
Journalist Zülal Koçer is facing an investigation for posting on social media footage showing police intervention during this year’s 8 March Feminist Night March in Istanbul to mark International Women’s Day, which was banned by the Governor’s Office. Koçer announced the investigation conducted by the Cyber Crimes Bureau of Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Twitter.
Journalist Oktay Candemir faces 3 investigations
Journalist Oktay Candemir is facing three new investigations over two news reports he wrote and one social media post. The investigations, all initiated by the Van Public Prosecutor’s Office, accuse Candemir of “causing fear and panic among the public” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity or degrading the public.” Candemir made his statement regarding the allegations at the Van Police Department on 27 April.
Investigation launched against Ankara and Diyarbakır Bar Associations
The Ankara and Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Offices have launched investigations against the Ankara and Diyarbakır Bar Associations on the allegation of “degrading the religious values held by a segment of the society.” Both bar assocations are accused over the public statements they issued in reponse to last week’s weekly sermon by Ali Erbaş, the head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, in which he comdemned homosexuality.
Local newspaper’s editor-in-chief briefly detained
Gökhan Karabulut, the editor-in-chief of the Kocaeli Koz newspaper, was taken into custody on 24 April for his news reports criticizing the Kocaeli Provincial Health Director. Karabulut had gone to the local police department to be questioned when he was detained upon an order from the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The journalist was freed later that day after appearing before a criminal judgeship of peace on duty.
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 Hayri Demir, scheduled to resume on 28 April at the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara, was postponed to 25 June 2020.
The trial of journalists Pelin Ünker and Orhan Erinç, scheduled for 28 April at the Istanbul 21st Civil Court of First Instance, was postponed to 10 September 2020.
Journalist Ruken Demir’s trial, scheduled to take place on 28 April at the 19th High Criminal Court of Izmir, was postponed to 7 July 2020.
The trial of Ender İmrek, a columnist for Evrensel newspaper, scheduled for 29 April at the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, was postponed to 24 June 2020.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 1 May 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.