Journalist Aziz Oruç ordered to remain behind bars; Parliament’s Justice Commission approves AKP’s social media draft law; journalist Mehmet Baransu handed down 19.5 years in prison; new indictment accuses jailed politician Sebahat Tuncel of “insulting the president”
AKP’s social media bill approved by Parliament’s Justice Commission
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced a controversial social media bill on 21 July 2020 in the Parliament. The draft law, which proposes restrictions on social media and sanctions for social media companies, was approved by the Justice Commission on 24 July..
The draft law, supported by the government ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is made up of nine provisions and proposes that social media platforms that have over 1 million daily users from Turkey appoint at least one local representative and store user data in Turkey. The bill also proposes massive sanctions for social media companies that refuse to implement access blocking or removal requests.
Our report about the social media bill can be accessed here.
Court issues reasoned judgment in T24 columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz’s trial
The trial court that ruled for T24 columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz’s acquittal on 14 July 2020 of “insulting a public official” charge has issued its reasoned judgment in writing. Yılmaz stood trial over a series of articles published online on T24, in which he inquired about the rise in the wealth of former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his sons during Yıldırım’s time in office.
Referring to Supreme Court of Appeals case-law in their judgment, Istanbul’s 37th Criminal Court of First Instance wrote that not all criticism or disagreeable remark “can be seen within the context of the insult offense” and that the “limits of criticism for a politician are wider than it is for a private citizen.”
Journalist Aziz Oruç remains behind bars as his trial gets underway
The first hearing in the trial of journalist Aziz Oruç, who was jailed pending trial in December 2019 in the eastern province of Ağrı, was held on 21 July 2020 at the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court. Oruç is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda.”
Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu and HDP Doğubayazıt district co-chair Abdullah Ekelek have also been jailed as part of the case for “helping” Oruç. Journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu is among the three other undetained defendants in the case.
Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of Oruç’s pre-trial detention while releasing his co-defendants Ekelek and Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu. The second hearing of the trial will be held on 21 September.
Administrative court suspends broadcasting ban for Tele1
The 4th Administrative Court of Ankara suspended a five-day broadcasting ban given by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) to the opposition TV channel Tele 1.
The court ruled unanimously on 21 July 2020 that a “broadcasting ban could lead to irremediable damage.” RTÜK’s five-day ban on Tele1 would have come into effect on the night of 22 July if the objections against the decision had not been accepted.
Man in Denizli jailed for “insulting the president” on social media
A court in Denizli jailed an individual named Ahmet E. on the charge of “insulting the president.” Ahmet E. was arrested on 20 July 2020 by the cyber crimes unit of the Denizli Police Department during a raid on his home. He was subsequently jailed pending trial over his social media posts.
Figen Yüksekdağ faces new investigation
Figen Yüksekdağ, the jailed former Co-Chairperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is facing a new investigation over her social media posts from 2014 and a speech she made in Diyarbakır following the arrests of former Diyarbakır Co-Mayors Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı.
Jailed since November 2016, Yüksekdağ is already charged with “establishing a terrorist organization,” “membership of a terrorist organization,” “terrorism propaganda,” “incitement to committing crimes,” “incitement to hatred and animosity,” “participating in a prohibited assembly or demonstration” and “inciting the public to participate in an unlawful assembly or demonstration” in her main trial, overseen by the Ankara 16th High Criminal Court.
New indictment accuses Sebahat Tuncel of “insulting the president”
Sebahat Tuncel, the jailed former Co-Chair of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), is accused of “insulting the president” in a new indictment issued by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The indictment alleges that Tuncel “insulted the president” during a speech she made on 28 October 2016 during a rally in protest of the arrests of Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı. Tuncel has been jailed since November 2016.
Jailed journalist Mehmet Baransu sentenced to 19.5 years in Mersin
Jailed journalist Mehmet Baransu was given a combined prison sentence of 19.5 years in a trial overseen by the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court, where Baransu and 76 others faced criminal charges over alleged ties with the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Baransu was sentenced to 2 years for “violation of confidentiality” under Article 285 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), 4 years for “disclosure of prohibited information” (TCK 336) and 13 years and 6 months for “membership of a terrorist organization.” The court did not grant any reductions in the sentences and ordered the continuation of Baransu’s detention on remand. The court acquitted Baransu of “violation of the confidentiality of communication” “illegally obtaining or disseminating data” and “slander” charges for lack of substantial evidence.
Jailed Twitter user “Türkiye Gerçekleri” released
Mesut Aykın, the user behind the Twitter account “Türkiye Gerçekleri,” who was jailed in April on the allegation of “making propaganda for FETÖ on social media,” was released pending trial by court. Aykın is facing up to 7 years and 6 months in prison in his trial, overseen by the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Aykın was released at the end of his hearing on 16 July 2020. Aykın’s lawyer Mustafa Uysal announced the news of his client’s release on Twitter.
Oktay Yaşar, another Twitter user also jailed in April as part of the same investigation but standing trial in a separate case, is still behind bars.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 24 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.