Journalist Rawin Sterk Yıldız charged with “propaganda” and “terrorist group membership”; Parliament passes controversial social media law; court rejects appeal against detention of journalists Kılınç, Pehlivan and Ağırel
Journalist Yıldız charged with “propaganda,” “terrorist group membership”
Rawin Sterk Yıldız, a reporter for Rudaw TV, who has been in pre-trial detention since March, is accused of “membership of a terrorist group” and “terrorism propaganda” in a new indictment issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which accepted the indictment, set 2 September 2020 as the date for Yıldız’s first hearing.
A report about the indictment can be accessed here.
Parliament passes controversial social media law
The Turkish Parliament on 29 July passed a bill drafted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and supported by its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), aiming to expand government control on social media.
The new legislation makes it compulsory for social media companies based outside of Turkey to assign a legal representative in Turkey and to keep user data from Turkey locally. They will also be held liable in case of failure to comply with court orders to ban access to or remove content.
Key articles of the law, which will pave the way for more access ban and content removal orders targeting social media users and digital media outlets alike, will enter into force on 1 October 2020.
Court suspends five-day broadcasting ban for Halk TV
A five-day broadcasting ban imposed by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) on the opposition TV channel Halk TV was suspended on 28 July 2020 by the 16th Administrative Court of Ankara. The five-day ban was scheduled to be effective starting 1 August.
Appeal against detention of 3 journalists rejected
The criminal court overseeing the trial against seven journalists and one municipal press officer for allegedly “disclosing the identity” of a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative killed in Libya has rejected the latest appeal against the detention of journalists Barış Pehlivan, Hülya Kılınç and Murat Ağırel, who have been jailed pending trial since March as part of the case.
The court ruled by a majority to keep the three journalists behind bars. In his dissenting opinion, the presiding judge wrote that all three should be released pending trial under judicial control measures. Three other journalists who were also jailed in March as part of the investigation were released under judicial control measures by the trial court at the end of the first hearing on 24 June 2020.
Access ban on Sendika.org in its fifth year
A long-standing access ban imposed on the news site sendika.org in 2015 has still not been lifted five years after it was first imposed and despite a Constitutional Court ruling that the ban constitutes a violation of freedom of expression.
Reviewing sendika.org’s October 2015 application in March 2020, the Constitutional Court held that blocking access to the entire website violated freedom of expression and asked the criminal judgeship of peace that ordered the access ban to revoke its order. But despite nearly three months since announcement of the judgment, the ban remains in place.
The first access ban on sendika.org was imposed on 25 July 2015 by an order of the now-defunct Directorate of Telecommunication and Communication (TİB). Since then, the website has been blocked 62 more times and it currently operates under the domain name sendika63.org.
Court bans access to news about woman murdered by her husband
A criminal judgeship of peace in the Muş province on 24 July 2020 ordered an access ban on news reports about Fatma Altınmakas, a local woman who was murdered on 14 July by her husband. The judgeship issued the order following a request by the Provincial Directorate of Family, Labour and Social Services.
The court also ruled to ban access to related content on Ekşi Sözlük and Twitter posts with the hashtag #FatmaAltınmakasaSesOl (lend a voice to Fatma Altınmakas).
Court bans access to 4 online reports about Minister Albayrak
Ankara’s 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace banned access to four news reports published in the news sites T24, Odatv, Sözcü and Toplumsal Haber concerning the number of parliamentary questions answered by Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak. The judgeship ruled in its 24 July 2020 decision that the articles “violated Albayrak’s personal rights.”
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 30 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.