Trial of former Taraf journalists adjourned until October; websites of Özgürüz Radyo and JinNews blocked; thousands of social media users investigated
Taraf trial adjourned; Baransu to remain in detention
The trial of former Taraf executives Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur and reporter Mehmet Baransu over the alleged publication of a secret military document called “Egemen Operation Plan” resumed this week at an Istanbul court.
The hearing, which was followed by P24 at the courtroom, was originally planned to take three days but it was concluded at the end of day two on 12 August. Baransu, the only defendant in pre-trial detention in the case, attended the second day of the hearing at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court via judicial videoconference system SEGBİS. The court ruled for continuation of pre-trial detention of Baransu, who has been behind bars since 2015 as part of the case. The trial was adjourned until 12-14 October 2020.
Özgürüz Radyo and JinNews websites blocked again
Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) banned access to websites of the Germany-based online radio station Özgürüz and all-female Kurdish news agency JinNews.
Access to Özgürüz Radyo’s website was last banned in June by a court decision at the request of the Supreme Council of Radio and Television (RTÜK) for “illegally streaming.” JinNews’ website was blocked several times since it was founded on 25 September 2017.
The decisions to block access to Özgürüz Radyo and JinNews websites were made on 13 August 2020, under the Law No. 5651 on Regulation of Publications on the Internet and Suppression of Crimes Committed by means of Such Publications.
Over 6,000 social media users investigated
Authorities brought legal action against 6,743 social media users since the start of this year for "spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization, inciting people to hatred and enmity, spreading fear and panic, and sharing false documents and provocative content."
In a statement released on 14 August 2020, the Interior Ministry said the National Police Cyber Crimes Department and cyber crimes department in provincial police directorates have determined 14,186 social media accounts for alleged illegal activities since 1 January 2020 as a result of their "7/24 cyber patrols." As a result, legal action was brought against 6,743 social media users that the statement said were linked to terrorist organizations including FETÖ, PKK, ISIS and others.
RTÜK fines KRT and Radyo Harman
Turkey’s media watchdog RTÜK imposed fines on private broadcaster KRT TV and radio station Radyo Harman for critical guest commentary on the Covid-19 pandemic and the government’s Syria policy.
RTÜK ruled for the fines at a meeting held on 13 August 2020. RTÜK imposed an administrative fine on KRT over comments by scientist and politician Serdar Savaş duing a show that aired on 19 June on the planned reopening of schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic, claiming that the comments constituted “insult and slander against the president, the health minister and the state administration.”
About Radyo Harman, RTÜK ordered both administrative fine and temporary ban on broadcasting due to comments by Saruhan Oluç, a senior politician from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) over Turkey’s Syria policy.
Another court order against RTÜK ban on Halk TV
An Ankara court ruled on 11 August 2020 to suspend the execution of a decision by RTÜK, which ordered in July a five-day broadcasting ban against opposition broadcaster Halk TV. The decision, the latest in a series of court orders against RTÜK’s ban on Halk TV and another broadcaster, Tele 1 TV, was made as a result of an appeal by Pınar Türenç, a journalist and the chair of the Press Council.
Türenç appealed both decisions against Halk TV and Tele 1. The Press Council said in a statement that the Ankara 7th Administrative Court ruled to suspend the execution of the RTÜK decision against Halk TV. It said it expected Türenç’s appeal against the RTÜK penalty on Tele 1 TV to produce a similar result.
The RTÜK decision against Halk TV came in response to comments made by host Ayşenur Arslan and journalist Hüsnü Mahalli, who joined Arslan’s program as a guest, on the government’s foreign policy.
The five-day broadcasting ban against Halk TV had been taken to court by RTÜK members İlhan Taşçı and Onur Konuralp and Halk TV itself. Ruling on RTÜK members’ application, the Ankara 3rd Administrative Court decided unanimously on 28 July to halt execution of the RTÜK decision. On July 29, the Ankara 16th Administrative Court decided similarly while ruling on the application filed by the Halk TV lawyers.
As for the five-day ban on Tele 1 TV, the Ankara 4th Administrative Court ruled on 20 July to halt execution of the RTÜK decision, in response to an appeal by RTÜK members Taşçı and Konuralp.
Council of State rules against social security requirement for press cards
The 10th Chamber of the Council of State, the top administrative court, suspended the execution of a provision in the new Press Card Regulations, which makes payment of social security premiums a requirement for a journalist to become eligible to receive a press card.
The decision came in response to an appeal by the Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD) against several articles of the Press Card Regulations, drafted by the Communications Department of the Presidency. The Council of State said the journalists cannot be held responsible for payment of their social security premiums as it is a legal obligation for their employers.
In a statement on 14 August, ÇGD said, however, that the Council of State did not rule against other articles of the regulation.
List of journalists and media workers in prison
As of 7 August 2020, at least 92 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.