JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer taken into custody; jailed journalist İbrahim Karakaş sentenced to 9 years in prison; Hikmet Tunç handed down 8-month sentence; 6 networks fined over wildfire coverage; Murat Ağırel threatened on social media
Journalist Mehmet Güleş released from prison
Mehmet Güleş, a former reporter for the now-defunct Dicle news agency (DİHA), was released from the Karakoçan T Type Closed Prison on 13 August 2021 upon completing a sentence he was given in 2017.
Güleş was taken into custody on 5 December 2016 during an ID check in the Elazığ Courthouse, where he was covering a story. After remaining in custody for two days, Güleş was jailed pending trial on 7 December 2016 on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” In the indictment against him, Güleş was charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK). At the second and final hearing of his trial, held on 3 May 2017, the Elazığ 2nd High Criminal Court sentenced Güleş to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” and 3 years, 1 month and 15 days for “terrorism propaganda.” The execution of the “propaganda” sentence given to Güleş was suspended in 2019 pursuant to the judicial reform package introduced that year.
JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer taken into custody
JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer was taken into custody during an early morning police raid on her home in Diyarbakır on 13 August 2021. Following the search the police conducted in her house, Canözer was taken to the Diyarbakır Police Department.
Media reported later on Friday that arrest warrants had been issued for a total of 104 people on the allegations of “terrorism propaganda” and “acting on behalf of a terrorist organization” as part of the investigation and that Canözer was among 65 people arrested thus far.
Investigation launched against BirGün editors, reporter
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against BirGün daily’s news coordinators İbrahim Varlı and Yaşar Aydın and reporter İsmail Arı based on a complaint by Kerem Kınık, the president of the Turkish Red Crescent, who claims that the newspaper “illegally obtained and disclosed personal data” in a report it published online on 4 October 2020 and in its hardcopy on 6 October 2020.
The report was titled “Kızılay Başkanı ile Genel Müdürü’ne kesilen para cezalarının belgelerine BirGün ulaştı” (BirGün uncovers documents of fines imposed on the president and general manager of the Red Crescent).
Reporter İsmail Arı and Birgun.net responsible managing editor Uğur Koç gave their statements to the public prosecutor on 13 August 2021 within the scope of the investigation.
JinNews reporter Hikmet Tunç handed down 8-month sentence
JinNews reporter Hikmet Tunç was handed down a prison sentence of 8 months and 22 days on the charge of “insulting a public official” under Article 125/3 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) in a trial where the accusation stemmed from a report she penned in May 2019.
The Muradiye 7th Criminal Court of First Instance, which applied the “simple trial procedure” in the case, rendered its judgment in writing without holding a public courtroom hearing. The court deferred Tunç’s sentence.
Tunç was on trial alongside former Co-Mayor of Muradiye Leyla Balkan in the case, launched upon a complaint by the government-appointed trustee of the local Muradiye Municipality. The court also sentenced Balkan to 8 months and 22 days on the same charge. Balkan’s sentence was not deferred.
Yeni Yaşam employee İbrahim Karakaş sentenced to 9 years and 9 months in prison
Yeni Yaşam newspaper employee İbrahim Karakaş was sentenced to 9 years and 9 months in prison on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” at the final hearing of his trial, held on 12 August 2021 at the Adana 11th High Criminal Court.
Karakaş, who has been jailed pending trial in Kürkçüler F Type Closed Prison since 6 November 2020, addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS while his lawyer Tugay Bek was in attendance in the courtroom.
In his defense statement, Karakaş said he was being accused based on false statements by the witness who testified against him and demanded his acquittal and release. His lawyer told the court that the statements of the witness who testified against Karakaş were inconsistent and should be ignored. He demanded his client’s acquittal.
Reiterating the final opinion they presented during the previous hearing, the prosecutor requested that Karakaş be convicted as charged. Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced the journalist to 9 years and 9 months in prison and ruled for the continuation of his detention pending appeal.
Journalists Taşkın and Taşkıran prevented from covering Ankara riot
Journalists Seda Taşkın and Büşra Taşkıran were prevented by the police from covering the riots targeting the homes and businesses of Syrian and Afghan immigrants living in the Altındağ district of Ankara on 11 August 2021. In a message posted on Twitter, Taşkın stated that she and her colleague Taşkıran were removed from the scene by the police while they were covering the riots.
RTÜK fines 6 TV networks over coverage of forest fires
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed administrative fines on six TV networks at its regular meeting on 11 August 2021 over newscasts and discussions about recent forest fires in Turkey.
The penalties followed on the heels of a memo RTÜK sent last week to TV executives, warning networks against “causing fear and panic among the public” in newscasts and carrying out “a broadcasting activity that will please those who are seeking chaos” by “persistently covering the regions where the fires are still raging and ignoring those that have been put out.”
The broadcasting watchdog imposed a total of 17 fines on the networks FOX, KRT, Tele1, Halk TV, Habertürk and TR 35 over statements by reporters or program guests about the wildfires.
Habertürk was also fined over program host Fatih Altaylı’s comments on anti-vaccine doctors, in which he called them frauds and charlatans.
İlhan Taşçı, a member of RTÜK from the main opposition CHP quota, was removed from the meeting at the request of the council’s president for his comments ahead of this week’s meeting that allegedly “reflected bias.”
Journalist Murat Ağırel threatened on social media
Yeniçağ newspaper columnist and Halk TV commentator Murat Ağırel was threatened on social media by a person named Emrah Çelik. Ağırel shared screenshots of Çelik’s threat messages on Twitter. It turned out that the person who threatened Ağırel was a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) Kapaklı District Branch and fought in the ranks of Al Nusra in Syria.
Ekşi Sözlük faces investigation over forum headline
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against the online forum Ekşi Sözlük on allegations of “inciting to commit crimes” and “inciting hatred and hostility.” Content under the headline “Halkın ayaklanması için daha ne olması gerekiyor” (What more needs to happen for a popular uprising) is held as the grounds for the investigation.
Access to JinNews blocked once again
Access to the website of the all-female news agency JinNews was blocked for the 32nd time by a court order issued on 9 August 2021. The access ban was issued by the Diyarbakır 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace on the grounds of “national security and public safety.”
Suspect in abuse case files complaint against journalist Evrim Kepenek
Bianet editor Evrim Kepenek was called in to give her statement to the police on 9 August 2021 in connection with a complaint filed by Refik Y., who was arrested earlier this year for abusing his 6-year-old child and was later released under judicial control measures.
Kepenek penned two reports on Refik Y. Following Kepenek’s report published on 9 June 2021, Refik Y., who was in prison back then, filed a complaint against the journalist on allegations of “insult” and “violation of privacy.” Kepenek said that Refik Y. has also filed for an access ban on her reports and that additionally bianet has received a phone call seeking the removal of the stories.
Crimean News Agency Turkey representative found dead
Aydın Taş, the Turkey representative of the Crimean News Agency (QHA), was found dead in his office in Ankara on 8 August 2021.
The agency is known for their support for the opposition in Azerbaijan and their coverage of news about East Turkestan. Authorities initially stated that Taş had committed suicide. However, Vedat Yenerer, a journalist and one of the founders of İyi Party, and several others claimed that Taş may have been murdered. Taş's body was taken to the Forensic Medicine Institution for autopsy.
Minister prevents BirGün reporter from recording meeting with locals
Sarya Toprak, a reporter for BirGün newspaper, was prevented from recording a public gathering the Minister of Environment and Urbanization Murat Kurum held with the residents of Bayır village in Marmaris on 8 August 2021.
The police repeatedly told Toprak to turn off her camera, but Toprak insisted on doing her job as a journalist. The minister then told Toprak, “You cannot shoot the meeting even if you are a journalist.” The police then physically intervened and tried to turn off Toprak’s camera. The police forcibly removed the journalist from the area.
At least 62 journalists and media workers in prison
Following the release of journalist Mehmet Güleş, as of 13 August 2021, at least 62 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.