Details of the new social media bill emerge; journalist Beritan Canözer released after days in police custody; presidential body to inspect CSOs
Social media bill foresees prison term for “fake news”
A new social media bill being drafted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) proposes up to five years in prison, fines for social media platforms that refuse to provide information to authorities on anonymous accounts and establishment of a regulatory body on social media, according to recent reports in the Turkish media.
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting on 19 August 2021, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated once again his support for the proposed bill, saying it was necessary to combat “lies and provocations” on social media. Parliament is set to return from its recess on 1 October. The draft bill is expected to be enacted easily once it is brought to Parliament, given that AKP and its coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have the majority.
Further details can be found in our report.
Journalist Beritan Canözer released
JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer, who was arrested in a police raid on her home in Diyarbakır on 13 August 2021, was released on 16 August after giving her statement to the police.
Canözer was one of 58 people who were arrested in coordinated raids as part of an investigation into alleged terrorism propaganda. Media reports said lawyers of the detained people were unable to reach details due to a confidentiality order on the case file.
Canözer was previously arrested twice in the past, once in December 2015 and more recently in April 2021. In December 2015, Canözer was placed in pre-trial detention after her arrest and was subsequently convicted and given a prison term of 1 year and 3 months. In April, she was released after three days in police custody.
Presidential body given powers to inspect associations, foundations
A presidential decree published in the Official Gazette on 20 August expanded authorities of the State Inspection Board (DDK), affiliated with the Presidency, to cover civil society organizations (CSOs), including foundations and associations.
Turkish CSOs are already subject to inspections conducted by the Interior Ministry and the Finance Ministry.
Journalist Merdan Yanardağ faces investigation for article
Merdan Yanardağ, the chief editor of private broadcaster TELE 1 TV, faces a criminal investigation for an article published in BirGün newspaper. Yanardağ is accused of “insulting the state and the government” for his article on 23 May, titled “Düzenin Mafyalaşması!” (the Mafia-ization of the System!). In his statement to the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Yanardağ defended his article, saying the growing mafia influence should be a cause for concern for the judiciary as well.
EngelliWeb report: Close to half a million websites blocked in Turkey
The number of websites blocked in Turkey has reached 467,011 as of the end of 2020, according to the EngelliWeb 2020 report published by the Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD). The websites were blocked as per 408,808 decisions issued by 764 different authorities – courts or public institutions.
The report, penned by academic Yaman Akdeniz and senior researcher Ozan Güven, access to 150,000 URLs, 7500 Twitter accounts, 50,000 tweets, 12,000 YouTube videos and 6800 Instagram posts were blocked as of the end of 2020. The full text of the report (in Turkish) can be reached here.
DHA and İHA reporters attacked by neighborhood guards
Reporters from the Demirören News Agency (DHA) and the İhlas News Agency (İHA) were forcefully prevented from following a news story in Istanbul’s Beylikdüzü district on the night of 17 August 2021.
DHA’s Ahmet Yeşilmen ve Kubilay Özev and İHA’s Erdal Can İçelli were in Beylikdüzü to report on a three-year-old child who went missing. She was later found in the elevator shaft of the building where she lived and taken to hospital but could not be saved. “We were attacked by neighborhood guards in Beylikdüzü, where we were reporting on Zümra Nur, who went missing and later died in hospital,” DHA reporter tweeted, along with footage of the moments of intervention.
Two suspects jailed pending trial in armed attack on Emre Erciş
Two suspects were jailed pending trial on 18 August in connection with an armed attack on Emre Erciş, a pro-government journalist. The two suspected assailants, identified as E.K. and B.P., were arrested on 14 August in raids conducted by police anti-organized crime teams in İstanbul’s Avcılay and Eyüpsultan districts. Police are searching for a third suspect who is believed to have coordinated the attack, news reports said.
Erciş was shot in his both legs near his house on 12 August. He was hospitalized and reported to be in good condition.
6 people arrested in Ankara over social media posts
Police in Ankara arrested on 18 August six people for “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” in social media platforms.
The arrests were made as part of an investigation launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for “supporting the PKK/KCK terrorist organization, its leader Abdullah Öcalan and members” in social media platforms. Arrest warrants were issued for seven people in connection with the investigation.
TRT employee fired for tweet commemorating Mahir Çayan
Deniz Salmanlı, a senior video editor for the state broadcaster TRT, has been fired under an emergency decree for a Twitter post in which she commemorated Mahir Çayan, the leader of the far-left THKP/C group Mahir Çayan and nine other militants killed in clashes with soldiers in 1972, on the anniversary of their death.
Çayan and others were killed after abducting two British and one Canadian technician working at a NATO base in Turkey. The technicians were executed by militants during the clashes, which is known as the Kızıldere incident in reference to the name of the village in the central Anatolian province of Tokat where it took place.
The TRT administration launched an investigation into Salmanlı after a social media protest campaign against TRT organized by media workers’ trade union Haber-Sen on 1 April 2021. The campaign was against an exam for the TRT employees in which women and men exam takers were seated in separate halls. Salmanlı, who is also an executive of Haber-Sen, was suspended on 9 April pending outcome of the investigation and was eventually fired on 9 August on the basis of her tweet, in which she wrote “We don’t surrender!” and listed the names of the 10 people killed in Kızıldere.
The investigators concluded that the Kızıldere incident was a terrorist act with international ramifications and that the THKP/C, although long disbanded, was still classified as a terrorist organization. Salmanlı was sacked under the Statutory Decree No. 375, which authorizes dismissal from public duty of persons who are “deemed to be members, have links or connections with terrorist groups or groups that are regarded to be acting against national security.”
At least 62 journalists and media workers in prison
As of 23 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.