TV networks critical of the government imposed 71 fines in 2021; 18 journalists acquitted of “resisting arrest”; Doğan Ergün and İzel Sezer appear in court; Demirören files compensation case against Hazal Ocak and 2 news portals
RTÜK imposed 71 fines on TV networks critical of the government in 2021
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed a total of 71 fines on TV channels critical of the government in 2021, RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı announced on 24 December 2021.
Announcing the statistics on his social media account, Taşçı said that between 1 January and 24 December 2021, RTÜK held 50 regular meetings, in which it decided to impose 71 fines on Halk TV, Tele 1, Fox TV, KRT and Habertürk TV. The total amount of the fines was TL 21,500,000. Taşçı added that despite some 100,000 complaints RTÜK received in 2021 concerning pro-government channels, no fines have been imposed on these networks throughout the year.
Trial against Meşale Tolu and 22 others adjourned due to change of judges
The 16th hearing of the trial against journalist Meşale Tolu and 22 other defendants on charges of “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) was held at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court on 24 December 2021.
The presiding judge told those in attendance that although the prosecutor’s final opinion has been submitted to the court, the court would not render a judgment at this hearing due to a change of the judges on the panel. The court adjourned the case until 17 January 2022.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Turkey freezes assets of self-exiled journalists on “financing terrorism” allegation
The assets of 770 individuals allegedly affiliated with various terrorist organizations were frozen under a joint decision by the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, published in the Official Gazette on 24 December 2021. The names of self-exiled journalists Abdullah Bozkurt, Abdulkerim Balcı, Adem Yavuz Arslan, Bülent Keneş, Cevheri Güven, Levent Kenez, Said Sefa, Sevgi Akarçeşme, Sevinç Özarslan, Tarık Toros and Tuncay Opçin were also on the list.
Retrial of Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan to continue in January
A trial in which Eren Keskin, the former co-editor-in-chief of Özgür Gündem newspaper, and Reyhan Çapan, the newspaper’s former responsible managing editor, are charged with “revealing the identity of the perpetrator or victim of a crime who is under the age of 18” (under Article 21/c of the Press Law) resumed at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 23 December 2021.
This was the third hearing of their retrial. The accusation stems from five articles Özgür Gündem published in 2013 and 2014 on Berkin Elvan, a teenage boy who died in 2014 after remaining in coma for months after being hit on the head by a gas canister fired by the police during 2013’s Gezi Park protests.
Accepting the written defense statement and a letter of excuse submitted by Keskin and Çapan’s lawyer, Sercan Korkmaz, the court adjourned the trial until 27 January 2022.
“Insult” cases against Ahmet Sever postponed until April
Three separate trials in which journalist Ahmet Sever, a former press advisor for President Abdullah Gül, faces “insult” charges for his political memoir published in 2018, were scheduled to resume at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 23 December 2021. Due to the judge being on leave, the court postponed the trials until 19, 20 and 21 April 2022.
Sever is charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) in one of the cases and “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) in the remaining two. The cases are based on complaints filed by President Erdoğan, Speaker of Parliament Mustafa Şentop and Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank.
“Özgür Gündem” trial against Can Dündar adjourned until May
The 15th hearing of former Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar’s trial on the charge of “printing or publishing statements by terrorist organizations” (TMK 6/2) was held at the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court on 23 December 2021. The accusation stems from two news articles published in the now-defunct Özgür Gündem newspaper’s 22 June 2016 issue. Dündar is charged because he symbolically edited the newspaper on 22 June 2016 as part of a solidarity campaign.
Dündar’s lawyer Abbas Yalçın did not attend the hearing. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Dündar and the response to letters rogatory, the court adjourned the trial until 31 May 2022.
İleri Haber chief editors appear in court for two reports
Journalists Doğan Ergün and İzel Sezer, the former and current chief editors of the news portal İleri Haber, appeared before the Istanbul 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance on 23 December 2021 for the first hearing of their trial on charges of “insult” (TCK 125), “libel” (TCK 267) and “illegally disclosing information obtained through recording private conversations between persons” (TCK 133/3).
The charges stem from two reports İleri Haber published in December 2020 on allegations of bribery regarding President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer, Mustafa Doğan İnal. The reports were based on allegations made by MP and former investigative journalist Ahmet Şık on Twitter and by journalist Barış Terkoğlu in a book he co-wrote with Barış Pehlivan.
Accepting the complainant’s request to join the case, the court decided to rule on the request for Ahmet Şık and Barış Terkoğlu to be heard as witnesses later and adjourned the trial until 10 March 2022.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Journalists fired by Hürriyet win lawsuit
A lawsuit filed by 22 journalists who were dismissed without compensation from Hürriyet newspaper after its purchase by Demirören Media in 2019 has concluded. Bakırköy 6th Labor Court ruled that the journalists had been dismissed because they were members of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS).
The court ruled that those who were dismissed should be paid compensation equal to one year’s gross salary and four salaries for idle time. Journalists must now apply to Demirören Media within 10 working days for reinstatement and the employer must reemploy the journalists within a month. If the company fails to fulfill this obligation, it must pay the journalists compensation worth one year gross salary.
Another lawsuit filed by 23 other journalists who were also dismissed by Demirören is ongoing.
CHP leader ordered to pay President Erdoğan TL 80,000 in compensation
The Ankara 3rd Civil Court has ruled that main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was to pay President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan TL 80,000 in non-pecuniary damages for his remarks during the CHP’s Parliamentary group meeting held on 26 January 2021. Erdoğan was seeking TL 250,000 in compensation in the case.
ETHA reporter Ertürk Yılmaz detained in Izmir
Etkin news agency (ETHA) Izmir correspondent Ertürk Yılmaz was detained in an early morning police raid on his home on 22 December 2021. ETHA reported that Yılmaz and six others were detained based on statements by a secret witness. Yılmaz and two others were released the same day.
Access to ETHA website blocked by court
Access to the website of the Etkin news agency (ETHA) was blocked by a decision of the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 22 December 2021 on the grounds of “national security and the protection of public order.”
Compensation case filed by Mehmet Altan to continue in January
The second hearing of a compensation case filed by academic and writer Mehmet Altan against the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court’s former presiding judge for refusing to implement the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights’ judgments ordering his release was held at the 4th Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals on 21 December 2021.
The Chamber decided to ask for a copy of the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court’s finalized acquittal judgment for Mehmet Altan in the “Altans case” and set 25 January 2022 as the date for the next hearing.
18 journalists acquitted of “resisting” arrest during Özgür Gündem raid
The trial of journalists violently arrested during a 2016 police raid on Özgür Gündem newspaper’s Istanbul office concluded at the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance on 21 December 2021.
Reiterating their final opinion submitted to the court during the 10th hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence all 18 journalists as charged.
At the end of the hearing, the court acquitted all 18 defendants -- former Özgür Gündem staffers Elif Aydoğmuş, Sevdiye Ergürbüz, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Burcu Özkara, Kemal Bozkurt, Önder Elaldı, Ender Öndeş, Sinan Balık, Davut Uçar, Fırat Yeşilçınar, Zeki Erden and Doğan Güzel; former DİHA reporters Özgür Paksoy and Mesut Kaynar; former İMC TV reporters Gülfem Karataş and Gökhan Çetin; Doğu Publishing House staff member Hüseyin Gündüz and Yılmaz Bozkurt from the Istanbul Medical Chamber -- of all charges.
A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.
Enver Aysever handed down judicial fine for sharing caricature
Columnist Enver Aysever was sentenced to a judicial fine of TL 4,500 in a trial in which he was charged with “inciting the public to hatred and enmity” (TCK 216) for a caricature he had shared on social media.
Aysever was prosecuted for sharing a caricature by cartoonist Mehmet Birol Çün on his social media account on 20 March 2020. Ruling on the case in accordance with “simple trial procedure,” the Istanbul Anadolu 37th Criminal Court of First Instance initially sentenced Aysever to a judicial fine of TL 4,200. Re-examining the case upon defense lawyers’ objection, the court sentenced Aysever to 9 months in prison. The court reduced the sentence to 7 months and 15 days and commuted this sentence to a judicial fine of TL 4,500. The sentence was not deferred.
Demirören Media files compensation case against Hazal Ocak and 2 news portals
Demirören Media Group has filed a compensation case against journalists for reporting on the loans the parent company took from Ziraat Bank in order to finance its purchases in media, national lottery and energy sectors.
Lawyers representing Demirören Media initially filed a lawsuit against journalist Hazal Ocak and Cumhuriyet Foundation President Alev Coşkun for allegedly “damaging the company’s reputation” in a report the newspaper published on 28 October 2021. Demirören filed separate lawsuits against Odatv and MedyaRadar news portals, which published similar reports based on Ocak’s story.
About two weeks later, on 14 November 2021, Ocak penned another report, in which she covered the Court of Accounts report on Ziraat Bank. The next day, Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Aykut Küçükkaya wrote about Ocak’s report and the compensation case filed by Demirören in his regular column.
Upon Ocak’s second report and Küçükkaya’s article, Demirören filed another lawsuit, this time claiming that the newspaper had “falsified the company’s trade secrets” and that it “illegally published” information in the Court’s report.
Accepting Demirören’s complaints, the Bakırköy 7th Civil Court decided to merge the cases. Ocak and other journalists are expected to appear before the Bakırköy court in the coming days.
Trial of journalist Hayri Demir adjourned until April
The 10th hearing of journalist Hayri Demir’s trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court on 21 December 2021.
Demir's lawyer Nuray Özdoğan was present at the hearing. Özdoğan demanded that the judicial control measures imposed on her client for more than four years be lifted.
In its interim ruling, the court decided to wait for the submission of the investigation report requested from the police department to determine whether the images in Demir’s digital archive, stolen from the journalist’s house and later handed over to the police, have been published as news. Ruling for the continuation of judicial control measures imposed on Demir, the court adjourned the case until 19 April 2022.
Justice Minister’s Tunceli visit closed to the press
The Tunceli Governor’s Office reportedly warned local journalists against asking Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül questions about Gülistan Doku, who has been missing since 5 January 2020, during the minister’s recent visit. Tunceli Journalists Association President Ferit Demir confirmed the claim. Demir said that a local journalist was called by the governor’s chief of staff and when the journalist objected, the minister’s Tunceli program was closed to the press.
At least 58 journalists and media workers in prison
As of 24 December 2021, at least 58 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.