Journalists forcibly removed, detained in protests in İstanbul, Ankara; Ali Ergin Demirhan acquitted; European Court will announce Osman Kavala decision on 11 July; Press Ethics Code amended
Press Ethics Codes amended
The Press Advertising Agency (BİK), in charge of allocating public advertisement among newspapers, has made amendments in the Press Ethics Codes, for the first time since they were first introduced in 1994. The amendments, which are linked to what is publicly known as the “disinformation bill,” were published in the Official Gazette on 6 July 2022.
Journalists’ groups issued a joint statement criticizing the amendments, saying they grant BİK “wide-ranging powers to arbitrarily impose censorship.” The statement signed by 11 journalists’ organizations also took note of the fact that the amendments went into effect even though the parliamentary debates on the disinformation bill, which they had been supposed to complement, had been postponed to September.
The new amendments prohibit publication of “information and images of terrorist organizations, their members and events concerning them in a way that makes them seem legitimate.” It also bans “use of words that offend the honor, reputation and dignity of a person, institution or a societal group.” The amendments also introduce a new section in the ethics code, titled “respect for national and societal values.” Accordingly, publications that are “contrary to public morality, protection of the family and the shared national and moral values of the Turkish society” will also be banned.
The regulations will be applicable not only to print editions but also to the websites and social media accounts of the news outlets.
Failure to comply could result in removal of the content, ban on access to the content or mandatory publication of a correction.
Ali Ergin Demirhan acquitted
The third hearing in a trial where sendika.org editor Ali Ergin Demirhan was charged with “insulting the president” over a social media post was held at the İstanbul 55th Criminal Court of First Instance on 4 July 2022.
Lawyers of both Demirhan and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the hearing, which was monitored by P24. Presenting his opinion, the prosecutor stated that the elements of the impugned crime did not exist and therefore demanded Demirhan’s acquittal.
The court ruled at the end of the hearing that elements of the impugned crime did not exist and acquitted Demirhan.
ECtHR Grand Chamber to announce decision on Kavala case on 11 July
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will announce its decision on whether Turkey has failed to fulfill its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights in the Osman Kavala case on 11 July.
The Strasbourg court ruled in December 2019 that Kavala’s detention constituted a violation of the Convention. The judgment became final in May 2020 but Turkish authorities have refused to release him since then. On 2 February 2022, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is in charge of supervising the execution of the ECtHR judgments, effectively launched infringement proceedings against Turkey due to its continued failure to implement the Kavala judgment and sent the case to the ECtHR for a decision on whether Turkey is in breach of its obligations under the Convention.
Journalist Can Ataklı fined TL 10,110
The eighth hearing in a trial where journalist Can Ataklı was charged with “inciting hatred and hostility” over his statements about a teacher wearing headscarf was held at the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 6 July 2022.
While Ataklı did not attend the hearing, lawyers representing him and plaintiff Kardeşlik Derneği appeared in the court. The Women and Democracy Association’s (KADEM) lawyers also monitored the hearing. Ataklı’s lawyer said that his client’s expressions do not constitute insult but criticism, and demanded his acquittal. The plaintiff’s lawyer demanded conviction of Ataklı.
The court initially sentenced Ataklı to 11 months and 7 days in prison for “inciting hatred and hostility,” then converted the penalty to judicial fine of TL 10,100.
According to the indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Ataklı said the following on a TV program that aired on 23 March 2021: “Presenting a teacher wearing headscarf as a role model to millions of students is very wrong. I mean, as an image ... that kind [of people] cannot do it. Choosing a teacher wearing headscarf as a role model is a disaster.”
The indictment had sought from 9 months to 1 year and 6 months in prison for Ataklı.
Trial of Nurcan Yalçın adjourned
The second hearing in the trial of journalist Nurcan Yalçın on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization” over her interviews, which she did during military operations in 2015-2016 in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakır, was held at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court on 5 July 2022.
Yalçın’s lawyer Resul Temur attended the hearing. The prosecutor reiterated their opinion from previous hearing and demanded that Yalçın be convicted as charged.
The court adjourned the trial until 22 September 2022 due to some replacements in the panel of judges.
Journalists Canan Coşkun, Barış Pehlivan face new trial upon judge Gürlek’s complaint
A lawsuit has been filed against Diken reporter Canan Coşkun and Cumhuriyet columnist Barış Pehlivan over a news report regarding an indictment on the Religious Scholars Solidarity Association (DİAYDER).
An indictment was prepared against Coşkun and Pehlivan upon a complaint by Akın Gürlek, who was recently appointed as Deputy Minister of Justice by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In their news report, Coşkun and Pehlivan had covered the DİAYDER indictment, which constituted the basis for the Interior Ministry decision to launch a special investigation against İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality employees, who, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu claimed, were linked to terrorist organizations.
The journalists had stated that the DİAYDER case was to be overseen by the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court, which was presided by Akın Gürlek who handed down jail terms for pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) former İstanbul Provincial Director Canan Kaftancıoğlu, former HDP MP Sırrı Süreyya Önder and lawyers representing Progressive Lawyers Association. Gürlek had also refused to implement the Constitutional Court’s decision about CHP MP Enis Berberoğlu.
The indictment accuses the journalists of attempting to "mark the judge as a target for the PKK/KCK armed terrorist organization.”
The indictment was accepted by the İstanbul 34th High Criminal Court. The first hearing will be held on 27 October 2022.
İleri Haber editors sued over "bribery" allegations involving president's former lawyer
Izel Sezer, the editor-in-chief editor of Ileri Haber, and Batuhan Batan, the responsible editor of the news portal, are facing a new trial for reporting on a previous trial launched on account of the coverage of allegations of bribery involving a former lawyer of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The allegations were first published in a book co-authored by journalists Barış Pehlivan and Barış Terkoğlu. Opposition Turkish Workers' Party (TİP) deputy Ahmet Şık then commented on the allegations on social media, asking the authorities if they were going to take any action to investigate them. When İleri Haber published two reports covering the allegations mentioned in Şık's social media posts in December 2020, the lawyer cited in the reports, Mustafa Doğan İnal, filed a complaint against the website, which resulted in the prosecution of Sezer and former chief editor of the website, Doğan Ergün, on charges of "insult," "slander" and "disclosing personal data obtained illegally."
The latest court case was brought upon another complaint filed by lawyer İnal in response to a news report published in December 2021 and covering the initial trial launched against İleri Haber editors. The first hearing of the trial will be held on 27 December 2022 at the İstanbul 25th Criminal Court of First Instance.
3 journalists detained during demonstration for imprisoned colleagues
Police broke up a demonstration organized by the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association and Mezopotamya Women Journalists Platform in Ankara’s Ulus Square on 5 July 2022 in protest of 16 journalists’ imprisonment last month in Diyarbakır, forcibly dispersing the journalists and detaining three of them.
The police blockaded the area where the organizers attempted to read out a press statement, and prevented journalists from entering the area. Mezopotamya News Agency Ankara reporter Deniz Nazlım as well as journalists Yıldız Tar and Sibler Yükler were violently detained. They were released after giving their statements at the police station later in the day.
Journalists verbally assaulted by police official when covering health workers’ protest
Journalists were threatened and verbally assaulted by a chief police official as they were prevented from covering a demonstration in İstanbul by doctors and other health professionals on 7 July 2022.
Health workers were trying to march from the İstanbul University’s Faculty of Medicine to the Provincial Directorate of Health to protest increasing violence against health professionals after cardiologist Ekrem Karakaya was murdered in the central Anatolian province of Konya by a relative of a deceased patient.
Journalists were seen arguing with İstanbul Police Security Bureau Chief Hanifi Zengin, who threatened a camera operator for Artı TV saying “we’ll be seeing each other.” Artı TV reporter Meral Danyıldız, Habertürk reporter Gizem Türemen, tv100 reporter Gülay Alaca and Demirören News Agency (DHA) staff were reportedly among the journalists who were subject to threats and verbal assaults during the demonstration.
Journalists battered when covering banned Pride march in Ankara
The police broke up a Pride march by LGBTI+ groups in Ankara on 5 July 2022, detaining 46 demonstrators. Journalists who were trying to cover the march were violently prevented by the police. Mezopotamya Agency reporter Emre Vural was hospitalized after getting sprayed by tear gas at a close range while KaosGL.org reporter Aslı Alpar was beaten and injured in the leg.
Those who were detained were accused of “violating the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” and were released after giving their statements to the police.
Journalist Yakup Demir attacked by lawyer while covering the news
Mezopotamya Agency reporter Yakup Demir was physically attacked by Fevziye Karaer, a lawyer registered with the Gaziantep Bar Association, while he was covering the tensions between local shopkeepers and the police during the foreclosure proceedings in Diyarbakır's Sur district on 6 July 2022.
Demir was injured in his eyebrow due to Karaer's attack. He filed a complaint against Karaer after receiving a medical report from Selahattin Eyyubi State Hospital.
12 journalists imprisoned in Diyarbakır sent to high security facilities
12 of 15 journalists and a media worker, who were arrested and imprisoned pending trial as part of an investigation last month in Diyarbakır, were transferred to Diyarbakır High Security Prisons No. 1 and 2 on 7 July 7 2022.
Xwebûn newspaper editor-in-chief Mehmet Ali Ertaş, Mezopotamya Agency news editor Aziz Oruç, journalists Ramazan Geciken, Mazlum Güler, Abdurrahman Öncü and Suat Doğuhan were sent to Diyarbakır High Security Prison No. 1, while Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Co-Chair Serdar Altan, Mehmet Şahin, Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Ömer Çelik, İbrahim Koyuncu and Lezgin Akdeniz were transferred to the High Security Prison No. 2.
Journalists, who were arrested in police raids on their homes and offices on 8 June were imprisoned pending trial on the charge of "membership in a terrorist organization" by a court order on 16 June. They were taken to Diyarbakır D Type Closed Prison.
RTÜK fines Halk TV on “Mr. Öcalan”
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) on 6 July 2022 imposed an administrative fine on Halk TV and suspended the broadcasting of one of its programs three times because a guest, HDP lawmaker Mehmet Tiryaki, referred to Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), as "Sayın Öcalan." The word "sayın" could mean "esteemed" or simply Mr./Ms. in Turkish.
RTÜK also issued an administrative fine for the second time on Halk TV for re-broadcasting the main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's statement on the TURKEN Foundation, which involve allegations of transfer of funds by President Erdoğan and his family to the US-based foundation.
RTÜK urges TV channels to censor Mabel Matiz's clip
RTÜK member İlhan Taşcı announced that RTÜK officials have called music channels to warn them not to broadcast singer Mabel Matiz’s latest video clip launched on 30 June 2022.
Taşçı shared a Twitter post on 1 July 2022 including a part of Matiz’s clip and saying that RTÜK officials have been calling music channels to tell them not to play Matiz's latest song to avoid sanctions. The video clip was criticized by some social media users for "promoting LGBTI+ content."
At least 67 journalists, media employees behind bars in Turkey
As of 11 July 2022, there are at least 67 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey.
The full list can be accessed here.