Pop star Gülşen jailed; Evrensel newspaper's right to publish public ads revoked; top court rejects application filed against imprisonment of 3 Gezi defendants; investigation launched against BirGün editor; police prevent journalists from covering forced evictions
Press Advertising Agency revokes Evrensel newspaper's right to publish public ads
The Press Advertising Agency (BİK), which has imposed an official ban on the Evrensel newspaper for nearly three years, has completely revoked the newspaper's right to publish advertisements, a significant source of income for newspapers.
The BİK imposed a public ad ban on the newspaper on 18 September 2019 on technical grounds, including “bulk buying.” The appeals submitted to the BİK by Evrensel following the ban were all rejected.
On 22 August 2022, Evrensel newspaper received BİK’s decision, revoking its right to publish public ads based on the distributor inspection carried out on 19 July 2022 and administrative inspections on the day after, 20 July. The BİK stated, “It was decided that the right to publish official announcements and advertisements of the daily Evrensel newspaper was revoked as the right to publish was not resumed within six months, excluding the pandemic period where the legislative requirements were not sought by the Institution between 23 March 2020 and 30 April 2022.”
P24 and 18 press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights organizations issued a joint statement on 26 August 2022, calling on the BİK to withdraw without delay its "alarming" decision to revoke the right of the Evrensel newspaper to receive public ads.
Pop star Gülşen jailed over joke about Turkish religious schools
Pop star Gülşen Bayraktar Çolakoğlu has been arrested on the charge of “inciting hatred and enmity” for a joke she made during a concert about Turkey’s religious schools.
The 46-year-old singer and songwriter was taken away from her home in İstanbul for questioning and formally arrested on 25 August 2022. She was then taken to Bakırköy Closed Women’s Prison in İstanbul on the same day.
The charge was based on a joke Gülşen made during an April concert in İstanbul, where she quipped that one of her musicians’ “perversion” stemmed from attending a religious school. A video of the singer’s comment began circulating on social media recently, with a hashtag calling for her arrest.
Gülşen, who previously became a target in Islamic circles due to her revealing stage outfits and for unfurling an LGBTQ flag at a concert, apologized for the offense the joke caused but said her comments were seized on by those wanting to deepen polarization in the country. The pop star was also slammed by Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Spokesperson Ömer Çelik, AKP Vice Chair Numan Kurtulmuş and President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs Ali Erbaş.
During her questioning by court authorities, Gülşen rejected accusations that she incited hatred and enmity, and said she had “endless respect for the values and sensitivities of my country.”
Her request to be released from custody pending the outcome of a trial was rejected.
Top court rejects objection to imprisonment of 3 Gezi defendants
The Constitutional Court has rejected an application filed against the imprisonment of Tayfun Kahraman, Mücella Yapıcı and Can Atalay, who were each sentenced to 18 years in prison as part of the Gezi Trial.
According to media reports published on 26 August, the top court said the application, which maintained that the detention of Kahraman, Yapıcı and Atalay amounted to violation of right to freedom and security, freedom of expression and freedom of association, was "unsubstantiated."
The Gezi Trial, in which business person and civil society figure Osman Kavala, was given aggravated life sentence for "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order" over his alleged role in the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013, was concluded on 25 April 2022. The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court, which oversaw the trial, also sentenced co-defendants Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater, Hakan Altınay, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay and Tayfun Kahraman to 18 years in prison for “aiding" this crime.
Journalists prevented from covering forced evictions in İstanbul
Journalists who were trying to cover demolitions as part of a state-sanctioned development project in İstanbul's Beykoz district were prevented by the police on 23 August. Tensions were high as residents refused to evacuate their homes and police forces were dispatched to the area to ensure the demolitions go ahead. 16 residents who attempted to prevent the demolition work were arrested.
The police prevented KRT TV reporter Sultan Eylem Keleş from monitoring the incident, and battered the KRT TV cameraman.
The police units also blockaded Beyoğlu's Hacıhüsrev neighbourhood in the morning on the same day to secure the evacuation process of the houses for an urban development project. The residents were asked to evacuate their houses within an hour. The police prevented the press from monitoring the developments and the journalists were forced to leave the area.
Investigation launched against BirGün over his social media post
An investigation has been launched against BirGün daily’s Editorial Coordinator İbrahim Varlı on the charge of “inciting hatred and enmity” over his tweet reading, “Islamists are cruel, Islamists are tyrant, there is no evil they would not do,” dated 25 September 2020.
Varlı gave his statement at a police station as part of an investigation that got under way on 25 August 2022 upon an anonymous complaint filed with the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER). The journalist denied the accusations and stated that his tweet did not contain any blame, insult or enmity, and that the social media post in question referred to “political Islam.”
HDP MP Hatimoğulları takes Expression Interrupted’s report to Parliament
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Adana MP Tülay Hatimoğulları has taken the latest quarterly report of Freedom of Expression and the Press Agenda published by the Expression Interrupted to the Parliament.
According to a news report published on 19 August 2022, citing the violations listed in the report, Hatimoğulları called for a parliamentary inquiry. In her parliamentary question, Hatimoğulları stated the following: “Article No. 25 of the Constitution reads, ‘Everyone has the freedom of thought and opinion. No one shall be compelled to reveal his/her thoughts and opinions for any reason or purpose; nor shall anyone be blamed or accused because of his/her thoughts and opinions.’ Article No. 26 of the Constitution reads, ‘Everyone has the right to express and disseminate his/her thoughts and opinions by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively. This freedom includes the liberty of receiving or imparting information or ideas without interference by official authorities.’ We kindly request that these provisions be implemented, and a Parliamentary Inquiry be carried out as per Article No. 90 of the Constitution as well as Article no. 104 and 105 of the parliamentary bylaws to lift the pressures on the freedom of the press.”
Investigation against journalist Vildan Atmaca dismissed
The authorities decided not to pursue an investigation targeting journalist Vildan Atmaca, six months after she was arrested and held for eight days in police custody as part of that investigation.
Atmaca was arrested during a house raid in İstanbul in February 2022 and taken to the police headquarters where she was held for eight days on the suspicion of "membership in a terrorist organization." During her interrogation, she was asked questions about her news reports from 2015 and 2016. Six months later, the prosecutors decided that there was no ground to turn the investigation into a criminal trial.
Court announces reasoned decision of jail term for journalist Abdurrahman Gök
The Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court has issued its reasoned decision in the trial of journalist Abdurrahman Gök, who photographed the moment when university student Kemal Kurkut was shot dead by two police officers as he was trying to join the 2017 Newroz celebrations in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
Gök was charged with “terrorism propaganda” and “membership in a terrorist organization” on the basis of his social media posts and visits to Syria for news coverage. At the end of the trial, he was acquitted of "membership in a terrorist organization" and was sentenced to 1 year 6 months and 22 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda." The court's reasoned decision did not mention that Gök’s social media posts were related to his news articles, nor to the fact that he was a journalist.
Objection to imprisonment of 16 journalists pending trial in Diyarbakır rejected
An objection to imprisonment pending trial of 16 journalists and media workers, who were arrested in police raids on their homes and offices in Diyarbakır on 8 June 2022 as part of an investigation and were sent to prison on 16 June 2022, has been rejected. The Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Court of First Instance ruled on 16 August 2022 against the objection dated 22 June 2022, saying the detention of journalists on the charge of "membership in a terrorist organization" was "proportional and in accordance with the law and procedure.”
Investigation launched against journalist Yavuz Selim Demirağ
An investigation has been launched by Edremit Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Republican People’s Party (CHP) Mersin MP Ali Mahir Başarır, former CHP Balıkesir MP Mehmet Tüm, former CHP İstanbul Provincial Deputy Chair Murat Akbaş, Worker’s Party of Turkey (TİP) Chair Erkan Baş and journalist Yavuz Selim Demirağ over some speeches they delivered during a book fair, which was organized in Balıkesir’s district of Edremit from 13-21 August 2022.
According to a news article published on 26 August 2022, the speakers are charged with “insulting the President” and “inciting hatred and enmity” over their remarks about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu. Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Edremit District Presidency has also lodged a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office against the speakers.
Imprisoned Yeni Yaşam worker İbrahim Karakaş goes on hunger strike
Yeni Yaşam newspaper employee İbrahim Karakaş has gone on a hunger strike together with other prisoners on 14 July 2022 in protest of the rejection of their demands and arbitrary practices at the Adana Kürkçüler F Type Closed Prison, where he has been held in pre-trial detention since 6 November 2020.
Karakaş was taken into custody on 4 November 2020 at the Adana Courthouse, where he went to give his testimony as part of an investigation launched by the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor's Office. He was arrested on the charge of "membership in a terrorist organization" and sent to Adana Kürkçüler F Type Closed Prison on 6 November 2022.
At least 69 journalists, media employees behind bars in Turkey
There are at least 69 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 29 August 2022.
The full list can be accessed here.