Investigations, detentions, obstructions against journalists covering devastating earthquake; journalist Nazlıcan Yıldız imprisoned pending trial; Mustafa Sönmez acquitted of “insulting the president;” investigation launched against journalist Oktay Candemir
Investigations, detentions, obstructions against journalists covering devastating earthquake
Journalists covering the aftermath of two massive earthquakes that hit Turkey’s southeastern provinces on 6 February have been detained, harassed and prevented from reporting from the area. Within the first week following the twin earthquakes, four journalists were detained while covering the disaster aftermath while authorities launched criminal investigations against two journalists for their televised comments and social media posts about the tragedy.
Several journalists reported assaults, harassment and attempts to prevent them from reporting in the affected region.
At least 17 journalists were reported to have been killed in three worst-affected provinces: Hatay, Kahramanmaraş and Adıyaman. One journalist was recovered from the rubble with injuries. Another one sustained non-critical injuries in a road accident as he was covering the quake aftermath.
The government declared a State of Emergency (OHAL) in the 10 affected provinces. Access to Twitter and TikTok were also restricted for several hours while the Twitter account of a news agency was withheld by Twitter due to its earthquake-related posts. For more details, view our report here.
JinNews reporter Nazlıcan Yıldız imprisoned pending trial
Police launched home raids in Turkey’s western province of İzmir and arrested six people among whom were JinNews reporter Nazlıcan Yıldız and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) İzmir Provincial Executive Murat Tufan on 6 February 2023.
The new evidence that allegedly came into light in the case of 16 İzmir Free Students’ Initiative members, who were arrested in İzmir on 7 October 2022, have been cited as justification for the arrests.
A criminal judgeship of peace ordered Nazlıcan Yıldız be placed in pre-trial detention after her arrest.
Court acquits journalist Engin Korkmaz of “insulting the president”
An Antalya court ruled for the acquittal of Antalya Körfez newspaper reporter Engin Korkmaz, who was charged with “insulting the president” over some social media posts, at the end of the 10th hearing held on 6 February 2023.
Korkmaz and his lawyer attended the hearing held at the Antalya 19th Criminal Court of First Instance.
The prosecutor reiterated their final opinion on the case that they presented at the ninth hearing held on 3 October 2022 and demanded conviction for Korkmaz of the impugned crime.
Speaking as to the accusations, Korkmaz repeated his earlier defense statements and stated that the social media posts were within the scope of the freedom of expression and the press. Korkmaz’s lawyer noted that they rejected the prosecutor’s opinion, citing the European Court of Human Rights’ verdict on the case of Vedat Şorli vs. Turkey.
Announcing their decision without giving a recess, the judge ruled that the elements of the impugned crime did not exist.
Journalist Mustafa Sönmez acquitted of “insulting the president”
An İstanbul court has acquitted journalist and economist Mustafa Sönmez, who stood trial on charges of “insulting the president” over a social media post, at the end of the second hearing.
The judge did not allow any journalist or observers in the hearing held at the Anadolu 38th Criminal Court of First Instance on 7 February 2023.
The judge ruled that the social media post subject to investigation was within the scope of the freedom of expression.
Investigation launched against journalist Oktay Candemir for “insult,” “threat”
An investigation has been launched against journalist Oktay Candemir on charges of “insult” and “threat” upon a complaint by Van Provincial National Education Director Hasan Tekve over his social media posts that accused Tekve of “abuse of duty” and “causing the public authorities to sustain losses.”
Candemir was summoned to the police station as part of the investigation on 9 February and left the station after giving his statement.
Trial of journalist Zeynep Kuray, 9 co-defendants adjourned
The third hearing in the trial of journalist Zeynep Kuray on charges of “violating the Law 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” was held at the İstanbul 39th Criminal Court of First Instance on 9 February 2023.
The lawyers submitted a letter of excuse and did not attend the hearing, which P24 monitored. The court adjourned the trial until 4 July 2023.
Kuray, who was reporting on a May 2019 demonstration held in support of former MP Leyla Güven that was then on a hunger strike to support jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s visitation rights, is being tried along with nine others who participated in the demonstration.
Compensation case of journalist Canan Kaya adjourned until April
The third hearing in the compensation case of Medya Koridoru Editor-in-Chief Canan Kaya, who is standing trial upon a complaint by Demirören Media Group on charges of “reputational damage through news reports,” was held at the İstanbul 39th Civil Court of First Instance on 9 February 2023.
Kay did not attend but her lawyer was present at the hearing, which P24 monitored. The court adjourned the trial until 27 April.
Witness statement awaited in trial of journalist Reyhan Çapan
The 23rd hearing in the trial of now-defunct Özgür Gündem daily’s responsible managing editor Reyhan Çapan, who is charged with “terrorism propaganda through press,” was held at the İstanbul 2nd High Criminal Court on 7 February 2023.
The lawyers submitted letters of excuse and did not attend the hearing since the witness statements are yet to be received.
The court adjourned the trial until 26 September 2023.
Trial of journalists İrfan Tunççelik, Ümit Turhan Coşkun adjourned until May
The fourth hearing in the trial of journalists İrfan Tunççelik and Ümit Turhan Coşkun, along with 11 co-defendants from the Peace Mothers group was held at the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court on 7 February 2023. The defendants in the case are charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “violating the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations.”
Lawyers of Tunççelik, Coşkun and Emine Sarhan from the Peace Mothers attended the hearing.
The journalists’ lawyers stated that their professional equipment had been confiscated four years ago and demanded that the equipment be returned.
The presiding judge ordered that the digital materials be returned to the journalists and decided to await an additional expert report requested to determine whether there was any resistance against the police. The trial was adjourned until 8 May 2023.
Tunççelik and Coşkun were arrested as they were covering a demonstration in May 2019 in front of İstanbul’s Bakırköy Women’s Prison, which was held in support of hunger strikes calling for lifting of restrictions on jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s prison visitation rights.
Retrial in “FETÖ media case” adjourned until June
The seventh hearing in the retrial of journalists Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız on terrorism related charges was held at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court on 7 February 2023.
The journalists and their lawyers attended the hearing, which P24 monitored.
The prosecutor requested examination of further evidence. The court accepted the request and ordered that individuals who filed complaints against Tanık and Çetin to be heard. The court also decided to ask the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about the outcome of a recent investigation launched into Çulhaoğlu. The trial was adjourned until 8 June 2023.
All seven journalists were convicted in 2018 in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” in which 26 defendants faced terrorism charges over alleged ties with the Fethullah Gülen network. Their convictions were overturned in 2020 by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which held that Memiş, Kalyoncu, Çulhaoğlu, Tanık, Çetin and Yıldız should be charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member.”
Trial of journalist Yetkin Yıldız adjourned until June
The 23rd hearing in the trial of journalist Yetkin Yıldız on charges of “insult” and “libel” over an article published on the news portal Aktif Haber on 23 July 2015 was held at the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance on 9 February 2023.
The trial was adjourned until 13 June 2023.
The case was launched in 2016 following a complaint filed by former Interior Minister Efkan Ala. The accusations stem from a news article titled “Fuat Avni Suruç patlaması ile ilgili Twitter’dan çarpıcı mesajlar paylaştı” (Striking remarks by Fuat Avni concerning the Suruç bombing).
Trial of journalist Mehmet Baransu adjourned
The eighth hearing in the trial of journalist Mehmet Baransu charged with “insulting the president,” “insulting a public official,” “insult” and “defamation” was held at the İstanbul 60th Criminal Court of First Instance on 10 February 2023.
Baransu’s lawyer submitted a letter of excuse and did not attend the hearing. The trial was adjourned until a future date.
Trial of journalist Cengiz Çandar adjourned
The first hearing in the trial of journalist Cengiz Çandar on the charge of “praising an offense or an offender” over his social media posts dated May 2017 was held at the İstanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance on 9 February 2023.
Çandar’s lawyer submitted a letter of excuse and did not attend the hearing. The trial was adjourned until 11 April 2023.
At least 69 journalists and media workers in prison
Expression Interrupted has learned that former TRT employee İbrahim Halil Öztürkeri has been released lately upon completing his sentence. The number of jailed journalists, however, remained unchanged at 69 as JinNews reporter Nazlıcan Yıldız was imprisoned pending trial on 6 February.
The full list can be accessed here.