Parliament passes the “disinformation” bill; Faruk Eren and Furkan Karabay sentenced to imprisonment; Barış Barıştıran acquitted once again in retrial; Meral Danyıldız detained while reporting
The “disinformation” bill ratified by parliament with the AKP, MHP votes
The Bill on Amendments to the Press Law and Some Other Laws, commonly referred by the opposition as “censorship bill” was accepted by the General Assembly of Turkish Parliament and became law on 13 October 2022 with MPs from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voting for.
The law had been heavily criticized during the proposal stage in a report on Turkey prepared by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Monitoring Committee. In the report and associated draft recommendation decision jointly prepared by John Howell (UK) and Boriss Cilevics (Latvia) was debated and accepted by the Monitoring Committee on 10 October 2022.
The concerns voiced in an urgent opinion published by the Venice Commission that the draft law on “disinformation” contained “obstacles” to the freedom of expression guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights were added to the report last week.
With article 29 of the law, the Turkish Penal Code now includes the offense of “publicly disseminating information that is misleading to the public” with a possible imprisonment sentence of from 1 to 3 years. According to the law, all news websites will now be considered periodical publications. All news websites will have to keep the content they publish archived.
The law also regulates the applications for, characteristics and types of press cards. Accordingly, applications for press cards are to be made with the Presidency of Communications. Press cards will be considered official IDs.
Please see our article on details of the criticism of the new law.
Faruk Eren and Furkan Karabay given prison terms over news report in rapidly concluded trial
Faruk Eren, the head of journalists' union Disk-Basın İş and the managing editor of Gerçek Gündem news website, and editor Furkan Karabay were sentenced to 2 years and 3 months in prison in a trial where they were charged with "insulting a public official" over a news report regarding recent appointments in judiciary.
Eren and Karabay were prosecuted on the basis of the article that was penned by Karabay and published on Gerçek Gündem website on 23 June. The first hearing in the trial was held on 4 October and the second hearing was scheduled for only nine days later, to 13 October. The two journalists were convicted at the end of the second hearing. The court decided not to defer the sentences.
Prosecution demands conviction of journalist Beritan Canözer for “terrorism propaganda”
The third hearing in the trial of journalist Beritan Canözer on charges of “terrorism propaganda” over her social media posts was held at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court on 13 October 2022.
While Canözer did not attend the hearing, her lawyer Resul Temur was present. The panel of judges ruled unanimously to overrule the former decision to await the outcome of Canözer's case being reviewed for appeal by the appellate court.
The prosecution demanded that Canözer be sentenced over the impugned crime. Lawyer Temur requested additional time to prepare a defense statement.
The court accepted Temur’s request and adjourned the trial until 17 November 2022.
Journalist Barış Barıştıran acquitted once again in retrial
The fourth hearing in the retrial of Barış Barıştıran, former responsible editing manager of now-defunct Özgür Gün TV on charges of “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court on 13 October 2022.
While Barıştıran did not attend the hearing, her lawyer Resul Temur was present.
Presenting the opinion as to the accusations, the prosecutor requested that Barıştıran be sentenced over the impugned crime. The court ruled to acquit Barıştıran on the grounds that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that the impugned crime had been committed.
The case against Barıştıran had been filed for live broadcasting the Democratic Society Congress’ (DTK) emergency congress held in Diyarbakır on 26 March 2016. At the hearing on 16 March 2021 of the initial case, the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court had ruled to acquit Barıştıran. Upon the objection of the prosecutor for the hearing, the case had been appealed, with the 2ndCriminal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Court of Justice overturning the acquittal ruling and submitting the case back to the court of first instance for a retrial.
Journalist Uğur Dündar acquitted at first hearing
The first hearing in the trial of journalist Uğur Dündar on charges of “praising an offense or an offender” over a tweet he posted on his social media account by tagging criminal organization leader Sedat Peker and a speech he made was held at the Beykoz 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 12 October 2022.
Uğur Dündar and his lawyers attended the first hearing of the case which was filed upon a complaint by Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu.
The prosecutor who delivered their opinion as to the accusations said that Dündar’s statements fell within bounds of freedom of expression according to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and European Court of Human Rights rulings.
The court acquitted Dündar on grounds of lack of indubitable, certain and credible evidence that he had committed the impugned crime.
MA reporters Esra Solin Dal, Ömer İbrahimoğlu arrested
Mezopotamya Agency (MA) reporters Esra Solin Dal ad Ömer İbrahimoğlu were arrested while reporting on the “Freedom March” held throughout İstanbul on 9 October 2022 to demand the release of PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan.
Police first took the journalists to Kıraç Police Station. Dal and İbrahimoğlu were then taken to Mimar Sinan State Hospital and were released following procedures.
RTÜK issues “broadcast cancellation” penalty to Halk TV
The “Sözüm Var” TV programme that is broadcast twice a week on Halk TV was not broadcast on 10 October 2022, due to the “broadcast cancellation” penalty issued by the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK).
Journalist Meral Danyıldız detained while reporting
Journalist Meral Danyıldız was detained on 14 October 2022 while reporting on incidents between the residents and police and who arrived at the Tozkoparan neighbourhood in the Güngören district in İstanbul for demolitions as part of the “urban transformation” project.
Danyıldız, who was detained after recording images of the police arriving for the demolition of a residence was put in the detention vehicle and was searched. After being told “we have got orders to release you,” the journalist was released.
Journalist Onur Öncü to appear before the court upon objection by Soylu’s lawyer
Journalist Onur Öncü, who was acquitted of the charge of “insulting a public official” after simple trial procedure for petty offences over the broadcast titled “Ülkenin başına Hortum Süleyman kesilmek isteyen bir İçişleri Bakanı var!” that appeared on 3 May 2021 is to appear before the court on 19 December 2022, as a result of an objection to his acquittal by Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu.
The case against journalist Onur Öncü, who at the time presented a programme on #ÖZGÜRÜZ, was filed due to the programme broadcast on the platform’s YouTube channel. The Küçükçekmece 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance, that had accepted the indictment prepared by the Küçükçekmece Chief Prosecutor’s Office had decided to try the case using the simple trial procedure for petty offences.
Deciding on the case on 26 July 2022, the court had ruled that elements of the impugned crime did not exist.
Upon the objection by Soylu’s lawyer to the acquittal as a result of the simple trial procedure, the court ruled to try the case using the general trial procedure.
Sözcü reporter's apartment raided on false report
Sözcü newspaper reporter Sayime Başçı’s apartment in Şişli, İstanbul was raided by the police acting on a report of a suicide bomber on 12 October 2002. A large group of police arrived at Sayime Başçı's apartment and used a battering ram to break the door and enter.
While Başçı was not at home at the time, her neighbors tried to intervene. After being told by the police “Not to interfere, stay indoors,” the neighbors got the police on the phone with Başçı, who was in Adana at the time, and it was found that the report was false.
Journalist Adil Demirci’s case file separated
The 13th hearing in the trial of 20 people including Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Adil Demirci and the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) and Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF) members on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda) was held at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court on 13 October 2022.
While the defendants did not attend the hearing, their lawyers were present.
The court ruled to separate the case files for all defendants other than Demirci due to the scope of the case and the ongoing investigation of evidence for some of the defendants. The case was adjourned until 14 March 2023.
Journalist İsmail Arı’s trial adjourned
The trial of BirGün newspaper reporter İsmail Arı on charges of “illegally obtaining and disseminating personal data” over a news item he prepared, was held at the İstanbul 58thCriminal Court of First Instance on 11 October 2022.
Arı’s lawyer Tolgay Güvercin was present at the hearing, which P24 followed.
The prosecutor, who presented their opinion as to the accusations demanded conviction of Arı over the impugned crime, citing that the news item “Kızılay Başkanı ile Genel Müdürü’ne kesilen para cezalarının belgelerine BirGün ulaştı” (“BirGün obtains documentation of the fines issued to the President and general Director of the Turkish Red Crescent”) published in the newspaper on 6 October 2020 had featured copies of payment slips with the bank account details of Turkish Red Crescent President Kerem Kınık, which constitute personal data, “not redacted and clearly visible.”
The court accepted lawyer Güvercin’s request for additional time to prepare a defense statement against the opinion as to the charges and adjourned the trial until 27 October 2022.
Ramazan Yurttapan, Haydar Ergül’s trial adjourned
The first hearing in the trial of Demokratik Modernite magazine managing editor Ramazan Yurttapan and magazine editor Haydar Ergül on charges of “insulting the president” over an article in the magazine was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 11 October 2022.
Yurttapan, Ergül and lawyers for the parties were present at the hearing, which P24 followed.
President Erdoğan’s lawyer Berrin Karakurt requested the sentencing of Yurttapan and Ergül, arguing that the news items subject to the charge went beyond the limits of freedom of the press. Karakurt also requested to join the case as a co-plaintiff.
Yurttapan, who stated that the owner of the work subject to the charge was known said “As the owner of the work is known, I have no responsibility for it under the Press Law. I request my acquittal.” Ergül repeated the statement he had provided during the investigation and said “As it is a magazine of ideas and theory, people can sometimes engage in harsh criticism. I have no right to interfere with the content,” and requested his acquittal.
The court ruled that as the author of the article subject to the charge, Selçuk Uçar should testify as a witness and a criminal complaint should be filed against him with the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office; as well as accepting President Erdoğan and his lawyer as co-plaintiffs due to the possibility of harm from the impugned crime. The trial was adjourned until 21 February 2023.
In the indictment, some statements in the article “Yeni Osmanlıcılık Türk Devletinin En Yozlaşmış Halidir” (Neo-Ottomanism is the Most Corrupt Form of the Turkish State) that appeared in issue 37 of the magazine under the pen name “Aysun Genç” were cited as evidence for the charges brought against Yurttapan and Ergül.
Prosecution requests the acquittal of journalists Görkem Kınacı, Uğur Şahin, Uğur Koç
The second hearing in the trial of Evrensel newspaper managing editor Görkem Kınacı, BirGünnewspaper news editor Uğur Şahin and birgun.net managing editor Uğur Koç on charges of “defamation” and “insulting a public official” launched upon a complaint filed by Constitutional Court Judge İrfan Fidan was held at the Beykoz 6th Criminal Court of First Instance on 12 October 2022.
The lawyers of the journalists Devrim Avcı and Ülkü Şahin and lawyer for co-plaintiff İrfan Fidan were present at the hearing, which P24 followed.
Delivering their opinion as to the accusations, the prosecutor stated that the actions of the defendants fell within the freedom of the press and expression, that the elements of the impugned crime did not exist and that the journalists should be acquitted separately for each charge.
While the journalists’ lawyers stated they agreed with the opinion, Fidan’s lawyer requested additional time to prepare a counter statement against the opinion. The court accepted the request for additional time and adjourned the trial until 19 October 2022.
Journalist Can Dündar’s trial adjourned until March 2023
The 17th hearing in the trial of Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaperon charges of “printing or publishing statements by terrorist organizations” for his participation in the Editor-in-Chief on Duty campaign held in support of the Özgür Gündem newspaper in 2016 was held at the İstanbul 22nd High Criminal Court on 13 October 2022.
At the hearing which Dündar and his lawyer did not attend, the court ruled to await the execution of the warrant for Dündar’s arrest and the response to the letter rogatory. The trial was adjourned until 30 March 2023.
Court separates Ali Sönmez Kayar’s case file
In the trial of nine people, including Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” the court has ruled to separate the case files of Kayar and three other defendants.
At the 17 May 2022 hearing held at the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court, Kayar’s lawyer Gülhan Kaya had stated that Kayar was being tried in another case also on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Stating that there could not be more than one ongoing case on the same charge, lawyer Kaya had requested for the merger of the case file with the case ongoing at the İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court. The İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court had then decided to file a merger request with the İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court.
The İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court had accepted the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court’s merger request on 9 August 2022 and requested the case file.
Holding a session on 20 September 2022 upon the acceptance of its merger request, the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court separated the case file of Kayar, along with three other defendants. Following the submission of the merger decision, the trial of Kayar and the other three defendants will continue at the İstanbul 11th High Criminal Court.
Execution of the arrest warrant to be awaited in Rüstem Batum’s trial
The third hearing in the trial of journalist Rüstem Batum on charges of “insulting the president” due to some of his social media posts in 2018 was held at the İstanbul 12th Criminal Court of First Instance on 12 October 2022.
While Batum, who lives abroad, did not attend the hearing, his lawyers were present. Batum’s lawyers requested the immediate acquittal of their client given their previously submitted written statements and the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) verdict on the Vedat Şorli case.
The prosecutor requested the case file to prepare their opinion as to the accusations. The court decided to await the execution of the arrest warrant on Batum and adjourned the trial until 6 April 2023.
Engin Eren’s case adjourned until November
The 31st hearing in the trial of 66 people, including former reporter for now-defunct DİHA on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “violate of the Law 2565 on Military Forbidden Zones and Secure Zones” and “violation of the Law 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” was held at the batman 2nd High Criminal Court on 14 October 2022.
The court ruled that the defendants who had not yet delivered statements should be brought in by force and adjourned the trial until 4 November 2022 for the defense statements against the opinion to be prepared.
Presenting their opinion at the hearing on 3 June 2022, the prosecutor had demanded conviction of Eren for the impugned crime.
At least 68 journalists and media workers in prison
There are at least 68 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 16 October 2022.
The full list can be accessed here.