File to Erdoğan Administration: Freedom to News
2018 Second Quarter Media Monitoring Report
Erol Önderoğlu - BIA News Desk 13/07/2018

BİA Media Monitoring 2018 2nd Quarter Reporter provides a unique opportunity to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government in its policy of “freedom to news making” as part of the Presidential Government System.

Because the report includes study of “journalist/media” environment with all details, all recent violations of freedom of expression/media, and siege against journalists.

Media has been oppressed in Turkey with conveniences provided by structure of media ownership. All instruments are in effect to silence all critical voices. All sorts of pressures and crackdowns against media and journalists were on the agenda of a large number of rights organizations and defenders including journalists from Turkey and all over the world. President and government officials reacted to protests staged in Turkey and international platforms, and had to respond to the questions and discussed the number of imprisoned journalists.

BİA Media Monitoring Report draws attention to political, legal and physical crackdowns that media faces on various levels. It demonstrates that 315 journalists, columnists, editors or drawers are sentenced to 47 aggravated lifetime imprisonment, one lifetime imprisonment, 3 thousand 34 years and 6 months in prison and to pay material or immaterial compensation of 40 thousand TL.

According to this, 33 of them were sentenced to 2 aggravated lifetime imprisonment and 137 years 2 months and 19 days in prison on charges of “coup plotting”, “propagandizing for an illegal organization”, “being member of an illegal organization”, “insulting state institutions” or “insulting President”.

Chapters such as “killed journalists”, “imprisoned journalists”, “assault, threat and obstructions”, “impunity/right seeking”, “investigations, opened-ongoing cases, verdicts”, “insult, personal rights and actions for compensation”, “Constitutional Court”, “ECtHR” and “RTÜK”. 

127 inmates: 33 defendants, 40 suspects, 30 convicts, 24 prisoners

Probed over occupational activities or political cases, 127 journalists entered July 1 in prison. 33 of the 127 journalists have been tried, 40 have been investigated, 24 are convicted and files of 30 are at the upper court.

73 of the arrested journalists were working at media outlets affiliated with Gülen Community, and 39 were from Kurdish media. During this period, journalists faced charges of “Attempting to abolish constitutional order”, “cooperating or aiding armed organizations such as FETÖ, PKK, MLKP, DHKP-C, TKEP/L, Resistance Movement”.

In the same period of last year, 84 of the 136 journalists were being investigated, 23 were being tried and 19 were convicted.

Four of the five detentions are related to Kurdish Question

Five journalists were detained in period of April-May-June. Four of the journalists were detained as part of the investigations concerning “Kurdish Question”.

In the same period of last year, 16 journalists four of whom were from international media were detained. In the whole year 2017, 85 journalists 31 of whom were from media outlets affiliated with Gülen Community, 20 from Kurdish media and five from international media. The figure was 201 in 2016 when the State of Emergency was declared.

Three assaults, 65 threats

Two journalists and one media bureau were attacked and one media outlet became target of verbal assault in the period of April-May-June 2018. 65 journalists were threatened, seven of them were threatened with death. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Leader Devlet Bahçeli targeted 59 journalists, who criticized his party during June 24, 2018 election period, with newspaper advertisement. Imprisoned mafia leader Alaattin Çakıcı, whom Bahçeli visited in hospital, called for punishment of six Karar newspaper columnists.

In the same period of 2017, at least five journalists were physical and two verbally attacked. Besides, three journalists were threatened. During the whole year of 2017, one Syrian woman journalist was killed in İstanbul. 20 journalists, one newspaper and one publishing house were attacked. In addition, 12 journalists and five media outlets were threatened, five journalists were verbally attacked.

Turkish Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law: 24 journalists face lifetime prison

During April-May-June 2018, 24 journalists or media representatives were tried on charge of “participating in the coup attempt”, and they faced 47 aggravated lifetime imprisonment. In one of these cases, two journalists were sentenced to aggravated lifetime imprisonment. Furthermore, nine journalists are charged with “espionage” or “spreading state’s confidential documents” and facing one lifetime imprisonment and 402 years in prison.

69 journalists or media workers faced 508 years in prison in total in charges of “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” and “covering an illegal organization’s statements”: Seven of them were sentenced to 28 years 8 months and 14 days in prison; five were acquitted and lawsuits against the eight continue.

During this period, 121 journalists were tried on charges of “managing an illegal organization”, “being a member of an organization”, “committing crime on behalf of an organization as non-member”, “aiding a legal organization”, and they face 850 years in prison in total. 18 of them were sentenced to 104 years 4 months and 15 days in prison; two of them were acquitted; lawsuits brought against four continue.

Facing 40 years 6 months in prison in total, nine journalists were tried on charge of “inciting people to enmity and hostility”; two of them were sentenced to 2 years 3 months and 15 days in prison in total, lawsuits brought against five continue.

22 media workers are facing 66 years in prison on charge of “resisting an officer”; three are facing nine years in prison in total for “promoting crime”; two are facing four years in prison on charge of “Insulting Turkish nation and state institutions”; one is facing three years in prison on charge of “violating confidentiality of the investigation”.

39 journalists were charged with “insult”

In the period of April-May-June 2018, 32 journalists were tried on charge of “insult” and they faced 77 years 4 months in prison in total; four were sentenced to 1 year 10 months and 5 days in prison in total. Seven journalists faced material or immaterial compensation of 4 million 40 thousand TL (700 thousand Euros).

In the same period of last year, two journalists faced nine years four months in prison in total on charge of insult. During the entire year of 2017, one journalist was sentenced to 1 year 5 months and 15 days in prison, five journalists were sentenced to pay fined of 43 thousand 840 TL. One was acquitted.

“Insulting the President”: 16 defendants; 6 suspects

In the last three months, 16 journalists faced 74 years and 8 months in prison in total due to their opinions and criticism about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. While two of these journalists (Ahmet Altan and Faruk Arhan) were acquitted, the court cases against two of them (Kamil Tekin Sürek and Ahmet Altan) were filed in this period. Moreover, there are ongoing investigations about six journalists (Selma Erdal, Alican Uludağ, Ahmet Şık, Fatih Polat, Kutlu Esendemir and Levent Gültekin) as per the Article no. 299 of the Turkish Penal Code. In that case, 22 journalists became the defendants and suspects of Erdoğan in the last three-month period.

In the same period last year, 18 journalists faced 90 years in prison in total on charge of “insulting the President” and nine of them were sentenced to 4 years, 5 months and 20 days in prison and given judicial fines of 84 thousand TRY in total. In 2017, 17 journalists and columnists were sentenced to 8 years, 4 months and 10 days in prison (of which, 4 years, 10 months and 10 days were suspended) and given judicial fines of 136 thousand 500 TRY in total as per the Article no. 299 of the Turkish Penal Code. While four journalists were acquitted, one case was dropped due to the lapse of time. At the end of the year, new lawsuits were filed against six journalists.

The Article no. 299 of the Turkish Penal Code, which started to be implemented for criticisms and allegations about Erdoğan since August 2014 when he was elected President, became the basis of sentences given to at least 42 journalists between the dates of August 2014 and July 1, 2018.

Censorship – Wikipedia banned for 14 months

In the period of April-May-June 2018, 32 news reports with public interest, 77 tweets, 22 Facebook posts and 5 YouTube videos were censored. Wikipedia, the most well-known free internet encyclopedia of the world, is banned in Turkey for 14 months!

In this period, while one publication/ broadcast ban was imposed, one article, 10 books and one TV channel were censored; one letter, two newspapers and one magazine were banned in prisons. Two other censorship incidents also took place.

In the same period last year, at least six websites, 47 news reports and articles, three Twitter posts, one book and one movie were censored. While at least one case of discrimination was encountered in accreditation, the passports of 46 media workers were repealed. Moreover, at least three other censorship incidents occurred.

In 2017, which was marked by unquestionable administrative and penal censorship practices due to the State of Emergency and Statutory Decrees, six temporary or permanent publication/ broadcast bans, three accreditation discriminations, cancellation of 47 passports and one press card and closing of three media organs by Statutory Decrees took place. In this period, 10 websites, 6 newspapers, 97 online news reports or articles, eight books, six magazines or journals, three Twitter posts and eight caricatures were censored. Also, nine other censorship incidents happened.

Constitutional Court

In the period of April-May-June, in the court case filed by Kemal Gözler, the editor of the websites and, who applied to the Constitutional Court and claimed that his freedom of expression had been unconstitutionally violated, the Constitutional Court sentenced the state to pay 206 TRY as court expenses. In the applications submitted by one unionist and one soldier, the Constitutional Court ruled that their freedoms of expression were not violated.

Regarding the journalists, whose requests for release were repeatedly rejected by local judgeships and courts since the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Constitutional Court took action only on January 11, 2018. The last application made to the Constitutional Court in that regard was about Oğuz Usluer, the former news coordinator of the HaberTürk TV channel. Mehmet Altan, the former columnist of the Zaman newspaper, who had been sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment by the local court, was released from prison after the verdict of violation issued by the Constitutional Court was taken into consideration by the 2nd Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice six months later. The case files of a high number of journalists like Ahmet Turan Alkan are still waiting for the verdicts to be given by the Constitutional Court.

ECtHR: Turkey sentenced to pay 19 thousand 500 Euro

In the period of April-May-June 2018, in the applications of five people including the journalist Yalçın Ergündoğan and publisher Fatih Taş, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) sentenced Turkey to pay a compensation of 19 thousand 500 Euro for violating the Article no. 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The first verdicts of violation issued by the ECtHR regarding the applications made by the arrested journalists in Turkey after the amendment of the Internal Regulation in May 2017 were given in the cases of Şahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan on March 20, 2018. In the last three-month period, the ECtHR did not announce any verdicts specifically about the arrested journalists.

The applications made by a large number of arrested journalists including Ahmet Turan Alkan, Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak on charge of “violating the right to freedom” are waiting for the verdicts to be given by the ECtHR. Finally, after the journalist Nedim Türfent was sentenced to 8 years and 9 months in prison on charge of “being a member of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), he also appealed to the ECtHR.

Double standards in struggle against impunity

In the case on the occupation of the building of the state-channel TRT in Harbiye, İstanbul and the attempt to take Taksim Square in Beyoğlu, İstanbul under control at the night of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, 16 defendants were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment and 15 of them were sentenced to life imprisonment on charge of “violating the Constitution”. 210 defendants, 41 of whom were arrested including the security and intelligence officers of the time Ramazan Akyürek, Ali Fuat Yılmazer and Yurt Atayün, are still being tried on the ground of “illegal wiretapping of various politicians, artists, journalists and entrepreneurs on behalf of the FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, which is held responsible for staging the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016)”. The trial of 40 defendants about the murder of journalist Haydar Meriç is still continuing at the Kırklareli 2nd Heavy Penal Court.

On the other side, the restitution case filed by the executives of the Jiyan TV channel, which was closed and whose property was confiscated by a Statutory Decree for allegedly “posing a threat to the national security”, was rejected. Also, over the last two years, there has not been any progress in the investigation of the attack carried out by the security forces and a group of people against 10 journalists watching a bomb attack launched against the Midyat Security Directorate in Mardin on June 8, 2016.

Fines by Radio and Television Supreme Council

In the period of April-May-June 2018, due to their movie and program broadcasts, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) stopped the broadcasts of six TV channels, imposed 12 fines on them and gave one fine to a radio channel. In total, the council stopped the broadcasts of 6 TV and radio channels and imposed judicial fines of 1,211,367 TRY in total on them in 14 proceedings.

25 Journalists Disemployed

In the period of April-May-June 2018, 25 journalists and media workers were dismissed from their jobs; their employments were terminated after the programs that they prepared/ presented were ended or they were forced to leave their jobs after the institutions that they worked for passed into the hands of different media groups. At the end of June, it was reported in the media that in various mainstream media institutions, a large number of people are expected to be dismissed from their jobs.

In the same period last year, four journalists, two of whom were close to the government, encountered the same situation. During that period, the Penguen humor magazine and Al Jazeera Türk ended their publication/ broadcast. Throughout 2017, this number was 166. (EÖ/APA/TK/SD)

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