Press In Arrest August 2020.
Trials were suspended in August due to the judiciary recess; however, attempts to bring journalists into line continued under violent forms.
Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül stated that strict measures will be taken against the coronavirus in courthouses and that the judicial videoconferencing system SEGBİS will be used widely in hearings.
Trials were suspended in August due to the judiciary recess; however, attempts to bring journalists into line continued under violent forms.
Investigations and interrogations against journalists continued, and incidents of psychological and physical violence increased at the same pace.
In August, at least 15 journalists were subjected to psychological and physical violence:
At least 8 journalists were detained or summoned to testify; faced lawsuits, investigations and/or criminal complaints:
CHP’s İzmir deputy and Chief Media and Corporate Communications Advisor to the Party Chairman, Tuncay Özkan announced that he would file a lawsuit against Süleyman Özışık, who made various claims about him in an article published on Türkiye Newspaper.
Separately, Özgür Boğatekin, an editor and writer with Adıyaman Gerger Fırat Newspaper, had been tried for 4 of his articles criticizing the Gerger District Governor of the period, and sentenced in 2015 to 1 year 15 days in prison on the charge of “successive slander”. He had appealed against the verdict. 5 years on, the Court of Cassation has upheld the sentence. Boğatekin was placed in prison. However, on the next day, the reinforcement of the sentence was deferred due to coronavirus measures, and he was released.
Although most hearings were suspended in August due to the judiciary recess, the 29th hearing of the trial against Mehmet Baransu -in prison since March 2015- and Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur took place.
These journalists stand trial for the news stories published in the now shuttered Taraf Newspaper in 2010, where it was claimed that “Some groups within Turkish Armed Forces planned a coup in 2003”.
Baransu faces 35 to 75 years in prison, while Altan, Çongar and Oğur each face 20 years to 52 years 6 months in prison.
The prosecutor is expected to present his opinion as to the accusations in the next hearing scheduled for October.
In September 60 journalists will appear in court in 7 provinces in Turkey.
Press In Arrest September 2020
In September at least 64 journalists -20 of whom are women- appeared
in court for 38 press trials in 7 provinces.
In the trials, the prosecutors demanded 7 counts of aggravated life sentence, and prison sentences of at least 376 years, 11 months to 970 years, 10 months against journalists.
The freedom of press and expression of journalists and therefore of the society is violated on an almost daily basis: at interrogation rooms in police stations or prosecutors’ offices, prisons, courthouses and courtrooms.
Sometimes six journalists stand trial in a single day; sometimes one journalist stands in three different trials in a single day.
Some journalists are forced to present their defense statements from prison to a panel of judges, which changes at almost every hearing in certain trials, and via the monitors and cameras of the judiciary videoconferencing system called SEGBİS.
Those who can present a defense statement in person in the courtroom come under the supervision of police officers or private security guards.
Courtrooms are closed to the press or observers on the pretext of the coronavirus outbreak.
All of these constitute violations of “the right to fair trial”
In September at least 64 journalists -20 of whom are women- appeared in court for 38 press trials in 7 provinces.
(İsmail Yıldız, Erdal Güven, Semin Sezerer, Selman Keleş, Arif Aslan, Uğur Koç, Mustafa Kömüş, Aydın Keser, Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkoğlu, Erk Acarer, Ferhat Çelik, Hülya Kılınç, Murat Ağırel, Zana Bilir Kaya, Eren Keskin, İnan Kızılkaya, Engin Korkmaz, Pınar Gayıp, Semiha Şahin, Onur Emre Yağan, Müyesser Yıldız, Pelin Ünker, Ahmet Sever, Hakan Dirik, Gülsün Altan, Kadır Cesur, Koçali Özipek, Nahide Aslan, Serdar Altan, Sibel Eren, Mustafa Gökkılınç, İdris Sayılgan, Arafat Dayan, Hayri Demir, Filiz Koçali, Ragıp Zarakolu, Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur, Ali Açar, Aziz Oruç, Ferhat Parlak, Can Dündar, Hüseyin Aykol, Sabiha Temizkan, Reyhan Çapan, Havva Cuştan, isminaz Temel, Çiğdem Toker, Fatih Portakal, Zehra Özdilek, İnan Ketenciler, Derya Okatan, Ersin Çaksu, Olgun Matur, Kenan Baş, Cihat Ünal, Osman Yakut, Özkan Mayda, Ömer Özdemir, Serhat Şeftali, Hasan Yavaşlar, Ali Orhan, Durket Süren.)
7 journalists (İsmail Yıldız (Rawin Sterk), Barış Pehlivan, Hülya Kılınç, Murat Ağırel, Müyesser Yıldız, Mustafa Gökkılıç, Aziz Oruç) appeared in court under detention. Two of them are women.
Journalist Müyesser Yıldız spent almost three months in prison waiting for an indictment to be drafted against her under a trial, and appeared in court for a separate trial in the same period.
Journalists İsmail Yıldız (also known as Rawin Sterk), Barış Pehlivan, Hülya Kılınç, Murat Ağırel and Mümtazer Türköne were released from prison under trials that still continue.
Courts extended Mustafa Gökkılıç and Aziz Oruç’s detentions this month.
Journalists faced a total of 7 counts of aggravated life sentence, and prison sentences of up to 970 years, 10 months
6 journalists prosecuted in multiple lawsuits
Prosecutors attended 13 trials for the first time
With the start of the Judicial Year 2020-2021, a previously cancelled practice has been reintroduced in courthouses. Accordingly, prosecutors can now participate in hearings at criminal courts of first instance. Fifteen journalists tried in 13 separate lawsuits at criminal courts of first instance had to defend their freedom of press and expression not only before the judge, but also before a prosecutor. Just like in high criminal courts, they had to appear before prosecutors whose benches are at the same height with the judge’s bench…
9 journalists appeared in court for the first time this month
Right to a public trial violated at least 10 times
5 hearings under the supervision of police officers or security guards
2 journalists presented their defense statements via SEGBİS
Panel of judges changed in at least 13 trials
The panel of judges that oversaw the detained journalist Aziz Oruç’s trial changed completely compared to the previous hearing. Oruç attended the hearing from prison via SEGBİS and saw before him a completely different panel of judges, which ruled to keep him in prison.
2 journalists faced charges brought for the first time in two years
Charges based on 5 different laws
24 journalists charged with ‘membership of an armed terror organization’
21 journalists charged with ‘spreading propaganda for a terror organization’
15 journalists faced longer prison sentences
A wide range of charges
Beyond data analysis, the Press in Arrest team reports the following from the hearings that it observed:
The court launched the procedure for seizing journalist Can Dündar’s property, claiming that he went overseas “to foil the investigation against him”…
Detained journalist imposed a judiciary fine that includes the cost of the newspaper ad for the verdict…
Turkish flag in the SEGBİS room
Prosecutor asked journalist her “press card”
Judge refused to lift travel ban citing Can Dündar’s trial
Trial continues although the complaint was withdrawn
One journalist, one book, and three separate trials in a single day…
Aside from these hearings, in September,
At least 11 journalists were detained or summoned to testify; faced lawsuits, investigations and/or criminal complaints.
New lawsuits were filed against at least 3 journalists:
5 journalists released
2 journalists arrested
4 journalists acquitted
5 journalists handed down a total prison sentence of 21 years, 6 months
In the lawsuit for damages filed by Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar against journalist Müyesser Yıldız, the latter was fined 20 thousand TL in moral compensation.
The freedom of press and expression violated across the world as pressure mounts on journalists
Press In Arrest October 2020
At least 45 press-related trials in 7 provinces, at least 74 journalists were prosecuted.
21 of them were women.
The full report:
3 JOURNALISTS APPEARED BEFORE A JUDGE PER DAY!
Barriers before the “the people’s right to receive news” crystallized this time in the detainment of 4 journalists who reported on the allegation that security forces had detained two citizens in Van and then threw them out of a helicopter.
The judiciary continued to be weaponized against journalists in Turkey, as confirmed by the fact that every day in October, an average of 3 journalists were obliged to defend in a courtroom their profession and the people’s right to receive news.
In October in Turkey,
In the trials concerning these 74 journalists, the prosecutor’s offices,
Women journalists appearing in court faced a total of 70 years 3 months 15 days to 185 years 8 months in prison.
At least 3 journalists appeared in court for lawsuits where a total of 300 thousand TL was requested in moral compensation.
4 journalists (Taylan Özgür Öztaş, Hazal Ocak, Alican Uludağ, Ahmet Altan) each stood trial in two separate courts for two separate cases.
3 journalists (Sabiha Temizkan, Necla Demir, Arafat Dayan) each appeared before a judge twice in the same court for the same case.
At least 30 journalists appeared before a judge in high criminal courts.
Trials against at least 44 journalists continued at criminal courts of first instance.
Under the scope of lawsuits for damages, 2 journalists appeared in a civil court of first instance, and 1 journalist in a commercial court of first instance.
At least 26 journalists had to present their defense statements against charges of terrorism offenses.
At least 6 journalists were charged with “membership of an armed terror organization,” and at least 3 with “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terror organization”.
At least 3 journalists were prosecuted for “establishing or leading an armed terror organization”.
On the other hand, at least 8 journalists were accused of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization”. The prosecutor requested an increase in the prison sentence faced by two of these journalists, alleging that “the offense was committed via the media”; and two others for “committing a crime in a continuous manner”.
At least 3 journalists were charged with “targeting a state official who took part in anti-terrorism efforts,” and at least 3 for “publishing and disseminating the statements of terror organizations”.
Lawsuits filed for allegedly “insulting the President” continued against at least 8 journalists .
The prosecutors demanded an increase in the prison sentences for 6 out of these 8 journalists as they allegedly “insulted the President” “publicly”.
The prosecutors also requested an increase in the prison sentences for 3 out of the 8 journalists, claiming that they committed this offense “in a continuous manner”.
The trials of at least 21 journalists charged with “insulting a state official” continued.
At least 18 journalists continued to stand trial for “showing resistance to prevent an official from performing their duty”.
At least 6 journalists stood trial for “violating the Capital Market Law”, and were accused of “spreading fabricated, false or misleading information in order to influence investors’ decisions.”
The prosecutors requested an increase in the prison sentence faced by at least 10 journalists for allegedly “committing the crime in a continuous manner”.
The prosecutors also requested an increase in the sentence for at least 4 journalists for allegedly “committing the crime via the media”. As such, at least 14 journalists continued to defend themselves against requests of aggravated prison sentences.
In October, at least 4 journalists were sentenced to a total of 7 years 11 months in prison and 500 TL in administrative fines.
At least 3 journalists were sentenced on “terrorism” offenses.
Journalist Arafat Dayan was sentenced to prison on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization and publishing and disseminating the statements of terror organizations in a continuous manner,” journalist İshak Yasul on the charge of “publishing and disseminating the statements of terror organizations,” journalist Sabiha Temizkan on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization via the media,” and journalist İnan Ketenciler was sentenced to an administrative fine of 500 TL for “recording or transmitting audio and video during investigation procedures without authorization.”
On the other hand, the prison sentences of 2 journalists were increased for committing the crime “in a continuous manner” and “via the media”.
Journalists Çınar Ayser, Sertaç Kayar, Ayhan Bilgen, Barış İnce and Can Uğur were acquitted from “terrorism” charges, Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç from the charge of “denigrating judiciary organs,” Hazal Ocak from “publicly insulting a state official,” Taylan Öztaş, from “showing resistance to prevent an official from performing their duty,” and Necla Demir from “publicly insulting the President in a continuous manner”.
A court cited ECHR in its acquittal verdict:
The following statements were used in the justification section of the acquittal verdict for Demir:
“ECHR and Court of Cassation rulings have consistently emphasized that individuals engaged in politics have to put up with harsh, severe and even offensive criticism, and that this is an integral part of democratic social life.
Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office objected to the acquittal verdict for journalists Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç.
The prosecutor’s office argued that the verdict went against the “basis and procedures of the law”, and stated that they will appeal against it.
Out of the 74 journalists tried in October, 60 saw their trials adjourned. The trials of 43 of them were adjourned until 2021.
It was remarkable that the next hearing in the trial against journalist Deniz Yücel was scheduled for September 2021.
The Press in Arrest team reported the following in the trials that it monitored:
Ayhan Bilgen and Mehmet Baransu attended their trials from the prisons where they are held, via the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS).
Imprisoned for a separate investigation against him, Bilgen attended his press-related trial from prison, via SEGBİS.
In the October hearings of the trials against at least 40 journalists, it was seen that the panel of judges had changed.
40 journalists had to submit their defense statements against the charges before a new panel of judges/new judges.
In the October hearings of the trials against at least 17 journalists, the hearing prosecutors submitted their judicial opinions as to the accusations.
However, there were changes when compared to the indictments. In their judicial opinions, the hearing prosecutors changed the charges and sentences against 9 journalists.
As such, the prosecutors leveled different charges and requested different prison sentences against 3 journalists, while demanding the acquittal of 6 others.
Journalist Ayşegül Doğan, who was charged with “establishing or leading an armed terror organization” throughout the trial, was instead accused of “membership of an armed terror organization”.
Although journalist Sertaç Kayar was charged with “establishing or leading an armed terror organization” in the indictment against him, and submitted a defense against this charge throughout the trial, he was later charged with “membership of an armed terror organization”.
Journalist İnan Ketenciler was first charged with “obtaining and disseminating personal information in an illicit manner” in the indictment, but later on charged with “recording or transmitting audio or video during investigation procedures without authorization”.
On the other hand, the prosecutor in the trial against journalist Hazal Ocak, who was charged with “publicly insulting a state official”, also submitted his judicial opinion and requested that Ocak be acquitted.
The prosecutor based this request on the European Convention on Human Rights, Turkish Constitution, and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and Constitutional Court:
“Although some of the criticism and value judgments in the article are expressed in a harsh and aggressive style, the freedom of the press allows room for a certain degree of exaggeration and even provocation…
Journalist Arafat Dayan could not participate in the final hearing of the trial against him. The prosecutor had presented his judicial opinion against Dayan in a previous hearing. In this hearing, Dayan was supposed to be asked for his final words; however, the court did not receive his final words. Instead, his defense statements from the previous hearings were accepted as his final words. And the court did not read out the prison sentence of five years 10 months to Dayan’s face.
Journalist Ayşegül Doğan’s lawyer demanded the expansion of the prosecution; however, the court rejected this demand arguing that it would not “add a novelty” to the case file.
Journalist Ender İmrek stands trial for an article he penned in June 2019 as regards President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s wife Emine Erdoğan’s French-made bag allegedly worth 50 thousand dollars.
At the third hearing of the trial in October, the prosecutor requested a sentence against İmrek, without however presenting any “justification” for this sentence.
Lawyers objected to the prosecutor’s “judicial opinion without justification”. The judge overruled their objection.
As the debate between the lawyers and the judge raged on, the hearing prosecutor stated “You must understand that my judicial opinion provides ample information.”
The “simple trial procedure” was added to the judiciary system with the legal amendment popularly known as the 1. Judiciary Reform Package.
Accordingly, the legal proceedings concerning certain charges can be conducted on the basis of the case file, and without holding a hearing.
Journalist Hikmet Tunç, who is charged with “insulting a state official on duty”, and her lawyer accepted the “simple trial procedure”. Accordingly, no hearings will be held during the legal proceedings, the defense statements and evidence will be presented in writing, and in case of a prison sentence, the prison term will be reduced by one fourth.
In the hearings of at least 32 of the 74 journalists tried in October, the judges either closed the hearing to the public, or limited the number of observers in the courtroom, citing the measures taken against the coronavirus epidemic.
As such the principle of the “publicity of trial” was violated 32 times, and these trials were either listened to from the doorsills of the courtrooms, or followed through the hearing minutes.
In the October hearings of the trials against at least 3 journalists, namely Ayşegül Doğan, Rojhat Doğru and Mazlum Dolan, law enforcement agents/private security guards were present in the courtroom. As such, the “presumption of innocence” principle was violated in the trials of 3 journalists held in the high criminal courts in the Diyarbakır Courthouse.
At least 21 women journalists stood trial:
21 of the at least 74 journalists prosecuted in October were women.
9 women journalists had to defend their news stories, articles or social media posts at high criminal courts, 10 women journalists in criminal courts of first instance, and 3 women journalists in lawsuits for damages.
Women journalists appearing in court faced a total of 70 years 3 months 15 days to 185 years 8 months in prison.
In the three separate lawsuits for damages against 3 women journalists, the complainants demanded a total of 300 thousand TL in compensation.
1 women journalist was charged with “membership of an armed terror organization,” 1 women journalist with “establishing or leading an armed terror organization,” 3 women journalists with “spreading propaganda for a terror organization,” 2 women journalists with “targeting a state official who took part in anti-terrorism efforts”, 7 women journalists with “insulting a state official”.
Çınar Ayser was acquitted of the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terror organization,” Duygu Güvenç from “insulting the judiciary organs,” Hazal Ocak from “publicly insulting a state official,” and Necla Demir from “publicly insulting the President in a continuous manner”.
One of the 3 journalists sentenced to prison in October was a woman. Journalist Sabiha Temizkan was sentenced to 1 year 3 months in prison for “spreading propaganda for a terror organization via the media”.
Aside from the trials, in October,
The police detained Mezopotamya News Agency reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur as well as Jinnews News Agency reporters Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala who reported that in Van’s Çatak district, law enforcement officers detained two citizens and then threw them out of a helicopter.
Journalist Ayşenur Arslan indicated that she was summoned to testify as a ‘suspect’ by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Press Crimes Investigations Bureau
Journalist Selda Manduz was detained under an investigation in Kars. She was released on probation.
Pınar Gayıp, a reporter with Etkin News Agency (ETHA), was detained under an investigation conducted in Istanbul. She was released after her statement was taken by the police.
While following a news story in the Güçlükonak district of Şırnak, Zeynep Durgut of Mezopotamya News Agency was detained. She was released after giving a statement to the police.
Journalist Hakkı Boltan was detained under an investigation in Diyarbakır. He was later released on probation.
A lawsuit was launched against journalist Abdurrahman Gök for “membership of a terror organization” and “spreading propaganda for a terror organization”. The trial will begin with the first hearing to be held on February 23rd, 2021 in Diyarbakır.
A new lawsuit was brought against Özgür Boğatekin, the News Director of the Gerger Fırat Newspaper based in Adıyaman, for “spreading propaganda for a terror organization” and “targeting individuals who took part in anti-terrorism efforts”.
The police arrested Mezopotamya News Agency reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur as well as Jinnews News Agency reporters Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala who reported that in Van’s Çatak district, law enforcement officers detained two citizens and then threw them out of a helicopter, for “membership of an armed terror organization.”
During their interrogation by the judgeship, they stated that they were journalists, had press cards and rejected the accusations.
The judgeship negated the journalists’ defense with the following remarks:
“A valid press card is granted to those who meet the conditions set by the Directorate of Communications of the Turkish Presidency. Of course, the suspects are not members of the press as they do not meet the necessary conditions.”
Mezopotamya News Agency stated that the journalists’ cameras and technical equipment were confiscated by the police. Their lawyers indicated that the journalists were subjected to ill-treatment.
Faruk Bostan, the concessionaire of the newspaper Kocaeli Halk Gazetesi based in Kocaeli, and its editor-in-chief, Bülent Karagöz, had been arrested in September on charges of “slander”. The investigation was launched against “a news story about an alleged incident of sexual abuse in the Kartepe district”. In the news story, sexual abuse allegations were brought against certain individuals whose real names were changed, but political positions were mentioned. The two journalists were released in October.
Evrensel Newspaper’s İzmir reporter Eda Aktaş was fined 3150 TL for violating social distancing rules while following a news story.
The court of appeal upheld the prison sentences handed down by the district court in the trial against the reporters, writers and managers of Sözcü Newspaper. The journalists will appeal against the ruling at the Court of Cassation.
The court declared that journalist Can Dündar shall be deemed “a fugitive”, and that his immovable will be identified and confiscated. The Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) will manage the seized property.
At the hearing held on October 14th, 2020, the hearing prosecutor submitted his judicial opinion as to the accusations, charging Dündar with “obtaining confidential information for the purposes of political and military espionage” and “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terror organization, without being part of its hierarchical structure”. The prosecutor requested that Dündar be imprisoned from 22 years six months to 35 years.
(This report has been written by Press in Arrest editors Sinan Tartanoğlu and Yeşim Yavuzer.)
Press In Arrest November 2020 Press Freedom Report
In November in Turkey, in at least 30 press-related trials in 8 provinces, at least 40 journalists were prosecuted. 8 of them were women.
The full report:
In November in Turkey,
Suppression of the freedoms of press and expression in Turkey continued with ongoing trials and new investigations in November, while detentions and arrests concerning the Mesopotamia Agency (MA) were of particular importance.
In October, Mesopotamia Agency’s reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur, and Jinnews reporters Şehriban Abi and Nazan Sala, were arrested for alleged “membership of an armed terror organization”, after reporting on how two citizens were detained and thrown out of a helicopter by security forces in the Çatak district of Van province. In November, numerous MA reporters faced investigations and detentions, while another of its Van reporters, Dindar Karataş was arrested.
In the trials concerning these 40 journalists, the prosecutor’s offices, demanded 2 counts of aggravated life sentence, and a total of 201 years 4 months to 497 years 2 months in prison.
A total of 1 million 470 thousand TL was requested in non-pecuniary damages in claims for damages against 3 journalists and 3 media outlets.
Women journalists appearing before a judge faced 33 years 7 months 15 days to 86 years 1 month 15 days in prison.
Two female journalists presented their defense in lawsuits where they faced 1 million 270 thousand TL in claims for damages.
In November, journalist Hazal Ocak faced a total of 1 million 220 thousand TL in non-pecuniary damages in three separate claims for damages in November.
At least 28 journalists appeared before a judge in high criminal courts.
Trials against at least 11 journalists continued at criminal courts of first instance.
Under the scope of lawsuits for damages, 3 journalists and 3 media outlets appeared in civil courts of first instance.
At least 22 journalists had to present their defense statements against charges of terrorism offenses
At least 8 journalists were charged with “membership of an armed terror organization,”
7 journalists with “spreading propaganda for a terror organization,” and
3 journalists with “targeting a state official who took part in anti-terrorism efforts.”
On the other hand, at least 6 journalists were charged with “knowingly and willing aiding a terror organization without being part of its hierarchical structure”.
At least 6 journalists continued to stand trial for “insulting the President.” In this scope, two journalists were sentenced to prison.
3 journalists charged with “insulting a state official” were acquitted.
At least 3 journalists continued to face the charge of “publicly inciting the population to hatred and enmity” in ongoing trials.
One journalist was charged with “intentionally damaging the reputation or assets of a bank, or disseminating groundless news stories,”
One journalist with “slander,”
One journalist with “showing resistance to prevent an official from performing their duty,”
One journalist with “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government through force and violence” and “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through force and violence,” and
Four journalists with “disclosing confidential information concerning the state’s security and domestic and foreign interests”…
10 journalists appealed the verdicts of the district courts in courts of appeal and Court of Cassation, which overturned the previous verdicts.
District courts complied with the decisions of the courts of appeal and Court of Cassation, and as a result 10 journalists started being retried in district courts.
In November, the first hearings were held in these retrials against a total of 10 journalists.
Journalist Ali Ergin Demirhan was sentenced to 1 year, 2 months and 17 days in prison for “publicly insulting the President.”
Journalist Onur Emre Yağan was sentenced to 1 year, 2 months, 17 days in prison for “publicly insulting the President in a continuous manner” even though President Tayyip Erdoğan had withdrawn his complaint. The court deferred the announcement of the verdict.
Journalist Mehmet Baransu was sentenced to a total of 17 years, 1 months in prison on the charges of “obtaining confidential information”, “disclosing this information in a continuous manner” and “obtaining and publishing information and documents regarding the activities of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT)”
Journalist Yılmaz Özdil was sentenced to 5 months in prison under a trial for “violating the Military Penal Code”. The court deferred the announcement of the verdict.
On trial for allegedly “insulting a state official on duty” due to a news story from the time when he served as editor-in-chief, journalist Uğur Güç was acquitted.
The court acquitted journalists Uğur Koç and Mustafa Kömüş from the charge of “publicly insulting a state official on duty” in the lawsuit filed upon a criminal complaint by the ex-Minister of Treasury and Finance, Berat Albayrak.
In a trial where he was prosecuted alongside Mehmet Baransu since 2014, journalist Murat Şevki Çoban was acquitted of the charges.
The trials of 33 journalists appearing before a judge in November were adjourned. The trial of two journalists in İzmir was postponed since an earthquake damaged the courthouse.
The Press in Arrest team reported the following in the trials that it monitored:
Journalists Aziz Oruç, Mehmet Baransu and İsmail Çoban attended the trials from prison, via the Audio and Video Information System (SEGBİS).
In the November hearings of the trials against at least 10 journalists, it was observed that the panel of judges had changed.
These 10 journalists had to submit their defense statements against the charges before a new panel of judges/new judges.
In November, the hearings in 3 ongoing press trials against journalists Müyesser Yıldız, İsmail Dükel, Kenan Kırkaya and Özgür Boğatekin were held in the presence of law enforcement officers / private security guards. As such, the “presumption of innocence” principle was violated in trials in high criminal courts, and the independence of courts was compromised.
In the hearings of at least 6 trials concerning 8 journalists in November, the judges either closed the hearing to the public, or limited the number of observers in the courtroom, citing the measures taken against the coronavirus epidemic. In one case, even the journalist supposed to appear before the judge was not allowed in the courtroom, and he was represented by his lawyer.
'Publicity of Trial' violated under the pretext of the pandemic…
Press in Arrest has observed that, in the press trials held in Turkey since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey, hearings are closed to observers and the public in an arbitrary manner, under the pretext of ‘protection measures’.
Since March 2020, under the pretext of the Covid-19 outbreak, but without complying with a specific criterion or a legal regulation shared with the public, the courts prevent observers, journalists and public from attending various hearings. This compromises the principle of the “publicity of the trial”, an important component of the right to a fair trial, which is secured by national legislation and human rights conventions.
In the period from March to the beginning of December, in 38 hearings concerning 73 journalists, observers were not admitted to the courtroom or a restriction was imposed on the number of observers attending the hearings, under the pretext of the coronavirus outbreak.
On this matter, we have received the opinion of a jurist specializing in human rights Kerem Altıparmak, who stated, “Trials are held publicly to show that the fair trial principle is upheld. As such, closing the hearing to the public can be possible only in exceptional situations clearly stipulated by the law. Since no such legal amendment has been passed, this restriction goes against the law.”
‘The judge cannot organize this alone; the Ministry must provide the physical conditions’
Altıparmak made the following assessment on the closure of hearings to the public and similar limitations: “A legal amendment must first be passed to this effect. When such an amendment is passed, arbitrary decisions will become unacceptable. Such a restriction can be possible only after it is determined how the problems associated with that restriction will be compensated for. Here, the principle of measure will be key: Is closing the trial to the public obligatory, favorable and proportional? This is not something that the judge can organize alone. The legislative organ must provide the legal infrastructure, and the ministry must provide the physical conditions. Only then can the judge take the appropriate measures. Therefore, this must be viewed as a collective responsibility, not an individual one.”
‘This is a clear violation of the Constitution and the Convention’
A lawyer who defends journalists in press trials in Turkey, Tora Pekin remarked “The recent practice of not allowing journalists and observers to the courtrooms is a violation of the Constitution and the Convention”, and provided the following details to Press in Arrest:
“Publicity or openness of trial is one of the main principles in legal proceedings. Such that, it is clearly stipulated in both the Constitution (Art. 141) and the European Convention on Human Rights (Art. 6). Safeguarded by these regulations, the principle is a crucial part of our right to a fair trial, and non-compliance with this principle suggests that the trial in question is not fair.
A short description of the reason for the existence of the principle of publicity will suffice to explain why it is of vital importance in today’s Turkey. In brief, the reason for the openness of trials to the public is to ensure the independent and impartial functioning of the judiciary. Thanks to the openness of trials, the public has the opportunity to control the judiciary. Trials organized behind closed doors cannot be monitored by the public/society/people.
Today, journalists and independent observers attend hearings as monitors and carry out this monitoring on behalf of the public. By independent observers, I mean human rights organizations and advocates, professional organizations, and parliamentarians, that is, people and institutions who have the power to make their voices heard.
In the highly politicized trials in today’s Turkey, such an activity can reduce the arbitrariness of the courts and align the judiciary with the law to a certain extent. In other words, the principle of publicity has gained much more importance in our day and age.
The areas where the principle of publicity may be restricted are also stipulated by law. Closing hearings to the public partially or entirely is possible only if necessitated by general morality, or public safety concerns. On the other hand, courts may of course adopt some measures and enforce social distancing rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19. For example, a measure such as using only half of the courtroom’s seating capacity may be acceptable.
However, it goes without saying that such measures cannot be implemented in a way which brings about the complete elimination of the principle of publicity. The recent practice of not allowing journalists and observers to the courtrooms is a violation of the Constitution and the Convention. The admission of only lawyers to the hearing does not show that the principle of the publicity of trial is upheld. Lawyers are already there as ‘parties’. It should also be indicated that such closed trials harm not only the sense of justice of the parties and the society at large. The impression that the judiciary wants to ‘conceal certain things’ does great harm to the judiciary as well. Since there are immense violations of law even in public, we are under no obligation to trust trials and verdicts behind closed doors.”
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women…
November 25th was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Istanbul Convention describes violence against women as ‘violation of human rights’ and ‘discrimination’.
Violence against women comprises threats, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
Violence against women results in “physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women”.
It is unacceptable for journalists to be tried for simply doing their job, and prosecution of women journalists for practicing their profession is another form of “violence against women”.
According to Press in Arrest’s database,
As of today, at least 64 women journalists still face at least one press trial, without arrest.
In the last two years, the district courts have handed down one aggravated life imprisonment and at least 71 years, 7 months and 18 days in prison for at least 21 women journalists.
In the last two years in Turkey, women journalists
have been tried as per 26 articles of the Turkish Penal Code, and 3 articles of the Anti-Terror Law.
In the last two years in Turkey, 78 out of at least 89 women journalists have been tried as per the Anti-Terror Law.
42 of them stand trial for “spreading propaganda for a terror organization” pursuant to Anti-Terror Law, Article 7. 11 women journalists have been sentenced to prison as per Article 7.
In November, female journalists appeared before a judge, facing a total of 33 years 7 months 15 days to 86 years 1 month 15 days in prison. Two female journalists faced non-pecuniary damages of 1 million 270 thousand TL in total.
Aside from the trials, in November,
Mesopotamia Agency’s Van reporter Dindar Karataş was detained in a police raid on his home. Karataş’s phone and his camera’s memory card were seized by the police. On the other hand, the Van office of the said agency was raided by the police on the grounds that Karataş worked there, and the police searched the premises. Under the investigation conducted by Erzurum Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Karataş was taken from Van to Erzurum and a gag order was issued for the file.
Journalist Cihan Ölmez was detained in a police raid on his home in Şırnak. Ölmez was released after 4 days in custody.
Under an investigation launched by Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office 75 people were detained, including Jinnews’ Kurdish-language news editor Roza Metina, also a member of PEN. Metina was released on probation after giving her statement.
Journalists Davut Uçar and Kesire Önel were detained under an investigation by Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for allegedly “organizing activities in the city for PKK/KCK”. An arrest warrant was issued for journalist Davut Uçar for alleged “membership of an armed terror organization”, and he was then released on probation after giving his statement. Kesire Önel was still under custody as this report was being drafted.
Journalist Çağlar Tekin announced that he was taken into custody in a courthouse where he arrived for a hearing. Tekin stated that the reason for his detention was “sharing a news story which the Anadolu Agency first published and then deleted, concerning the ISIS militants’ use of Turkish Armed Forces vehicles in Syria”. Tekin was released after his statement was taken by the police.
Journalist Melis Alphan announced in her social media account that she had given a statement under an investigation against her. Alphan wrote, “An investigation has been launched against me for ‘spreading propaganda for a terror organization’ due to a photograph which I shared six years ago, from the 2015 Nevruz celebrations in Diyarbakır, when the Peace Process was still in place. I testified as a suspect. However, the said images were broadcast by all TV channels; the state was there”. Alphan was released after interrogation.
The prosecutor’s office launched an investigation against retired journalist Mehmet Yüksel Özbek for sharing in his social media account a news story by Cumhuriyet Newspaper in April 2020. The story was about how the Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun rented a plot of land from General Directorate of Foundations for 10 years for 258 TL per month, and carried out landscaping and construction in this area, and how the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality demolished the structures built.
Journalist Cengizhan Çelik announced in his social media account that he was summoned to testify. At the police station, Çelik was interrogated about some of his social media posts. Çelik stated that the investigation launched upon a criminal complaint by Boğaziçi Center for Global Relations (Bosphorus Global).
An investigation was initiated against journalist Ahmet Kanbal for reporting on the arrest of nine individuals, including the commander of the 2. Border Brigade in Nusaybin, on charges of ‘migrant smuggling’ and ‘bribery’. The investigation was launched upon a complaint which stated that ‘the news story revealed all the details of the investigation’ and thus ‘breached the confidentiality of the investigation’. In his statement, Kanbal rejected the accusations, stating that the news story was designed to inform the general public and that it did not violate the confidentiality of the investigation.
Imprisoned pending trial for “disclosing confidential information concerning the state’s security and political interests,” journalist Müyesser Yıldız was released in the first hearing of the trial. Yıldız spent 5 months in prison on remand.
On trial for “membership of an armed terror organization” and “spreading propaganda for a terror organization”, journalist Aziz Oruç was released at the third hearing of the trial. Oruç spent 11 months in prison, pending trial.
Journalist Dindar Karataş was interrogated under an investigation into his news stories, interviews and phone conversations with news sources. Karataş was then arrested for alleged “membership of an armed terror organization.” The court issued a gag order for the case.
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced its verdict for the Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial.
ECHR ruled that the journalists’ “rights to liberty and security” and “right of freedom of expression” were violated.
ECHR stated that the journalists’ detention and imprisonment pending trial were not based on reasonable ground.
According to the verdict, Turkey will have to pay 16 thousand euros in compensation to the then employees of the newspaper: Murat Sabuncu, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Güray Öz and Akın Atalay, as well as 3 newspaper executives.
ECHR ruled that journalist Ahmet Şık’s rights of “freedom of expression and press” and “personal security and liberty” were violated when he was imprisoned pending trial for 14 months under the Cumhuriyet Newspaper Trial.
The court refused to rule that the trial was politically motivated.
9 years ago, ECHR had ruled that Ahmet Şık’s detention pending trial under the “Oda TV Trial” was also a violation of his rights.