Journalist facing jail, minority outlets banned – Turkey press freedom roundup

Kurdish journalist to face possible jailtime for terrorism charges

A public prosecutor in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakır province has demanded Kurdish journalist Ayşegül Doğan be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation, free speech watchdog Media and Law Studies Association reported on Wednesday.

Doğan was working as the programme coordinator for İMC TV, an opposition network that was shut down by a presidential decree in Oct. 2016.

The initial indictment had accused Doğan of running a terrorist organisation, calling for a 22.5-year prison sentence.

In the fifth hearing of the case held on Wednesday, the charges were lowered to membership of a terrorist organisation, with the prosecutor demanding up to 15 years in prison instead.

Doğan did not attend the hearing in person, while her lawyers appealed to the court to submit evidence from another case against her.

The evidence in question proves that Doğan was not a member of the permanent council of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), a Kurdish-led umbrella organisation for various NGOs that Turkey accuses of connections to the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), the lawyers said.

The DTK was involved in calling for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey, and members have faced trial for having unilaterally declared what they call democratic autonomy in 2011.

In June, Kurdish lawmaker Leyla Güven was stripped of her parliamentary immunity over charges connected to the DTK.


Minority news agencies in Turkey, Iraq banned

A court in Turkey’s northwestern Balıkesir province on Tuesday issued an order to ban the Turkish language publications of Rudaw, a news agency operating out of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.

Anti-censorship group Free Web Turkey announced the ban in a tweet.

According to a Reporters Without Borders (RSF) statement released last week, Turkey has banned access to at least three news platforms since the new law that severely restricts online publications went into effect on Oct. 1, and 347 news articles had already been banned under the new law at the time.

On Oct. 6, Turkey also banned Germany-based pro-Kurdish opposition news site Nupel, as well as Nuçe Ciwan and minority sect Alevi news website AleviNet.


Turkish journalist to possibly pay $25,000 in damages to pro-Erdoğan media mogul

Ceren Sözeri, a columnist for the left-wing daily Evrensel, faced a judge on Wednesday over an article she penned last year titled, “Who made the AKP lose votes?

Sözeri analysed the state of Turkish media in the article and accused publications under the pro-government Turkuvaz Media group of producing fake news.

Serhat Albayrak, deputy chairman of the board at Turkuvaz Media, sued Sözeri for damages, demanding 200,000 liras ($25,400) in compensation. Albayrak is also the brother of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Finance Minister and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law.

Lawyers from both sides appealed for missing documents to be completed, and the judge postponed the hearing to Feb. 3, Evrensel reported.

In her article in question, Sözeri had detailed the developments in the media on the night of March 2019 local elections where the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidate for the mayor of Istanbul, former prime minister Binali Yıldırım lost to the opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu by a small margin.

The columnist had said the Sabah-ATV group under Turkuvaz Media “rolled up its sleeves to produce irreverent fake news when the votes turned against Binali Yıldırım in Istanbul. Sabah columnist Hilal Kaplan tweeted that the Supreme Board of Elections would recount all of the votes without citing any sources, for which she later had to apologise.”

At the time, the newspaper Sabah had also published a story on the Istanbul police detaining 30 ballot officers, which the police later denied. Sözeri also wrote:

“The group is headed by Serhat Albayrak, who is both the brother of Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and the chairman of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA). The group has won several large-scale tenders from the government and municipalities.”


Turkish court bans access for articles on suspicious death of woman

A court in Istanbul has banned access to news reports on the suspicious death of Şeyda Yılmaz, who as found naked and dead near a luxury condo on Sept. 17, censorship watchdog Engelliweb announced on Tuesday.

The ban was issued upon appeal by an anonymous individual over the violation of their personal rights, according to the official notice placed on the pages that previously hosted the articles.

Pages on Turkey’s popular forum-like social media platform Ekşi Sözlük were also included in the ban, as well as news articles on online newspapers and news platforms.

Daily Hürriyet’s banned article on the matter detailed the scene of the incident, voicing concerns of a possible murder taking place, while noting that the possibility of a suicide should not be ruled out.

One of the suspects, Muhammed D., told the police that Yılmaz spent an hour with the other suspect, Emre A. in a separate room, after which Emre A. left and Muhammed D. heard a loud thump.

Police discovered that the room Yılmaz was in had been locked from the inside at the time of her death.


Turkey’s gov’t watchdog threatens action for future articles on corruption

Turkey’s state-run Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) on Tuesday announced that it would be taking legal action against media coverage, which attempts to discredit state institutions, after reports of the watchdog’s misuse of funding made headlines.

In a tweet, RTÜK said “an insistence on wrongdoing” would result in “legal consequences.”

A Court of Accounts audit of RTÜK found that the watchdog had caused 453,963 liras ($57,576) in public damages in 2019, through inflated salary payments and travel expenses for trips abroad.

RTÜK called the news stories “slander,” and said their objections to the report were still being assessed.