Turkey: A year on from the coup attempt, journalists are still being labelled terrorists

August 30, 2017

16 July: Violence following attempted military coup. Credit: deepspace / Shutterstock.com

In the year since the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016, Turkey has cemented its position as the largest jailer of journalists in the world, with around 166 journalists in prison by the end of June 2017.

Many have been accused of being affiliated with terror organisations including the Kurdish PKK, the left-wing DHKP-C and the Gullenist Movement, the group accused of being behind last year’s coup attempt.

This is the case with the 18 writers, cartoonists and executives from the Cumhuriyet opposition newspaper, who went on trial on 24 July, accused of supporting in their coverage these very groups.

Seven of the defendants, including cartoonist Musa Kart, were released under judicial supervision. They must report to the authorities regularly in the lead-up to the next hearing on 11 September.

“The Turkish state’s reaction to the attempted coup on their democratic institutions led to an unparalleled level of attacks on press freedom,” said Hannah Machlin, project manager of Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom platform. “One year later, the media sphere has been carved out, with hundreds of journalist in jail, being forced to flee or have lost their jobs following the closure of outlets. This trial is clearly political and the state’s attempt to criminalise journalism.”

MMF has been closely monitoring the situation over the last year. Here are some of the more recent cases of journalists being accused of being connected with terrorism.


Eight former state channel staff arrested on terror charges

On 12 July the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s office issued detention warrants for 34 former employees of the state-owned Turkish Radio and Television network without providing their names. On 19 July eight former employees were imprisoned under charges of “belonging to a terrorist organisation”.

Media reports said that in Istanbul, warrants to detain 18 people who formerly worked for TRT were issued and that ten of these people were captured. One was released after being interrogated by the police.

The other nine, who were referred to court after their police interrogation, were: reporter Efnan Y, chief technician Faysal A, engineers Serkan C and Özgür Ş, chief technician Satı D, production assistants Şule R, Uğur Y, Tuba E and Yunus G.

Eight of these individuals were put under arrest while one was released under judicial control measures.

Reporter for pro-Kurdish agency arrested on terror charges

On 27 July, Erdoğan Alayumat, a reporter for the pro- Kurdish dihaber news agency, was arrested on terror charges.

Alayumat was detained on 13 July in Gaziantep together with fellow dihaber reporter Nuri Akman, while working on a news report. Later, they were transferred to Hatay province. The two were referred to a court on charges of “membership in a terrorist organisation.”

The court released Akman on judicial probation terms but ruled to arrest Alayumat.

Evrensel writer arrested in Diyarbakır terror probe

Also on 27 July, the Evrensel columnist Yusuf Karataş was arrested as part of a Diyarbakır-focused operation into the Democratic Society Congress, a union of pro-Kurdish civil society organisations.

Karataş was arrested after visiting the Diyarbakır Police Station for a police interrogation regarding the investigation. He was then referred to a prosecutor, who asked the judges to arrest the journalist.

Karataş was asked questions relating to why he joined a protest of the Roboski massacre – where 34 Kurdish citizens were killed in a bombing by Turkish air force jets in 2011.

Two staff members for pro-Kurdish outlet arrested

On 28 July, two employees of the pro-Kurdish daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, Serkan Erdoğan and Özkan Erdoğan, were arrested on charges of “membership in a terrorist organisation” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organisation”.

Özkan Erdoğan was initially detained for being in possession of a magazine deemed “illegal” by the Turkish authorities.

Serkan Erdoğan, a reporter for the dailu was detained in a home raid on the same night also in Mersin and later arrested by a Peace Judgeship on the same charges. Reports have said the two Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employees share an apartment, but they are no relation to each other in spite of the shared last name.

French journalist detained at Turkey-Iraq border, arrested on terror charges

On 1 August French journalist Loup Bureau was arrested in Sirnak on charges of being a member of a terror organisation.

Bureau was first detained on 26 July at the Habur crossing, where he was crossing into Turkey from Iraq.

After five days in police custody, he was charged and taken to a prison in the town of Şırnak. A gag order was imposed on his case.

DİHA reporter arrested over social media posts

On 18 August Mehmet Sıddık Damar, formerly a reporter for the shuttered news agency DİHA, was arrested in Mardin’s Kızıltepe district over his social media posts.

Prior to his arrest, Damar visited the Kızıltepe Courthouse to testify in an investigation against him.

The court ruled for his arrest on charges of “propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organisation” based on several tweets and social media posts.

Damar was sent to Mardin Prison.

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