Bianet reveals rights violations over three months

Seventeen people in Turkey were sentenced to a total of 31 years in prison on charges of insulting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan; 35 journalists and 15 publication distributors were imprisoned; YouTube remains banned while Twitter was blocked and then reopened and there were at least 40 attacks targeting the media or journalists — all within the past three months, according to a recent report from online news site Bianet.

The Bianet report, titled “Bia Media Monitoring,” covers the period from January to March in 2014. The report noted that the period was marked with tensions over voice recordings posted online implicating the prime minister and his inner circle in corruption, as well as accusations that the prime minister and those under him directly interfered in the editorial decisions of some newspapers.

The report, however, notes as a positive development that 24 journalists have been released since Jan. 1, when the government abolished Specially Authorized Courts (OYM) and introduced a reduction to the maximum time in jail for suspects whose trials have not yet received a final verdict.

The report also noted that press organs affiliated with the Hizmet movement have become a target of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government following deepening polarization in the aftermath of the anti-government Gezi protests last year. Today’s Zaman reporter Mahir Zeynalov, who is from Azerbaijan, was deported in this period, the report noted.

The report also noted that complaints filed by journalists Ahmet Sık, Onur Erem and Ender Ergun, who claimed they were victims of police violence while covering the Gezi protests, have all been dismissed by prosecutors. Between May 27 and Sept. 30, 2013, police forces injured 153 journalists with impunity, the report said.

There were many instances of violations of freedom of expression. SoL newspaper news director Hafize Kazcı was the subject of a lawsuit, while other journalists — including Cem TV broadcasts director Pınar ISık Ardor and ETHA agency journalist Isminaz Ergun — were subjects of investigations. Actor Mehmet Ali Alabora was tried after tweeting in favor of the Gezi protests, as well as a minor who scribbled “prime minister, resign” on a wall. Both were acquitted. Currently, the prime minister has the status of being the only victim of a case in which 29 people in Izmir are on trial for using Twitter to communicate with each other during the Gezi events.


The report also noted that in the past three months, Zaman columnist Mumtaz’er Turkone was given a one-year suspended jail sentence for criticizing Kemalism under the Law on Protecting Ataturk. In Adıyaman, local journalist Hacı Bogatekin was fined TL 7,300 on charges of “exposing the private life” of a person. Forty writers of the website EkSi Sozluk — a user-created content website where writers can express opinions on anything — face up to 18 months in jail for “insulting religious values.” Two other journalists, Ibrahim Yıldız and Aykut KuCukkaya, are on trial for giving the full name of Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old police victim who died after a lengthy coma caused by a gas canister that hit him in the head during Gezi protests.

Bianet’s report provides chapters on : “Journalists killed,” “Journalists in jail,” “Attacks, threats and obstructions,” “Investigations, new and ongoing trials, verdicts,” “Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Articles 285 -288” on violating the secrecy of an investigation, “Insults, defamation of character and compensation trials,” “Morality board decisions,” “Bans, shut downs, outlawed publications” and “European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR] and the Supreme Board of Radio and Television [RTUK].”

The report noted that 35 journalists and 15 newspaper distributors were jailed in April this year. Twenty-two of the journalists and all distributors are from Kurdish media and are facing accusations of membership in terrorist groups.

Twenty-two of the journalists are facing charges of membership in the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its umbrella network the Kurdistan Communities’ Union (KCK); four of membership in the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army Front (DHKP/C); four others of membership in the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP); one of membership in the Resistance Movement; one of membership in the extreme right-wing organization the Islamic Great East Raiders Front (IBDA-C) and one journalist is facing accusations of espionage during the Gezi movement.

The report also cited 40 attacks on journalists, six verbal attacks and three threats.

Over the past three months, the ECtHR ruled that Turkey has to pay 21,553 euros (TL 64,600) for emotional and physical damage to two journalists and one press organization. Meanwhile, Turkey’s media watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK), issued 25 warnings and 53 monetary fines to Turkish television networks over broadcasts.


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