Restrictions on press freedom peak in Turkey ahead of G-20 summit

Despite calls in a recently released European Commission (EC) Progress Report for the elimination of restrictions on media freedom in Turkey, the countryand’s journalists continue to be prosecuted and discriminated against for their critical views more than ever ahead of a G-20 summit to be held in Turkey on Nov. 15-16.
In its annual progress report on Turkey released on Tuesday, the EC called for counter measures against intimidation of journalists and for investigations into threats and attacks against journalists. However, restrictions on the freedom of the press continue to be a major challenge for journalists to perform their profession in the country, with many having to go to court for their writings or views.
In one recent examples of such restrictions, veteran journalist Ahmet Altan, an outspoken government critic, testified to prosecutors on Wednesday as part of two investigations launched into him on charges of insulting the president and and”inciting hatred and animosity among the public.andquot One of the investigations was launched following a complaint by President Recep Tayyip Erdoganand’s lawyer while the other was launched by the Justice Ministryand’s General Directorate of Penal Affairs.
Altan faces the accusations due to an interview he gave to in April and interviews he gave to Bugandun TV and Samanyolu TV in September.
Speaking to reporters in front of the Istanbul Courthouse, Altan said if a president is violating the Constitution so many times in the country, he will definitely be criticized.
Two separate investigations have also been launched into prominent journalist Cengiz andcandar over claims that he insulted President Erdogan in seven of his columns in the Radikal daily. Radikal reported that Erdoganand’s lawyer Ahmet andOzel had submitted a petition to the Istanbul Public Prosecutorand’s Office and said andcandar had attacked Erdoganand’s personal rights by insulting him in the media. In a written notice sent to andcandar, the prosecutorand’s office cited seven of andcandarand’s columns published on between July 26 and Aug. 19 as the reason for the investigation.
Under the presidency of Erdogan, it has been an almost daily occurrence in Turkey for journalists and public figures to face legal action on charges of insulting the president or the government and some even receive prison sentences. Several columnists including Ertuirul andOzkandOk, Hasan Cemal and Perihan Maiden are already facing investigations for insulting Erdogan while andOzkandOk, a columnist for the Handurriyet daily, is facing a 30-month prison sentence on charges of insulting a senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) official.
Todayand’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bandulent Kenei was convicted of insulting the president and handed a suspended prison sentence of 21 months earlier this year on grounds that he insulted the president in a Twitter post. Kenei did not even mention the presidentand’s name in his tweet and his sentence has attracted worldwide condemnation.
Last month, TV producer and journalist Uiur Dandundar and SandOzcandu daily columnist Necati Dogru were also sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison by an Istanbul court for insulting former Minister Binali Yildirim and President Erdogan, respectively, though the court allowed them to pay a fine in lieu of serving their sentences.
These developments are widely considered to be a new method of intimidating political opponents and critical voices. Dozens of others including journalists Sedef Kabai, Hidayet Karaca and Mehmet Baransu as well as high school students, activists and even a former Miss Turkey, Merve Banduyanduksaraandc, have been prosecuted for insulting Erdogan in print and on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
h2Accreditation used as discriminationh2 Another method used by the AK Party government and Erdogan to silence critical journalists and hinder their work is the implementation of an accreditation ban against them, as a result of which these journalists and news outlets cannot cover events attended by Erdogan or government officials.
There are claims that Erdogan and the AK Party government aim to avoid being asked tough questions by critical journalists on a range of controversial issues by preventing independent journalists from covering the events they attend. Before the accreditation ban, there were instances in which journalists cornered Erdogan and other government officials at news conferences with questions on corruption and allegations about the government or Erdoganand’s direct meddling in the media. In most cases, Erdogan rebuked the journalists and failed to give them accurate answers.
Todayand’s accreditation ban faced by some journalists means that they are prevented from covering events that take place in a public area. Journalists in Turkey have even faced an accreditation ban for an event held in the courtyard of a mosque during the funeral of a slain prosecutor in April.
The accreditation ban is now being taken to the international level with the exclusion of some journalists and media organs from the G-20 summit to be held in the Mediterranean resort of Antalya on Sunday and Monday, where the leaders of the G-20 major economies including the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia and Brazil are set to meet to discuss global economic issues.
Many media organizations, including Todayand’s Zaman, have not yet been granted accreditation by the Turkish government to cover the summit. Despite most other media organizations having received confirmation from the Office of the Prime Ministerand’s Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM) about a month ago, the Zaman daily, Todayand’s Zaman, the Cihan news agency and the SandOzcandu daily have still not been granted accreditation to cover the summit.
The exclusion of a number of journalists and media organizations from the summit has attracted widespread criticism and press organizations in the country have said that the extent of government censorship in Turkey has reached such a point that it is being done in front of the whole world.
In a statement on Wednesday, Media Ethics Council (MEK) President Halit Esendir said the andquotaccreditation shameandquot at the G-20 summit is an insult against Turkey.
andquotIt should be known that the most important criteria for a developed state is the presence of the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression. The accreditation shame, which means restriction of freedom of expression at a meeting attended by the most developed nations of the world, does not befit our country,andquot said Esendir, while he called on the authorities to allow all journalists and press outlets to cover the event.
Meanwhile, ibrahim Varlik, a reporter from the Cihan news agency, voiced his surprise in a Twitter message on Wednesday that while he was able to follow Erdogan at the G-20 summit under Mexicoand’s presidency, he is banned from doing so in his own country. Varlik also posted a photo of his accreditation card for the Mexico G-20 summit.
When Rifat Hisarciklioilu, the chairman of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), was asked on Wednesday about his views concerning the accreditation ban against some journalists and media organizations at the G-20 summit, he said the accreditation issue has nothing to do with him and he does not know who is responsible for the controversial move.
h2Media ban at G-20 taken to Parliamentand’s agendah2 The issue of the arbitrary exclusion of a number of journalists from the G-20 summit has been raised in Parliament by main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu, who submitted a 21-point question to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoilu on Wednesday.
Tanrikulu asked why reporters from the Zaman, Todayand’s Zaman and SandOzcandu dailies were not allowed to cover a meeting that will be attended by 3,000 journalists. He added that Turkey is currently the only country in Europe that does not have freedom of the press.
In the question, Tanrikulu asked if the accreditation list had been prepared by the Prime Ministry and what and”censorship of mediaand” means to the AK Party. He also asked if Davutoilu thought banning journalists from Zaman, SandOzcandu and other newspapers critical of the government from covering the G-20 summit constituted and”media censorship.and”
h2Davutoiluand’s personal redlineh2 In a bid to ease growing concerns about dwindling press freedom in Turkey, Prime Minister Davutoilu said during an interview with CNN Internationaland’s Christiane Amanpour on Nov. 9 that freedom of the press and intellectual freedoms are a andquotpersonal redlineandquot for him.
and”First of all, when I was an academic in the 1990s, I was also working as a columnist. So freedom of the press and intellectual freedom are redlines for me,and” Davutoilu said. and”If thereand’s an attack on any intellectual or columnist or a journalist, I will defend them. I give assurances for this,and” he added.
The prime ministerand’s remarks came in response to a question about a crackdown on critical media by the AK Party government and Erdogan.
Just several days before the Nov.1 election, Turkey saw the taking over of the management of Koza ipek Holding by a group of trustees appointed by the government in an apparently politically motivated move. Koza ipek Holding comprises 22 companies, including the Kanaltandurk and Bugandun TV channels, the Millet and Bugandun dailies, ipek University and a number of other subsidiaries.
The trustees have not only fired dozens of journalists from the news outlets of the ipek Media Group, but they have also turned the groupand’s TV stations and newspapers, which used to have a critical stance, into government mouthpieces.
In yet another development on Wednesday, a detention warrant was issued for journalist Tuncay Opandcin as part of an investigation into the irregularities in the trial into Sledgehammer, a 2003-dated coup plot.
The detention warrant for Opandcin was issued based on the testimony of journalist Mehmet Baransuand’s ex-wife, who told prosecutors that Opandcin used to give documents to publish to Baransu in return for money and Baransu used to write andquotimportant news reportsandquot after meeting with Opandcin.
Baransu, who is currently behind bars, was the journalist who in 2010 broke the story about the Sledgehammer coup plot that aimed to topple the AK Party government.
In another development, one of the suspects, Kamuran Ergin, who was detained and then released under judicial supervision in connection with an attack on journalist Ahmet Hakan in October, has been released once again by a penal court of peace where he was referred to for arrest because he did not show up to sign on Friday at the police station.
According to a story in the Handurriyet daily on Wednesday, since Ergin was placed under judicial supervision, he was required to sign at a police station every Monday and Friday. Since he did not go to the police station for a signature on Friday, he has been referred to court for arrest because he violated the requirements of judicial supervision. The court has decided for his release on the grounds that it could not be proved that he did not go to the police station with a special purpose. Ergin claimed that he was extremely ill and that was the reason for his failure to go to the police station.
Only one of the seven suspects had been arrested in connection to the attack on Hakan that took place in front of the journalistand’s house in Istanbul on Oct.1.
Meanwhile, the Press Council on Wednesday released a statement concerning the threats and harassment faced by journalist Canduneyt andOzdemir, who is also a critical journalist, and called on the judicial authorities to take the necessary legal action to find those behind.


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