Four journalists have faced judges over their reporting in Turkey as the world celebrates the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
Another journalist was denied justice in a case against a mayor’s bodyguard who attacked him, while earlier in the week 11 journalists faced trial, two of whom won their cases, and proceedings against 46 other journalists and media workers continued to stall.
In the eastern Elazığ (Elezîz) province, a case against the mayor’s bodyguard for battery against journalist Ardıl Batmaz was delayed as the court agreed to wait for a new expert report, while the bodyguard, a police officer named Ö.F.T., testified that he did not remember how the incident took place.
Batmaz was attacked after Mayor Şahin Şerifoğulları told his bodyguards to “get the jackal away from here”, as the comments were caught on video. The journalist’s lawyers said the video evidence was not included in the case file, and asked for a new expert opinion.
On the same day, an appeals court in an appeals court in the southeastern Diyarbakır (Amed) upheld a lower court’s ruling to acquit journalist Ferhat Parlak in a case that started in 2016. Parlak was first acquitted in 2017, then faced trial again over the same charges in 2019. After he was acquitted for a second time in 2020, he faced a third trial on the same charges in 2022.
In the seven-year-long proceedings, Parlak spent 15 months behind bars. “Prosecutors insist on appealing acquittal rulings. I believe the reason for that is that they wish to prolong the process as much as possible and create a perception that my 15 month long arrest was not unlawful,” the journalist told reporters.
Thursday also saw Nazlıcan Nujin Yıldız, a reporter at the all-female Jin News website, face charges of terrorism in the western Izmir province over her student activism in past years. While Yıldız was not arrested, she was issued a foreign travel ban.
Meanwhile in the eastern Ağrı (Agirî) province, a court rejected journalist Abdullah Kaya’s appeal to have his equipment that was confiscated during an investigation returned to him. Kaya was arrested in 2017 when his employer, the Dicle News Agency (DİHA), was shut down by presidential decree in the government’s post-coup crackdown in 2016. The next hearing of the case where Kaya faces charges of terrorism and aiding and abetting will be held on 19 December, and the journalist will not have his work equipment returned until then.
In another case against Kurdish journalism, writer Dilşa Kocakaya was sent to prison to serve a 1 year 3 month sentence for terrorist propaganda over an article she wrote to support Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem, which was also shut down by presidential decree in 2016. Her family was not informed of which prison she was sent to.
Earlier on Wednesday, four reporters from Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, another Kurdish newspaper shut down by presidential decree, the newspaper’s publisher and a worker at the distribution centre faced terrorism charges in Istanbul. While the prosecutor called for the media workers’ arrest, the court issued them foreign travel bans and postponed the hearing to February.
The same day two Turkish journalists, T24 columnist Tolga Şardan and Halk TV reporter Dinçer Gök, were arrested over their writings on corruption in the judiciary and the release of an alleged gang leader respectively.
The most recent hearing of a massive case against 46 journalists and media workers was held on Tuesday. The reporters and workers are facing charges of terrorism over alleged membership in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organisation for Kurdish people in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. The 30th hearing of the case will be held in January, to await the execution of an arrest warrant against journalist and former director of the Fırat News Agency (ANF) İsmet Kayhan.
On the same day, Mezopotamya Agency reporter Fırat Can Arslan was acquitted from charges of targeting a public official, and released from prison after three months behind bars. Arslan faced charges over his reporting on the transfer of Mehmet and Seda K., a prosecutor and judge couple who were transferred out of Diyarbakır to Samsun after Mehmet K. prepared the indictment against 18 Kurdish journalists who spent more than a year behind bars awaiting trial.
Arslan was accused of targeting the couple for specifying which cases they worked on, despite the public domain source documents on their transfer not including that information. Mehmet K. had argued in the indictment that the outlets the journalists in question worked for, Sterk TV and Medya Haber TV, were affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey designates as terrorist.
Another Kurdish journalist, Mehmet Şah Oruç, was released from pre-trial detention on Tuesday. While Oruç was not acquitted, the case against him will continue in February with the Mezopotamya Agency journalist on parole.
The United Nations passed a resolution in 2013 to recognise 2 November as International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, upon efforts by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) to commemorate the 2009 massacre in Maguindanao, Philippines where 32 journalists were murdered in the single deadliest attack against journalists in recent history.
More than 1,600 journalists have been killed globally since 1993, with 90 percent of perpetrators going unpunished, according to UNESCO. Lesser attacks against journalists, including threats to their lives, kidnapping, torture and harassment, “create a climate of fear” and has a chilling effect, the UN said.
Since the declaration of the Turkish Republic in 1923, at least 57 journalists have been murdered in Turkey, including six reporters of Özgür Gündem in the scope of three years in the 1990s.