Turkey Crackdown Chronicle: Week of April 10

Turkey releases Syrian journalist
Turkish authorities released Syrian journalist Omar Abu Khalil today, Syrian journalist Rami Jarrah, who was himself detained in Turkey in February 2016, wrote on the social media website Facebook. Turkish authorities had detained Abu Khalil for 23 days without charge, Jarrah wrote.

Jarrah noted that Abu Khalil’s arrest was the latest in a series of arrests of Syrian journalists in Turkey that “left [Syrian] journalists questioning their ability to carry out their vital work on covering the Syrian conflict and using Turkey as a safe haven.”

“In order to commit to our work as journalists, we need collaboration, help, and protection,” Abu Khalil said in a statement following his release, according to Jarrah.

Syrian journalists in Turkey face the twin dangers of being detained by police and being killed by operatives of the Islamic State group. Yesterday Zaher al-Shurqat, a journalist for the online broadcaster Aleppo Today, died of a wound he sustained Sunday when a masked man shot him in the head in the southern Turkish town of Gaziantep. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack, the group’s Amaq News Agency reported Monday. He was the fourth Syrian journalist the Islamic State group has claimed to have killed in Turkey, according to CPJ research.

[April 13, 2016]

Police raid television station
Istanbul police raided the offices Samanyolu TV today, after a court ordered its parent company, Işık Medya Planning and Advertising, and 13 other companies placed under trusteeship, according to press reports.

The Anadolu Ninth Court of Penal Peace on Tuesday ordered the companies to be placed under trusteeship for their links to Kaynak Holding, which courts have found to be linked to followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom the government accuses of maintaining a “parallel state structure” and terrorist group within Turkey.

The state-owned satellite operator Türksat in December 2015 dropped the signal of 14 television stations owned by the Samanyolu Broadcast Group, according to press reports.

Courts have placed several large media companies under the trusteeship of pro-government figures in recent months. On March 4, 2016, police raided the offices of Feza media group–which owns Today’s Zaman, Zaman, and the Cihan news agency–following a court order appointing new trustees for the group. In October 2015, a week before elections, police raided the offices of the Koza İpek Group, which owned two television stations, a radio station, and two newspapers. The group shut its doors in March 2016, citing financial losses, according to press reports.

News agency says reporters beaten in custody
The pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reported today that police beat Meltem Oktay and Uğur Akgül, two journalists for the news agency, while arresting them from their homes in eastern Turkey yesterday morning. Prosecutors are expected to interrogate the two journalists tomorrow, the news agency reported.

DİHA reported yesterday that the Beytüşşebap Court of Penal Peace in Van Province formally placed DİHA reporter Ziya Ataman under arrest on suspicion of being a member of “a terrorist organization.” Ataman is held at Van Prison awaiting trial. Her lawyers told the news agency they plan to appeal the arrest order.

German police provide protection for comic
Police in the German city of Cologne have parked a patrol car in front of the home of comedian Jan Böhmermann, a police spokesman told journalists today. Turkish authorities yesterday requested that Germany bring charges against the comedian for insulting the Turkish president in a poem he read on the March 31 episode of his television program.

Cologne police did not say if a specific threat had been made against the comedian, but told journalists: “When you can’t rule something out, then you have to do something.”

[April 12, 2016]


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