Press Freedom in Turkey

Not so free press

29th August

Turkish Propaganda...

Turkish newspaper banned for one month for article on the Kurdish language

The Turkish daily newspaper Gnlk has been banned for one month because of articles and news items written by Professor Amir Hassanpour of Toronto University.

The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court took this decision on the grounds of article 7/2 in the Anti-Terrorism Law, claiming that Hassanpour's articles contain organizational propaganda.

In a written statement, Gnlk's chief editor Filiz Koçali criticized the decision: We cannot talk about a democratic opening if we cannot make the Kurdish people talk.

Koçali continues: The reason for the ban is an article written by the internationally renowned professor Hassanpour, who has published articles in international journals and newspapers. With this decision Turkey applies censorship to an internationally well-known linguist.

The Democratic Society Party (DTP) also condemned the decision, emphasizing that the government has to ease the pressure on freedom of expression in order to proceed on the way to finding a solution to the Kurdish question. Therefore they ask for an amendment of the restrictive regulations in the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) and in the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Gnlk newspaper has been publishing since January this year and was handed a two-month ban in June for spreading PKK propaganda in two issues of the paper.

In his article titled Linguistic rights in the linguistics system of the developed world: State, market and communication technologies Hassanpour deals with the pressure on the Kurdish language in Turkey.


31st January

Update: Rights Abusers to Pay Compensation...

European Court orders Turkey to compensate journalists

The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Turkey to pay a total of over 40,000 Euros to 20 Turkish journalists as compensation for having violated their rights.

In two separate cases, the Court ruled on 26 January that Turkey had violated freedom of speech laws when it suspended five newspapers and sentenced a magazine editor to prison over an article criticizing prison brutality.

Welcoming the judgment, IPI Board Member Ferai Tinc, Chairperson of the IPI Turkish National Committee, said: We would like that the law that allows [such press freedom violations] be abolished. We would like the canceling of prison sentences in cases concerning the media. No one can be imprisoned for what he has written.

In the first case, the five newspapers concerned are Gndem, Yedinci Gn, Haftaya Bak, Yaamda Demokrasi and Gerçek Demokrasi. Between 9 October and 15 December 2007, an Istanbul court ordered the suspension of all five newspapers for periods ranging from fifteen days to a month for violating the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Court stated that various articles in the newspapers supported the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an organisation that is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, including the European Union and the United States.

The second case was in connection with two articles published in February 2001 by the Turkish magazine Yeni Dnya çin Çaðr. The articles reportedly criticized a security operation in Turkish prisons which left 30 inmates dead. A graphic cover photo showed prisoners who had been burned or beaten.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in both cases that Turkey had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights because the practice of banning the future publication of entire periodicals went beyond any necessary restraint and amounted to censorship.

IPI welcomes the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights, said IPI Director David Dadge. Particularly since Turkey is engaged in accession talks with the European Union, it is important that it abides by democratic standards of freedom of expression and the media.

In March 2009, IPI took its concerns about press freedom in Turkey to the European Commission in Brussels. It appealed to European Commission leaders to make press freedom a priority in ongoing membership talks with Turkey amid concern over verbal attacks on news organisations and continued legal hurdles to free expression in the country.


18th June

Update: Improper Propaganda Ban...

Turkish newspaper ban criticised by European Court

Turkey was criticised for media censorship by the European Court of Human Rights, in a case concerning the suspension of weekly newspapers for spreading terrorist propaganda .

In January 2008, Turkish authorities suspended two newspapers, Yedinci Gun and Toplumsal Demokrasi , for a month for violating anti-terrorism laws.

They were accused of spreading extremist propaganda promoting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a separatist group seeking Kurdish independence.

Twelve people -- including owners, executive directors, editors-in-chief, news directors and journalists -- were criminally prosecuted and the proceedings in their cases are still pending.

The court concluded that the aim was to prevent the publication of similar articles in the future, thus hindering the professional activities of the 12 applicants.

Less draconian measures could have been envisaged, such as the confiscation of particular issues of the newspapers or the restriction on the publication of specific articles, the ruling said: The domestic courts had unjustifiably restricted the essential role of the press as a public watchdog in a democratic society, it added.

The 12 applicants were awarded 1,800 euros (2,200 dollars) in damages.



Update: Dictatorial Threats...

Turkish PM threatens to sue the London Times for printing open letter critical of his heavy handed handling of Gezi park protests

Link Here 27th July 2013

Turkey's prime minister has threatened legal action against the Times newspaper for publishing an open letter criticising his handling of recent protests.

Hollywood celebrities and academics were among those who signed the letter this week accusing Turkey's government of dictatorial rule .

Erdogan claimed in comments broadcast on Turkey's NTV channel:

The Times is renting out its own pages for money. This is the Times' failing. We will pursue legal channels regarding the Times.

Erdogan said those who signed the letter, taken out as an full-page advertisement:

If they truly believed in democracy, they couldn't have displayed such a lack of character to call the leader of a party that won 50% of the vote a dictator.

The open letter was signed by 30 people including Turkish pianist Fazil Say, US film stars Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, film director David Lynch and British historian David Starkey.



Update: Caught Fixing Opinion Polls...

Turkish journalists protest against government censorship

Link Here 17th February 2014

In Turkey , around 200 journalists protested against censorship and government pressure on the media . Many referred to the ruling party when they chanted AK Party get your hands off the media .

Last week, recordings were leaked on the Internet purportedly of Turkish TV executives manipulating an opinion poll and sacking reporters under government pressure. Journalist Hilmi Hacaloglu explained:

The government is trying to control the media by using the bosses or the journalists close to them. Journalists are saying they've had enough and we gathered here in the traditional press district.

The protests have reignited a debate about restrictions on press freedom , something the EU candidate nation is very familiar with.



Update: Tough Times...

Turkish police raid newspaper and TV station

Link Here 17th December 2014
Index on Censorship has condemned the recent raid against Zaman newspaper and Samanyolu TV as a blatant violation of media freedom. Turkey is a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights and has the responsibility to uphold the right to freedom of expression. Index calls for the immediate release of all detained media professionals. This is part of a worrying trend, as shown by the recent violations reported on Index's mapping project

On Sunday, December 14, Turkish police raided offices of the newspaper Zaman and of the television network Samanyolu TV. At least 27 people were detained including journalists, producers and directors of TV shows. Zaman is a major newspaper in Turkey with good English language coverage that has featured on Melon Farmers many times.

A large group of protesters gathered outside of Zaman's Istanbul offices, holding signs that read Free press cannot be silenced.

Zaman and Samanyolu TV have been singled out by Turkish President Erdogan for being part of what Erdogan calls a parallel structure affiliated with exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan has accused Gulen of being at the centre of plots to topple the government.



Update: Yesterday's Zaman...

Turkey forcibly censors critical opposition newspaper

Link Here 5th March 2016
Turkish police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds protesting outside the headquarters of the opposition Zaman newspaper. They moved in to secure the premises following a government decision to forcibly take over the management of the media group.

The daily confirmed that police had gone to the management floor in the building, and were preventing editors from entering their offices. The journalists were shut out of their offices while police allegedly confiscated their cell phones, according to reports on social media.

The raid began shortly before midnight after a day of standoffs between police and opposition protesters furious about a government crackdown on the free press.

Responding to an unlikely claim about terrorist groups influencing the newspaper, a  court had earlier ordered the sacking of the entire management and the editorial team of Feza Media Group companies and to replace the entire group's administration with a three-member board appointed by the state court.

Following the court ruling the newspaper editorial team released a statement through its English-language sister publication, Today's Zaman, calling the takeover the darkest and gloomiest for the freedom of the press. The statement added that media organizations and journalists are being silenced via threats and blackmail.

After the ruling, hundreds of people gathered outside the newspaper's offices in Istanbul protesting against the move, before police fired tear gas at protesters as they stormed the head office building.

Amnesty International has condemned the move to silence the opposition press. Even Washington, while reaffirming Turkey's crucial role as a NATO member and US ally in the region, had to admit that the Turkish government's recent actions are not fully consistent with the spirit of democracy.  State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said:

We see this as the latest in the series of troubling judicial and law enforcement actions taken by the Turkish government targeting media outlets and others critical of it...We call on the Turkish government to ensure full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law. Court-ordered supervision of a media company's finances and operations should not prompt changes to the newsroom or editorial policy.



Yesterday's Zaman...

Turkey permanently censors newspaper that it does not like

Link Here 6th May 2016
The Turkish government is shutting down Zaman newspaper, one of the last surviving newspapers that is critical of Turkey's repressive government.

Police raided the offices of the newspaper in March and the government has now decided that it should be permanently shut down.  The government had been running the newspaper as a propaganda organ since the police raid.

Along with Zaman, a number of other Feza Media Group outlets will be shut down, including Cihan News Agency. Küre tv will also be closed.


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