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Twenty-eight journalists stood trial for various offenses and one journalist was sentenced to prison on "terrorism" charges between February 22 and March 7, according to bianet's Media Monitoring Database.

Sixteen of the journalists' cases were related to "terrorism" while other charges included insult, insulting state institutions, insulting the president, violating the capital market law and violating the banking law.

One journalist who was previously targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was acquitted of "insulting the president."

One journalist was sentenced to pay damages to a military consultancy firm close to the government while a district municipality's compensation claim against a journalist was dismissed.

Also, courts blocked access to the websites of two news agencies.

Here is a summary of legal interferences with the news media in the two-week period:

Journalist to pay damages to a military firm

A lawsuit for damages was filed against Artı TV program presenter and BirGün newspaper columnist Erk Acarer because of his news report titled "SADAT in the Army and Judiciary" (Orduda ve Yargıda SADAT) upon the criminal complaint of the SADAT International Defense Consultancy company and its founder Adnan Tanrıverdi.

Access to the related news report was also blocked upon a judgeship order.

Tanrıverdi was appointed as a senior military adviser to the president following the 2016 coup attempt and served until his resignation in January 2020.

Acarer and his attorney presented an excuse and did not attend the hearing on February 27. The court ruled that Acarer should pay 10,000 lira in total in damages, 5,000 lira to the company and 5,000 lira to Tanrıverdi.

The case against former Fox TV anchor

Fatih Portakal, the former news anchor of Fox TV, has been acquitted of insulting the president and violating the banking law in the cases filed because of a Twitter post where he implied that the government might seize people's money due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

A prominent critic of the government in the mainstream media, Portakal had to resign as the Fox TV anchor in August 2020.

In a statement about the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020, President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recalled that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic, imposed the "National Tax" during the War of Independence in the early 1920s, temporarily seizing people's money and properties to finance the war.

Portakal was among those who criticized the president because of his remarks. He wrote, "What if those who have deposit money or savings are asked money by recalling the National Tax orders and saying, 'We are getting through difficult days'! What if they say, 'We will pay back after corona'! Unfortunately, I can't say this won't happen!"

One day after his tweet, on April 7, Erdoğan and the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) filed criminal complaints against Portakal.

While Erdoğan complained against Portakal for allegedly "posting false social media messages to manipulate the public", the BDDK alleged that the anchor "shared unreal and intentional social media messages about the banking and fiscal system."

He was indicted for violating the banking law and later, in the first hearing in September 2020, for insulting the president because of the same tweet.

"This nation will hit you in the back of your neck"

This wasn't the first time Portakal was targeted by Erdoğan. In December 2018, he lashed out at the journalist after he called on the people during a prime time news bulletin to "exercise their right to hold a peaceful demonstration," which he said was constantly violated by the government. 

"Here we go, let's protest these price increases, the increases in prices of natural gas with a peaceful protest demonstration. Come on, let's do it. Can we do it?" Portakal had said.

"How many people can take to the streets out of fear and concern? Can you please tell me, for God's sake, how many people can take to the streets? They are trying to take the individual and social opposition under pressure, they are trying to intimidate them."

In response to the news anchor, Erdoğan said during a speech that "Somebody, I do not know if he is orange, mandarin or citrus, calls people to the streets," referring to the news anchor's surname, which means "orange" in English.

"Know your place. If you do not know your place, this nation will hit you in the back of your neck. Nobody can play games with my nation's honor. That would cost them dearly," the president had remarked.

Fox TV has been the only major TV channel whose news programs are generally critical of the government.

With his comments often surpassing the news he presented, Portakal became an opinion leader among opposition supporters, which often made him a target for the pro-government media.

He had presented the channel's main news bulletin for 10 years before his resignation in August 2020.

He did not cite political pressure as a reason for his resignation but said he resigned to "find inner peace." Portakal currently continues his commentary on political issues on his YouTube channel.

Access to two news agencies was blocked

Access to the websites of Etkin News Agency (ETHA) and Mesopotamia Agency (MA) was blocked by two separate judgeship decisions. The websites were blocked for the 17th time and 27th time, respectively. 

News sites usually get around access bans by getting a different web address. ETHA is now online on etha18.com and MA is online on mezopotamyaajansi28.com.

Blocked 63 times in five years, Sendika.org new site holds the "record" in this regard. In two separate decisions in March 2020 and September 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled that the news outlet's freedom of expression was violated. 

Completed trials

* Former Radikal and Habertürk TV reporter Mustafa Gökkılıç was arrested in July 2018 as part of an investigation against the allegation of conspiracy against the "Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)" for summoning National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary and some MİT officials to testify in February 2012.

The organization was accused of plotting against the head of MİT, Hakan Fidan, with the ultimate aim of overthrowing the government. If the plot succeeded, Fidan would be sent to jail for his links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), according to the indictment.

Arrested journalist Gökkılıç was sentenced to 8 years and 4 months in prison for "membership in a terrorist organization" and "violating the confidentiality of the investigation" in the final hearing of the case on March 3.

Nine defendants, including former high-level security officers, were given aggravated life sentences. 

* The District Municipality of Şahinbey in the southeastern province of Antep filed a lawsuit against journalist Hazal Ocak because of a news reported entitled "The Tender Game in Şahinbey" (Şahinbey'de İhale Oyunu) published in Cumhuriyet newspaper. It requested 20,000 lira in damages.

The court dismissed the case on March 3. 

* Journalist Oktay Candemir was acquitted of insulting the president.

Other trials

The trials of the following journalists for various charges, including propagandizing for a terrorist organization, membership of a terrorist organization, marking a counterterrorism official as a target, provoking people into enmity and hatred, insult, insulting state institutions, insulting the president, and violating the capital market, continued in the two-week period: Abdurrahman Gök, Ali Açar, Can Uğur, Canan Coşkun, Hasan Başak, Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan, Rüstem Batum, Ferhat Yalınkılıç, Kerim Karakaya, Sedef Kabaş, İnan Kızılkaya, Can Dündar, Hayri Demir, Sibel Hürtaş, Mehmet Baransu, Yasemin Çongar, Ahmet Altan, Yıldıray Oğur, Arif Aslan, Zana Bilir-Kaya, Rojhat Doğru, Hayko Bağdat, Alican Uludağ, Orhan Uğuroğlu.

About the Media Monitoring Database

The Media Monitoring Database is based on BİA Media Monitoring Reports, which have provided a dependable and concise account of rights violations concerning freedom of expression in Turkey since 2001.

The Database aims to create a data center through which the cases and interventions against journalists and media outlets can be monitored.

With the database, we bring together lawsuits and other legislative, judicial or administrative interferences with the right to freedom of expression of journalists and media organizations.


Source : https://bianet.org/english/freedom-of-expression/240518-journalist-sued-by-pro-government-military-contractor-to-pay-damages

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