Turkish journalist sentenced to prison over twitter insult to PM; daily censored

A Turkish journalist has been sentenced to 10 months in prison by an Ankara court for “insulting” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Twitter.

The Ankara 1st Criminal Court of Peace sentenced investigative journalist Önder Aytaç, a former police official, to jail time in consideration of the fact that he had faced similar charges previously. Given that this is the second offense, the prison sentence cannot be converted to a fine or compensation, officials said. The court delayed the implementation of the sentence for one year.

Media group asks for censorship of fellow outlet

In yet another blow to media freedom in Turkey, a court decision censored two articles in the daily Hürriyet, forcing their removal from the daily’s website.

The Hürriyet’s ombudsman, Faruk Bildirici, wrote in his column on Monday that Turkuaz Media sued them over two articles written by columnist Mehmet Yılmaz dated Jan. 30 and Feb. 3 regarding the controversial sale of the media group that includes the Sabah daily. According to him, Turkuaz Media could have responded to his allegations from their own media outlets, but instead they asked the court to remove content from the Hürriyet website, amounting to a request for censorship from fellow journalists.

Bildirici further argued that even if the court had not accepted the Turkuvaz Media request, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s attorneys could have intervened in the case, since the prime minister had already sent a warning to the newspaper asking for the removal of Yılmaz’s articles. As Bildirici sees it, in this specific case, there was collaboration between the journalists and politicians.
In addition, on Monday, journalist Cansu Çamlıbel indicated in a veiled statement on her Twitter account that journalist Umut Alphan had been fired from his job at the Milliyet daily due to government pressure.

Court dismisses case against journalist

Meanwhile, a public prosecutor in İstanbul has dismissed a legal case against a journalist from the Bugün daily.

Prosecutor Hasan Bölükbaşı emphasized the right to inform the public and media freedom in his decision to dismiss an investigation of Ezelhan Üstünkaya initiated by the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Üstünkaya was accused of violating confidentiality based on reporting related to the corruption probe that has implicated four former Cabinet ministers and several other high-profile figures.

Üstünkaya had reported on the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) parliamentary meeting in which CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu played the recorded phone call between former Minister of the Interior Muammer Güler and his son Barış Güler on Dec. 17, 2013, the day the corruption investigation became public.

Referring to the article on the freedoms granted to the media in the Constitution, the prosecutor said that the dialogue that was claimed to be confidential had become public in the parliamentary meeting

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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