Court refers five campaigning Turkish journalists to police to testify

Court refers five campaigning Turkish journalists to police to testify

Court refers five campaigning Turkish journalists to police to testify


Five journalists who were set to testify at a local court on June 27 for “making terror propaganda” as part of a solidarity campaign with daily Özgür Gündem, were instead referred to the police to have their testimonies taken in line with a “new procedure.”

“There will no longer be collective arrivals at the prosecutor’s office. Instead, the police will call people upon orders from the public prosecutor’s office and invite them to the police headquarters on Istanbul’s Vatan [Avenue],” the journalists’ lawyer, Meriç Eyüboğlu, was quoted as saying by Turkish news portal Bianet.

Journalists Faruk Balıkçı, Tuğrul Eryılmaz, Nadire Mater, Yıldırım Türker and Veysi Altay were accused of “making terror propaganda” in their reports during their one-day service as editors-in-chief of Özgür Gündem as part of its “Editor-in-Chief on Duty” campaign. They were set to appear before a prosecutor at Istanbul’s Çağlayan courthouse at 10 a.m. on June 27. 

The daily started the campaign on May 3 to provide solidarity and defend press freedom against a number of investigations it has faced. Özgür Gündem has been repeatedly closed down in the past and is seen as being close to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

Eyüboğlu said he arrived at the courthouse with his clients at 9 a.m. but they were twice told that the police will call and invite them for their testimonies.

“It is the first time we have witnessed people coming to the courthouse, going through all the necessary procedures and then being referred to the police. They haven’t told us why but probably they don’t want crowds arriving here as [they did] today,” he added.

Eyüboğlu said the new process is likely to last two to three weeks and the supporters will gather in front of the police headquarters from now on. 

Speaking to reporters, journalist Mater said their case had highlighted the problems experienced by “Özgür Gündem and Kurdish media.”

“İnan Kızılkaya has been the managing editor of Özgür Gündem for three months and he has nearly 100 cases against him. Our solidarity is making this visible,” Mater said.

The “editors-in-chief on duty” left the courthouse after a press briefing. 

News of a fresh probe targeting the five journalists surfaced on June 26, less than a week after an Istanbul court ordered the arrest of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) head Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, and journalist Ahmet Nesin on charges of “making terror propaganda,” sparking national and international criticism. 

A legal bid seeking the release of the three campaigners was rejected by a local court, media rights watchdog RSF said on June 25.