Tag Archives: 5 Yorumsuz

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-05-05

1 – Press freedom and censorship – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a new report noting the strong moves against critical journalism in the country. Yavuz Baydar’s article on the CPJ website summarizes the situation, and his former newspaper, Today’s Zaman, also covers the story. Freedom House released its new report on global press freedom, ranking Turkey “not free” once again, with a worse score than last year, Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report. On the heels of such reports, it is perhaps little surprise that even AK-Party officials find it hard to claim Turkey has a free press. Writer and professor Osman Özsoy, who lost his job at the pro-government paper Yeni Şafak after he criticized the government in the wake of corruption allegations, has been detained on suspicion of terrorism. The case of journalist Sedef Kabaş, in trouble for Tweeting about the same corruption scandal, has been sent to a higher criminal court in Istanbul. Pro-government paper Star and its writer Ergun Babahan have been fined for a piece written against media mogul Aydın Doğan in 2012. Prominent journalist Cüneyt Özdemir took to Twitter to note the heavy pressure his channel, Kanal D, is under from the government. As Today’s Zaman notes, he later edited some of his tweets to less directly implicate the government. Pop singer Sevval Sam has been questioned for her participation in a video commemorating Berkin Elvan. The Carmina Burana was removed from a performance schedule in Antalya at the last minute after Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say, who has been penalized and censored for his criticism of the government, pointed out that the piece touches on topics such as sex and alcohol. Journalists marched in Istanbul for press freedom on World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd) and also held a screening of the documentary Persona Non Grata, which deals with press restrictions in Turkey.

2 – Film and festivals – The banned film Bakur (North), dealing with Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey, was also screened for the first time on May 3rd, in an invite-based event that took place at Bosphorus University. The 10th annual Labor Film Festival opened on May 2nd in four cities, and its Istanbul gala was preceded by a march against censorship. The upcoming 18th annual Flying Broom International Women’s Film Festival will start in Ankara on May 8th.

3 – Erdoğan’s image – Turkey’s president has been a constant feature in the news this week, making headlines for insulting the newly elected President of the Turkish Republic of Norther Cyprus, Mustafa Akıncı, and making repeated claims and threats against the Gülen movement (here, here, and here), in the lead-up to Turkey’s June elections. Erdoğan has responded to criticism from HDP party co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who claimed that the president was abusing his office by campaigning on behalf of a particular party and doing so at taxpayers’ expense. (The president is bound by oath to be impartial.) Erdoğan claimed he has every right to hold such rallies because he won the presidential election with 52% of the vote. Meanwhile, a pro-HDP ad has responded to taunts from Erdoğan, who recently asked rhetorically of Demirtaş, “who are you?” (implying, who are you to question me?), by releasing an ad inviting Erdoğan and voters to get to know the party. The ad is here. On a related note, government channel TRT made headlines for switching from live coverage of AK-Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu to that of Erdoğan the moment the latter began to speak in a different part of Turkey. As always, the list of those detained, on trial, or penalized for insulting Erdoğan continues to grow, with developments in cases against journalist Bülent Keneş, lawer Umut Kılıç, and columnist Mümtazer Türköne. An interesting addition to this list is the case of a Turkish Armed Forces commander, M.E.A., who, under order from an AK-Party appointed regional governor, Musa Işın, became involved in an altercation with the PKK in early April. Many had speculated that this was an AK-Party tactic to increase nationalistic votes but, if so, the intended nationalist fervor did not reach great heights, in part because no Turkish soldiers were killed (some sources say this is because PKK guerrillas intentionally shot only at soldiers’ feet), and in part because HDP members intervened quickly to transport wounded soldiers to safety, an effort that was verified by the armed forces. Now, according to Taraf and reported in English by Today’s Zaman, the head of the unit that led the attack, M.E.A., is under investigation for insulting Erdoğan via social media in 2012.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 7.29.01 PMOn a somewhat lighter note, British cyclist Mark Cavendish became a social media phenomenon when he tried to leave the podium in the midst of a very long speech Erdoğan was giving after the Tour of Turkey. He was forced to return to the podium for the remainder of the speech. Finally, the story of severely botched restorations at a mosaic museum in Antakya was given a comic twist when Penguen cartoonist Selçuk Erdem tweeted an image of one of the restorations with the comment: “maybe the goal of restoration in the museum was to make it look like Erdoğan.”

4 – May Day –  Amidst reports that 351 workers in Turkey have already died in 2015, the government decided, once again, to ban demonstrations in Taksim on that day. A number of groups made plans to head there nonetheless, and pro-government paper Vahdet made headlines when it reported on a poster from one such group, the United June Movement (BHH). The poster features an image of the Beatles, but Vahdet claimed it was “Gezi activists.” When this mistake was brought to the attention of editors, they claimed to be proud not to know who the Beatles were. Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report on various clashes between police and protestors that took place, with a total of 339 people reportedly being detained. Numerous outlets reported on a group of shopkeepers who apparently beat activists attempting to get to Taksim and then later bragged that the police had thanked them for the help.

5 – TV developments – Turkish TV and radio regulator RTÜK granted permission for the Ismailağa sect to open a channel. Popular cleric Cubbeli Ahmet is among the most famous members of the sect in Turkey and will likely appear on the channel. Turkish TV drama Kurt Seyit and Şura, which received massive investment in Turkey but was nonetheless cancelled due to poor ratings, has started airing in Spanish on Mundo Fox TV in the US. And Oktay Alkaya writes for Radikal about the 1990s TV program Plastic Show, noting that Turkey’s situation has really changed in terms of what’s admissible on TV in the form of political satire.

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5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-27

1 – Clampdown on expression – Meral Tutcali, a second year university student, has received a suspended sentence for retweeting a satirical article about the governor of the province of Adana from Zaytung, Turkey’s equivalent of the Onion. Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report that members of the press were prevented from attending a meeting with Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdoğan, apparently at the behest of her security team. Lawyer Umut Kiliç was arrested after a job interview for a judge position on the grounds that he insulted Erdoğan by calling the president a fascist, leading other lawyers to object. The European Parliament criticized Turkey for its crackdown on independent media at a seminar on Wednesday. One of the invitees for this seminar, Zaman newspaper editor Ekrem Dumanli, had to participate via video stream because he is currently under investigation on charges of terrorism. Gültekin Avci, a former prosecutor, is facing a life sentence for retweeting audio that implicates President Erdoğan and his son Bilal in corruption, as reported by Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman. A number of artists have been sued for releasing a video commemorating the death of teen Berkin Elvan, who was shot by police during the Gezi Park protests and died months later. Today’s Zaman reports on the effects of new “penal courts of peace” that were established by the AK-Party and appear to be used to censor critical media. The same paper reports on the fate of professor Sedat Laçiner, an AK-Party critic who has been asked to stop writing for news site internethaber.com and who was removed from his position as rector of Çanakkale 18 Mart University by President Erdoğan.

2 – Election roundup – President Erdoğan has released a video commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli (referred to as Çanakkale in Turkey), which many are taking as an AK-Party election ad. An ad by the president for such a purpose would be illegal both on the grounds that the president is supposed to be impartial and that use of the flag and religion for political purposes are banned, but there is a clear history of both Erdogan and the AK-Party ignoring both of these grounds (Touched on here and, more recently, here). Both Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman cover the ad.

Government broadcaster TRT provided 1:20 and 1:17 of coverage for the manifestos of the AK-Party and main opposition CHP, respectively, while giving only 15 minutes to the HDP, a party on the border of passing the 10% threshold to enter parliament. The AK-Party-appointed governor of Erzincan province, Süleyman Kahraman, denied the HDP a permit for an election rally on April 25th, with the excuse that the AKP had the same public square reserved for the 26th. Abit Nasiroğlu, son of a former AK-Party deputy, has been killed in an attack on AK-Party headquarters in Batman by unidentified attackers, while HDP offices in Yalova have also been attacked with gunfire, though nobody was injured.

3 – Turkey, Armenia, and the world –  Both President Erdoğan and the Turkish Foreign Ministry have reacted strongly to proclamations from other nations that the massacres and mass deportation of Armenians 100 years ago, which are commemorated on 24 April, constitute a genocide. The withdrawal of Turkish ambassadors from the Vatican and Austria in the wake of genocide claims brings to seven the number of countries from which ambassadors have been removed in recent years. On the local front, a nationalist group left threatening wreaths in front of Armenian newspaper Agos, where journalist Hrant Dink was editor and where he was murdered in 2007. Hürriyet Daily News reports that students marching to commemorate genocide at Istanbul Technical University were attacked by police and that academics from Bilgi University released a statement against that university’s choice to cancel a conference bearing the word “genocide” in its title.

4 – Film festivals – In the wake of Istanbul Film Festival’s pulling of Bakur (North), a documentary about PKK guerrillas from its lineup under pressure from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOCT), the Ankara Film Festival, which also pulled Bakur and a number of other films, has started with a much-reduced lineup of films and competitions. Meanwhile, while the MOCT has yet to comment on charges of censorship, it has opened the 7th iteration of its own Turkish Film Festival in Sarajevo, with a host of nationalist and popular films, as well as Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once upon a time in Anatolia) by Turkish auteur Nuri Bilgi Ceylan. The IŞÇI (Workers) Film Festival, taking place in Istanbul, Ankara, Diyarbakir, and Izmir starting on 1 May, has released its program for the year.

5 – TV and cinema – Süleyha Kurtuluş, the final manager of Istanbul’s historical Emek Cinema, has for the first time released a statement on the events that led to the cinema’s demolition despite massive protests, saying that, contrary to accusations by Levent Eyüboğlu, a partner in the project that’s been built in Emek’s place, she never asked for that firm’s help or handed over the keys to the building. Serdar Akar’s Kara Kutu (Black Box) series, which was airing on Kanal D, has been cancelled due to poor ratings. It is a Pana Film production and it recently received a 700,000TL fine from RTÜK for “advertising beer” as part of everyday life. FOX has revealed that its 7-years-running series Unutma Beni (Forget Me) will end this year after more than 1,450 episodes.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-21

Protestors pass a police TOMA on Istiklal Caddesi on 18 April as part of a march against the censorship of Bakur (North)
Protestors pass a police TOMA on Istiklal Caddesi on 18 April as part of a march against the censorship of Bakur (North)

1 – Ban on Bakur – Following last week’s ban of Bakur from the Istanbul Film Festival under direct threat from Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MOCT), cinema industry groups, other festivals, and viewers have banded together in a series of events to show solidarity with the film and to demand changes in the cinema law. The most comprehensive coverage of this multi-faceted story in English is as follows: Constanze Letsch provides a good summary of the situation overall while Yeşim Burul discusses the “certificate issue” used by the MOCT to justify its ban. Today’s Zaman covers the industry press conference in response to the ban, including a list of demands, and also notes IFF’s response to the MOCT’s attempts to place blame on the festival. Alisa Lebow offers useful context on the anti-Kurdish politics that clearly figured in the ban, while Hürriyet Daily News notes some aspects of the spread of this crisis to the Ankara International Film Festival. Beyond these it is worth noting that hundreds gathered for an anti-censorship march on Istiklal Caddesi on Saturday and then for a screening and forum on censorship in Abbasağa Park that night. The next steps may include a protest or march on the Ministry in Ankara this week or next, as part of the Ankara festival. (UPDATE: There’s also my recent piece on the issue for Variety.)

2 – Panic about Armenian past – In the lead-up to the 24 April 100th anniversary commemoration of the mass deportation and execution of Armenians by Ottomans, Turkish politicians and public personas have been in great panic about whether such events should be called “genocide.” Responding to Pope Francis’ use of the word “genocide” President Erdoğan urged the Pope not to repeat this “mistake,” PM Davutoğlu claimed the pontiff had joined a conspiracy against Turkey, and Ankara mufti Professor Mefail Hizli said that such speeches could lead to Hagia Sophia, currently a museum, being re-opened for Muslim worship. Meanwhile, the US called for a “frank” discussion of the facts surrounding the issue, while the European Parliament called the events a genocide. The latter led to Turkey’s three biggest political parties (AKP, CHP, MHP), which can agree about little else, issuing a joint statement of condemnation, and to PM Davutoğlu asking rhetorically why the US and Australia don’t recognize their own genocides of indigenous people. In the midst of this crisis Davutoğlu’s advisor, Etyen Mahçupyan, himself Armenian, said the events were a genocide, an event which coincided with his official retirement from his advisory role. Bosphorus University, in the mean time, has agreed to host a conference titled “Armenian Genocide: Concepts and Comparative Perspectives,” that was originally scheduled to be held at Bilgi University, but temporarily cancelled when the latter withdrew.

3 – Social research – Numerous outlets reported on the results of a recent social research project called “Politics in Turkey, freedom of Press and Internet.” Today’s Zaman highlighted aspects of the report dealing with censorship and the economy, while Hürriyet Daily News interviewed one of the reports’ authors, political science professor Ali Çarkoğlu.

4 – Trials and censorship round-up – President Erdoğan’s son, Bilal, lost a case against Cumhuriyet newspaper journalist Canan Coşkun for alleged insults, but won a case, alongside his farther, against BirGün newspaper journalist Bariş Ince on similar charges. Numerous columnists at Cumhuriyet are currently facing charges of insulting Erdoğan as well, while BirGün journalsit Zeynep Kuray was temporarily detained for alleged slander. Two reporters who have recently been critical of the AK-Party, Ali Aslan Kiliç and Uğur Telil, have been banned from parliament, though Parliament speaker Cemil Çiçek encouraged them to address the ban through legal means, noting he doesn’t want to be known as the speaker who banned the press. The main opposition CHP has filed a complaint against state TV channel TRT over censorship of a political ad, and pro-government media has continued a campaign of what its targets call hate speech, as reported by Today’s Zaman, which is part of the targeted Gülen community media. Finally, Turkey’s constitutional court has upheld a law requiring prison for those found to store what it terms “unnatural” pornography, a category that includes oral, anal, group, gay, or lesbian imagery.

5 – Erdoğan visits drama production – In a gesture marked by multiple symbolic overtones, President Erdoğan visited the set of the Ottoman TV series Filinta and sat in the director’s chair. While there, he and his wife Emine chatted with one of the show’s stars, German actress Wilma Elles. Emine reminded Elles that Erdoğan wants all women in Turkey to have three children, while Erdoğan himself encouraged the actress to become a Turkish citizen.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-13

1 – Mixed messages on the Kurdish situation pre-election – The AK-Party’s shifting stance on the Kurdish situation became even more confusing this weekend after a clash between the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Ağrı. Details on the reasons for the clash are unclear, as both sides have blamed the other, and the number of casualties involved is also in dispute, but at least two people (at least one of them a PKK soldier) have died and a number of Turkish soldiers were injured. President Erdoğan and PM Davutoğlu blamed the PKK and attempted to implicate the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) after the incident, but HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said the operation was staged, and pointed out that it was HDP members who went to rescue the injured soldiers, sharing links to photo and video on social media to back this claim up. The TSK released a statement thanking the civilians who helped the soldiers today, to some degree supporting Demirtaş’s claim.

This situation puts a fragile peace process in question. For the past three years, the AK-Party had been making moves towards peace, negotiating with the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan and conceding to some aspects on language rights and regional autonomy desired by many Kurds in Turkey’s southeast region, often called Kurdistan. More recently, however, President Erdoğan, who is nominally unaffiliated with a party but still overtly acts as the head of the AK-Party, reversed his stance on the so-called “Kurdish opening” simultaneous with the celebration of Newroz, the spring holiday most closely identified with Kurds. This was interpreted by many as Erdoğan’s move to coax nationalist voters, known for their anti-Kurdish stance, in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary elections. Numerous polls show the AK-Party losing ground and the HDP moving towards the 10% threshold necessary to enter parliament as a party, and this likely has Erdoğan very worried. Up until now, HDP members have been running as independent candidates since they were not likely to pass the 10% threshold, but this situation greatly decreases their representation in parliament while simultaneously increasing that of the AK-Party. So the political calculation in Turkey currently hinges on the fate of the HDP, and the AK-Party has every incentive to prevent their passing the threshold.

Given these circumstances, the timing of the Ağrı conflict is interesting, because it is likely to damage the HDP’s political image and improve that of the AK-Party. The TSK’s statement, however, might change this calculus.

Potentially linked to these events is the Istanbul Film Festival’s choice, under direct pressure from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s Cinema Directorate, to cancel the screening of a documentary filmed in the PKK camps. Bakur (North) was scheduled to be shown on 12 April but, hours before the screening, the IFF announced its cancellation. Numerous Turkish filmmakers involved in the festival held an impromptu meeting after this and decided to withdraw their films from the festival, calling into question whether key competitions will continue. Specifically, 7 out of 9 films in the national feature and 9 our of 13 films in the national documentary competitions signed a statement withdrawing their films.

2 – Media wars – Pre-election tensions are also playing out in mainstream media as pro-government media sources have made a number of moves to attack non-aligned media. Perhaps most notably, state run (and theoretically impartial) broadcaster TRT has refused to run commercials for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), giving as rationale the fact that the commercials criticize the ruling government. At the same time, pro-AK-Party media outlets Yeni Şafak and ATV have both published claims against the Doğan Media Group, charging it with support of terrorism in line with similar statements by Erdoğan. Doğan has filed slander charges against Yeni Şafak in response. Yeni Şafak also filed a story claiming that Turkey’s second President, Ismet İnönü, was responsible for having Mustafal Kemal Atatürk killed with poison. These claims and their alleged documentation have been the source of ridicule in other media, and columnist Mustafa Akyol commented on why such claims would come out now.

3 – Social media bans and reactions – Reactions to last week’s government ban of YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have begun to mount. Early in the week there was a threat to block Google as well, but this has not yet been executed, and the social media sites are now back online. These bans have not gone unanswered, as Today’s Zaman reports:

Two Turkish academics on Tuesday appealed a court order that allowed authorities to block access to Twitter and YouTube for several hours this week, a crackdown they say reflects Ankara’s growing authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, Hürriyet Daily News reports on international critique of the ban:

Bans on social media networks are “not appropriate” according to basic democratic standards, said European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who held meetings with a number of senior officials in Turkey, adding that he expected “meaningful answers” from Ankara on the issue.

Despite such reactions, threats against social media may actually be on the rise, as Today’s Zaman reports:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has a tendency to put everything he sees as a threat against his authority in the country’s “National Security Strategy Concept Paper” (MGSB) — often referred to as the “Red Book” — may soon be adding social media platforms, according to a story in the Cumhuriyet daily on Thursday.

4 – Censorship, trials, and lawsuits – The weekly round-up of lawsuits and trials for those deemed to have insulted the AK-Party continues, as Hürriyet Daily News reports,

A local court in Ankara has ordered main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to pay 10,000 Turkish Liras in compensation to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for “insulting” him.

Erdoğan was not alone in his actions this week, as Today’s Zaman reports,

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has filed a new legal complaint against Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş over a blog post, saying the piece, an English version of which was published as a Today’s Zaman column, insulted him.

Some of the charges are more serious than insults against individuals, as Today’s Zaman reports,

Turkish prosecutors seek up to four and a half years in prison for two columnists, Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya, who write for the Turkish Cumhuriyet daily, over featuring a front cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine which depicted Prophet Muhammad in their pieces.

5 – AK-Party’s Neo-Ottoman overtures – Finally, the AK-Party continues to employ Ottoman pageantry in political appearances. As Hürriyet Daily News notes, this week’s ceremonies involved both PM Davutoğlu,

Continuing the new trend of cosplay started at Turkey’s new presidential palace where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resides, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan were welcomed by policemen dressed in Ottoman-era costumes on April 10 in Ankara.

and President Erdoğan,

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was welcomed during a ceremony on April 10 with the “New Turkey Anthem” performed by an Ottoman military band, which praised him as “Our Leader.”

Though quite visible, such overtures are not necessarily a way to success with the public, as the same paper noted in covering the fate of a number of “candidates for candidacy” who had vied for position on the AK-Party candidate list, which was decided this week:

Several candidates had launched Ottoman-themed campaigns to be nominated for the AKP. However, none of the “Ottomans” were able to break the glass ceiling of modern politics when the ruling party announced its candidates for the June 7 general elections on April 7.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-06

1 – 31 March and aftermath – Two members of the far-left group DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front) took prosecutor Mehmet Kıraz hostage, issuing a series of demands related to the Berkin Elvan case that Kıraz was investigating. (Elvan was the 14-year-old boy who was shot in the face with a gas canister by an as yet unidentified police officer during the Gezi Park protests and who died in a coma 9 months later.) After 6 hours of negotiations, a confrontation took place and both DHKP/C members and Kıraz were killed. During and after the crisis the Turkish government issued a media blackout regarding reporting on it. Though both pro-government and non-government-aligned outlets (the later coming from a variety of ideological perspectives but distinguished by the fact that they sometimes criticize the government) had carried images of the hostage crisis, the following day many of the non-aligned media were banned from attending Kıraz’s funeral and subsequently had charges filed against them for “propagandizing on behalf of a terrorist organization.” Some of these media organizations, including the Doğan Group, the country’s largest, have objected to the ban and charges, though Doğan also took the unusual step of engaging in self-criticism, an action that has been critiqued by some. This ban on images of the crisis even extended to some degree to foreigners, as an Egyptian-British blogger had a tweet regarding the incident blocked based on the ruling of a Turkish court. In the days to follow it came out that the hostage takers did have family ties to the DHKP/C and that Kıraz had been actively investigating the Elvan case, perhaps even moving towards finding the police officer(s) involved.

On the same day, the entire country suffered a massive blackout that has yet to be fully explained, though some hypotheses have been put forth. Twitter user Fuat Avni has received attention for tweets suggesting that the blackout was a trial run for a series of similar blackouts that will take place during the 7 June election, as well as tweets from January, noting that Turkey’s intelligence agency (MIT) had infiltrated DHKP/C and planned to reactive the group.

On 1 April, two assailants attacked a police station in Istanbul and one was killed while, elsewhere in the city, an armed man broke into the AK-Party headquarters and hung a modified Turkish flag. Both President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Davutoğlu have attempted to turn the series of incidents to political advantage, Erdoğan noting that Turkey needs to build 3 rather than 2 nuclear power plants and saying that the police, who have recently been granted unprecedented powers, should take over for private security firms, and Davutoğlu promising that no unauthorized street protests would be permitted and also suggesting that the DHKP/C attack could be linked to foreign powers.

And, on April 6th, Turkey blocked access country-wide to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to prevent the hostage photos, as reported by Hürriyet Daily News:

Turkish authorities have blocked access to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook over the publication of photos published on the three social media platforms showing a prosecutor who was taken hostage by militants in Istanbul last week. Tayfun Acarer, the head of the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK), told daily Hürriyet that the ban on Facebook had been lifted after it rapidly complied with the court ruling.

Penguen kapak - 2015-04-022 – Erdoğan insults roundup – Turkey has charted new territory in the crackdown on social media by giving a journalist a suspended prison sentence for “liking” an anti-Erdoğan post on Facebook.

Radikal reports that a trial has been opened against ÖDP Tokat Regional Authority Önder Konuk, who was taken into custody because he called Erdoğan “lan” (something close to “dude”) in an angry tweet after the death of Özgecan Aslan. His tweet, which was only visible to friends, translates to, “Why don’t you declare a time of mourning dude!” He explained the tweet by saying he was angry to see Turkey declare a day of mourning for the death of the Saudi King, but not for Aslan. He may face up to 7 years in prison. Konuk is just one among many who have been charged for angry Tweets regarding Erdoğan’s actions in the wake of Aslan’s death.

The latest cover of the satirical cartoon magazine Penguen references the recent prison sentence against two of its cartoonists for insulting Erdoğan, and notes “we will continue to draw.”

Finally, as Today’s Zaman reports:

A 17-year-old high school student in the province of Konya is set to appear before a court in June and will face between one and four years of prison after he was charged with insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ; the boy is reportedly a friend of a 16- year-old who was recently arrested on the same charge.

3 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman both issued reports on a “Twitter battle” that took place between AK-Party supporters and Gülen supporters in recent days. According to Hürriyet Daily News:

Thousands of social media users who either supported or opposed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) engaged in a “spamming” war, which started April 3 and continued for at least two days, leading Twitter to suspend the accounts of many users who had hundreds of thousands of followers.

4 – The Kabataş Gezi Park story may get less press in the future, as Hürriyet Daily News notes:

A Turkish court banned accesss to stories ran by eight websites on Zehra Develioğlu , a headscarved woman who claimed in June 2013 that she and her baby were the victims of an assault by a group of people in the Kabataş district of Istanbul during the Gezi Park protests, upon a request by the woman.

In related news, the journalist who “broke” the original story, Elif Çakır, had her Twitter account hacked, with the hacker admitting to wrongdoing on her behalf.

5 – On a lighter note, as Hürriyet Daily News reports,

Hollywood star Julianne Moore may have won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar, but Turkish officials have rejected a bid to make her Turkey’s tourism face by citing her “poor acting.” The Culture and Tourism Ministry disapproved of the acclaimed actress’ performance in a film promoting tourism in Turkey and demanded a reshoot. However, Moore declined the ministry’s offer, ultimately leading to the cancellation of the project, daily Hürriyet has learned.

The story also received satirical commentary in The Onion.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-30

1 – The International Press Institute (IPI) issued a special report on Turkey regarding freedom of expression and democracy, noting that,

Turkey has seen increased pressure on media in recent years, part of a drift toward authoritarianism that has led to a pervasive climate of self-censorship and one of the most troubling press freedom pictures in Europe.

2 – A nationalist retelling of the Gallipoli battle, Son Mektup (Final Letter), released in honor of the 100th anniversary of the battle, has garnered some controversy as Kemalist groups question why Mustafal Kemal Atatürk, a national hero and by many accounts a key figure of the Gallipoli defense, was left out of the film. ODA TV, an independent and often anti-AK-Party news site, asks where the money for such a project came from and notes that the steel, energy, and shipping industry firm İÇDAŞ was a major sponsor. Radikal, meanwhile, notes that the Ministry of National Education has paved the way for the film to be shown to millions of school children across the country. Emine Yıldırım from Today’s Zaman provides a cinematic critique of the film in English.

3 – The Kabataş fiasco described in previous entries (here, here, and here) has taken a new turn, as Hürriyet columnist İsmet Berkan, who claimed via Twitter to have seen footage of the attack, thereby lending weight to a story which has since been widely discredited, issued an apology to his readers at the prompting of Hürriyet’s reader representative, Faruk Bildirici. The story was covered widely, including in Hürriyet, and Today’s Zaman (English). In response, AKP Adiyaman MP Mehmet Metiner says that he trusted Gülenist police directors who told him that they had evidence of the Kabataş harassment and that’s why he had announced that the AKP had such evidence. He says that he doesn’t understand why İsmet Berkan felt compelled to lie about such things during Gezi nor why he feels compelled to confess it now.

4 – Crackdowns on perceived insults and critiques of the government continue to increase in the lead-up to the June parliamentary elections. Today’s Zaman provides a general summary, noting, that

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed complaints on charges of “ insult ing” him against a total of 236 people in the 227 days since he was elected president in the election held on Aug. 10, 2014.

In another article, the same paper notes that,

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is seeking a prison sentence of two years for Gonca Vuslateri , an actress who works in theater and television, on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , who has so far filed more than 220 complaints against people for allegedly insulting him since he was elected president in August of last year.

One of the cases gathering the most attention is that of cartoonists Aydoğan and Baruter. As Hürriyet Daily News notes,

Two cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly Penguen have been jailed to 11 months in prison, over a satirical piece on free speech in which they were convicted of including a hidden gesture “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Cartoonists Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan were sued for the Aug. 21, 2014, cover of the magazine, which satirized Erdoğan’s election as Turkey’s president. In the drawing, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter,” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam, to mark his inauguration.

According to Radikal, Penguen has released a statement regarding the 11 month prison sentence, noting that they are saddened that a trial can even take place against a cartoonist and that this is bad for the whole country, especially given the fact that there is no insult on the cover in question. They state that they will continue to draw cartoons and that they hope this trial is the final example of attempt to intimidate free expression.

Other charges filed include the case of students in Trabzon, as covered by Today’s Zaman:

Thirty-seven students and teachers have recently appeared in court on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , while criminal complaints have been filed against 11 others accused of breaking Law No. 2911 on Public Assemblies and Demonstrations while attending a protest in Trabzon. Education Personnel Union (Eğitim-Sen) Trabzon branch head Muhammet Ikinci was among those who have been summoned to testify before a court on charges of breaking the law, which regulates the actions allowed in demonstrations and protests. Reacting to the decision, Ikinci said, “This intolerance to people in a country where the government is responsible for guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and rights, including the expression of all ideas, gives us a clue about the want sort of regime the government is becoming.”

Erdoğan is not the only one being “protected” from such insults. Today’s Zaman details stories of journalist Ergun Babahan being indicted for alleged insults to Erdoğan’s son, Bilal, and Prime Minister Davutoğlu suing the paper’s own journalists, Bülent Keneş and Celil Sağır, over allegedly insulting Tweets. The PM apparently also managed to block access to the tweets. Even the state run news service, Anadolu Agency, is apparently now to be shielded from critique, as Hürriyet Daily News reports:

An investigation has been launched into a total of 58 well-known figures in Turkey on the grounds that they criticized the state-run Anadolu Agency on Twitter, daily Cumhuriyet has reported. Top journalists, including daily Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, Hürriyet columnist Melis Alphan and Taraf columnist Emre Uslu are among the suspects, while the former general manager of the agency, Kemal Öztürk, and Vice-General Director Ebubekir Şahin are the complainants. The suspects have been accused of “provoking the people to hate and enmity, as well as defamation, slander and intimidation” for their posts on social media.

5 – In related news, Hürriyet Daily News reports on a new law that could affect social media users:

Social media users who share content that has been subject to a legal complaint in Turkey will be punished, according an omnibus bill currently being debated in parliament, daily Radikal has reported. The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) will be able to decide for the removal or blocking of Internet content based on an article about the “protection of national security and public order” in the omnibus bill, and users who share such content will also be punished. On March 20, parliament approved a key article of the contentious omnibus bill that gives power to the prime minister and other ministers to shut down websites within four hours. The approval came just six months after a similar bill was overturned by the Constitutional Court.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-23

1 – Insults to Erdoğan weekly roundup – a now regular feature of the Turkish news-scape is the count of how many journalists, cartoonists, students, activists or others are currently being tried, fined, or jailed for various forms of insult to President Erdoğan. Examples this week include …

Today’s Zaman regarding a student in Izmir:

A 21-year-old university student is facing the prospect of up to four-and-a-half years in prison for posts on Twitter that are alleged to have insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he was prime minister.

Hürriyet Daily News and Diken on cartoonists, with a link to the “problem” image at the latter:

Two Turkish cartoonists face up to two years in jail on charges of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, over a satirical piece on free speech in which they allegedly included a hidden offensive gesture. Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly Penguen, have been sued by Erdoğan for the Aug. 21, 2014 cover of the magazine. In the picture, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter,” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam.

Hürriyet Daily News on the sentencing of a journalist in Adana and on the investigation of others in the same city:

A journalist in southern Turkey has been sentenced to a five-month suspended prison sentence, while the houses of two more journalists from the same city have been raided by police, all for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on their social media accounts. Mine Bekiroğlu, a 28-year-old local journalist from Adana, was sentenced to a five-month prison sentence by Adana 6th Criminal Court of First Instance on March 19, Doğan News Agency reported.

2 – Today’s Zaman reports on the YSK (Supreme election board) banning an AK-Party Nevruz/Nerwoz ad:

Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has banned a television ad prepared by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for the Nevruz festival because of the use of the Turkish flag and religious symbols, a news report said on Sunday. The three-minute ad was released last week to mark the Nevruz festival — a now officially recognized holiday widely celebrated in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey — to send a message of unity amid efforts as part of a settlement process to resolve the decades-old Kurdish issue through talks.

The AK-Party is clearly aware that such use of symbols is illegal, as they had an ad banned for similar reasons almost exactly one year ago, in the run-up to the March 2014 municipal elections. More about that ad and its zombie-like imagery can be found at endtimescafe.

3 – Ileri Haber and T24 report that he Beyoğlu Zabita raided a screening of the 13th annual Filmmor Women’s Film Festival taking place in the Rampa Kafe, saying that the cafe didn’t have a license for screening. Festival coordinator Melek Özman noted that the festival had received all the necessary permissions from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The filmgoers resisted the police for about an hour, until organizers told the police they had called officials in the municipality and parliament, at which point the police finally relented.

4 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report on a bill approved by parliament that increases governmental oversight of the internet. From Hürriyet Daily News:

Parliament has approved a key article of the contentious omnibus bill which gives power to the prime minister and other ministers to shut down websites within four hours, just six months after a similar bill was overturned by the Constitutional Court. Parliament approved 13 more articles of the omnibus bill late March 12. A key article stipulates that ministers will have the power to order the removal or blocking of an online publication for “defending the right to live, securing property, ensuring national security and public order, preventing crime or protecting public health.” The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) could enforce the request of the ministry, as a blanket ban of the website if deemed necessary, within a maximum of four hours.

The same paper also prints an interview with scholar Aslı Tunç on the importance of social media in Turkey and the government’s strong efforts to curtail it.

5 – Censorship round-up – Hürriyet Daily News reports on members of the US Senate pressuring Secretary of State John Kerry to act on press freedom in Turkey; Today’s Zaman details a new report by Transparency International that says 86 percent of journalists in Turkey believe self-censorship is common; and columnist Melis Alphan notes the long history of censorship in cinema and art related to Kurdish identity.