18 Oct 2019 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 18 Aug 2016 n° 87/2016 Turkey

Özgür Gündem Daily Shut Down and Journalists’ Homes Raided in Turkey

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ Article 19 AEJ CPJ Index IPI RSF
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ Article 19 AEJ CPJ Index IPI RSF
A court in Istanbul ordered on August 16, 2016 the closure of Özgür Gündem newspaper for spreading alleged "propaganda on behalf of the outlawed terrorist organisation". Shortly after the announcement of the newspaper’s closure by authorities, police raided its office in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district. During the police raid, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Zana Kaya, journalists Günay Aksoy, Kemal Bozkurt, Reyhan Hacıoğlu, Önder Elaldı, Ender Önder, Sinan Balık, Fırat Yeşilçınar, İnan Kızılkaya, Özgür Paksoy, Zeki Erden, Elif Aydoğmuş, Bilir Kaya, Ersin Çaksu, Mesut Kaynar,Sevdiye Gürbüz, Amine Demirkıran, Bayram Balcı, Burcu Özkaya, Yılmaz Bozkurt, Gülfem Karataş, Gökhan Çetin, Hüseyin Gündüz and Aslı Erdoğan were taken in custody by the authorities. Media freedom organisations condemned the violence of the detentions.

Following the closure of Özgür Gündem, the authorities raided the next day (17 August) the house of Ragip Zarakolu, a journalist, writer and editor known for his publishing work on minority rights in Turkey. The writer was not home but his books about Armenian, Pontus and Assyrian genocides have been confiscated by the authorities. Houses of journalists Eren Keskin and Filiz Koçali have also been raided by the police for similar purpose.

The total number of staff members detained has risen to 24, P24 reported on 16 August.
18 Oct 2019
On 11 October 2019, Kemal Sancılı, the former publisher of daily Özgür Gündem, was released after completing a 3-year sentence he was given in a previous case. The court overseeing the Özgür Gündem trial had ruled on 10 April 2019 to release Sancılı pending trial but he remained behind bars due to a previous conviction from a case against Demokratik Ulus — a pro-Kurdish weekly that used to be published by the company that also published Özgür Gündem.
08 Mar 2018
On 6 March 2018, the 23rd High criminal court of Istanbul lifted the arrest warrant against Özgür Gündem advisory board member Ragıp Zarakolu on grounds that the court had been notified of his address of residence in Sweden where he now lives in exile. The trial was adjourned to 4th June.
31 Oct 2017
On the fifth hearing in the main trial of Özgür Gündem daily held on 31 October 2017, the Court decided to release the managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya pending trial. The Court also placed him under an international travel ban. The next hearing will be on 6 March 2018.
08 Sep 2017
On 7 September 2017, Aslı Erdoğan was given back her passport, after the travel ban imposed on her was lifted in June 2017.
28 Aug 2017
Eren Keskin, former editor-in-chief of the Özgür Gündem daily, was released on 25 August 2016 after being referred to a court by prosecutors. She was then placed under a travel ban.
29 Dec 2016
On 29 December 2016, Aslı Erdoğan was released and a travel ban was imposed on her pending trial.The hearing is set for 22 June 2017. Zana Kaya was also released.
14 Nov 2016
On 10 November 2016, a prosecutor in Istanbul asked for life sentences for nine journalists and executives from Özgür Gündem. All nine defendants in the case, author Aslı Erdoğan, linguist Necmiye Alpay, journalists Ragıp Zarakolu, Bilge Contepe, Filiz Koçali, editor-in-chief Bilir Kaya, the holder of the newspaper’s publication rights, Kemal Sancılı, the paper’s Responsible Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya and lawyer and former co-editor-in-chief Eren Keskin, are charged with “membership in a terrorist organisation,” “damaging the unity of the state,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organisation” and “establishing an organisation for the purpose of committing crime.”
18 Oct 2016
On 23 August 2016, Özgür Gündem daily’s Editor-in-Chief Zana Kaya and Chief Editor İnan Kızılkaya were arrested on charge of being a member of an illegal organization. Kaya and Kızılkaya who denied the accusations have filed complaints against the police officers for having beaten them during their six-day detention.
22 Aug 2016
23 staff members of Özgur Gündem Daily have been released, according to EFJ. Journalist Aslı Erdoğan is the only one to be kept in detention to date.
04 Apr 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative says sentencing journalists to prison greatly damages media freedom in Turkey following Özgür Gündem trial.
15 Feb 2017
Human Rights Commissioner : Urgent measures are needed to restore freedom of expression in Turkey
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