17 Sep 2020 Lvl. 1
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Alert created on: 09 Mar 2020 n° 27/2020 Turkey

Odatv Executives and Journalists Detained over an Article

Source of threatState
CategoryDetention and imprisonment of journalists
Partner IPI Article 19 CPJ EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner IPI Article 19 CPJ EFJ/IFJ
Odatv News Manager Barış Terkoğlu and journalist Hülya Kılınç were arrested on 4 March 2020 on accusations of revealing the identity of an intelligence officer following an article published on 3 March 2020 on the funeral of a Turkish National Intelligence (MIT) agent who died in Libya. Terkoğlu and Kılınç were brought before a judge late on 4 March, and charged on the basis of the article titled “Odatv obtains funeral footage of MIT agent who was martyred in Libya but buried without ceremony”. The judge confirmed the detention of the two journalists and issued an access ban against the news story. Odatv editor-in-chief, Barış Pehlivan, wrote in social media posts that not only had the article changed the name of the officer to conceal his identity, but the actual name of the officer had already been made public through official statements to the parliament.
On 6 March, the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) blocked the Odatv website as an administrative measure. The prosecutor's office called Pehlivan to testify in relation to the case. Following his testimony, the prosecutor's office referred Pehlivan to court and requested his detention.
Three more journalists were arrested in the next two days in relation to the same investigation. Newspaper Yeni Yaşam's editor-in-chief Ferhat Çelik and news editor of the daily Aydın Keser were arrested on March 8 for daily's reporting on the funeral of the intelligence officer. Yeniçağ newspaper columnist Murat Ağırel was also arrested on the same day. All three journalists were previously summoned to testify on the subject and then released. Journalists were arrested after the prosecutor's appeal against the release order.
Updates
New 17 Sep 2020
On 9 September 2020, the 34th Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court sentenced Barış Pehlivan, and Hülya Kılınç to 3 years and 9 months in prison for violating the Law on Turkish National Intelligence (MİT) with their reports that allegedly disclosed the identity of a deceased intelligence officer. The court acquitted the journalists of "disclosing state information" as per Article 329 of the Turkish Criminal Code. Considering the time Pehlivan and Kılınç had spent in custody, the court ruled for their release pending appeal and imposed an international travel ban. Barış Terkoğlu was acquitted of charges of “disclosing state information" and “disclosing information and documents related to intelligence operations” as per Article 27/3 of the MİT law. The Court also lifted measures of judicial control previously imposed on him. Aydın Keser, Ferhat Çelik and Murat Ağırel were sentenced to 4 years, 8 months and 7 days in prison for violating the MİT Law and acquitted of "disclosing state information". Ağırel was released pending appeal and imposed an international travel ban. The judicial control measures imposed on Keser and Ferhat Çelik were lifted.
26 Jun 2020
On 24 June 2020, the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court ruled to release Barış Terkoğlu, Aydın Keser and Ferhat Çelik from custody pending trial, and adjourned the case until 9 September.
11 May 2020
In late April 2020, the public prosecutor submitted an indictment for eight defendants including the six journalists in detention, who are accused of "revealing state secrets" and "revealing information on the state's intelligence services". Up to 20 years in prison are requested for each defendant. At an ex officio hearing, held without the presence of defence lawyers, the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court ordered the journalists' detention to be extended. On 7 May 2020, the Court declared the indictment admissible.
Follow-ups
09 Mar 2020
Journalists should not be detained for reporting on issues of public interest, says OSCE Representative Désir after arrest of 6 journalists in Turkey.
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