Turkey's telecommunications watchdog has imposed an access ban on the online news portal of OdaTV.
“After technical analysis and legal consideration ... an administrative measure has been taken for this website (odatv.com),” the BTK telecommunications watchdog said in a statement on its website on March 5.
It cited a law that allows it to block access to individual web pages or entire websites for the protection of public order, national security or the well-being of the public.
The move came after an Istanbul court on March 5 formally arrested OdaTV news director Barış Terkoğlu and reporter Hülya Kılınç on suspicion of disclosing the identity of an intelligence agency official even though the name had been revealed by a lawmaker a week earlier.
If convicted, the journalists could face up to nine years in prison, according to Turkey’s intelligence laws.
OdaTV’s editor-in-chief called in to testify
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office also on March 5 summoned OdaTV’s editor-in-chief Barış Pehlivan to testify in the case.
“Unfortunately, OdaTV’s editor-in-chief Barış Pehlivan has also been included in the investigation for which Barış Terkoğlu has been arrested. Today, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office called and said they were summoning Barış Pehlivan to testify. We’ll be at the Istanbul Courthouse tomorrow at 10 a.m.,” wrote lawyer Hüseyin Ersöz in a column piece on OdaTV.
The investigation was launched even though İYİ (Good) Party lawmaker Ümit Özdağ had revealed the name of the operative who died in Libya, at a press conference on Feb. 26 during which he criticized Ankara's offshore military policy.
On March 3, OdaTV published a story that did not reveal the intelligence operative's last name but revealed images from his burial with the headline "OdaTV obtains footage from the quiet and non-ceremonious burial of Libya-martyr and MİT agent."
The story showed the crowd at the burial that included local politicians, the unmarked burial site and flower arrangements, particularly one that read "Organization Head."
OdaTV ombudsman refutes claims
OdaTV's "ombudsman," often dubbed "odabudsman," released a piece on the online news site where they said that they had "deliberately left out" the agent's last name, home town and the location of his family home.
"So... OdaTV didn't actually uncover the identity of a MİT agent. It just informed the public with journalistic motive," said the Odabudsman.
The Odabudsman also noted that numerous news outlets had released the identity of the MİT agent prior to the Oda TV story.
Support for Terkoğlu
Pehlivan and Terkoğlu are the authors of best-seller "Metastaz" about the Islamic sects filling up the void left by the anti-Gülenist purges.
Pehlivan on March 4 protested Terkoğlu's detention in a tweet, emphasizing that the identity of the agent that OdaTV allegedly uncovered was public information.
Barış Terkoğlu şehit olan MİT mensubunu deşifre etmekten gözaltına alındı. Halbuki şehidimizin ismi ve soyadı açık şekilde, Odatv’nin haberinden 1 hafta önce Meclis’te canlı yayında açıklandı. Ve birçok yerde haber oldu. Biz buna rağmen soyadını kodladık. https://t.co/DYc2gahafT— Barış Pehlivan (@barispehlivan) March 4, 2020
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy leader Tuncay Özkan also took to Twitter to protest, noting Terkoğlu's 2011-2012 legal battle and incarceration on "FETÖ" charges, an acronym for "Fetullahist Terrorist Organization" Ankara uses to refer to the Gülen organization after the botched coup attempt of 2016.
"Barış didn't bow to FETÖ, he wouldn't bow to anyone. You become uglier and more unbearable the crueler you get," Özkan tweeted.
Barış Terkoğlu gazetecidir. Yapılan haberdir.Sabaha karşı gözaltı kabul edilemez. Barış, FETÖ’ye boyun eğmedi, kimseye eğmez. Zulmünüz arttıkça çirkin ve katlanılmaz oluyorsunuz. Barış, şimdi İstanbul emniyette. Barış Terkoğlu yalnız değildir. Derhal serbest bırakılmalıdır. https://t.co/9gQKNxkb66— Tuncay ÖZKAN (@ATuncayOzkan) March 4, 2020
Former consultant to the prime minister Abdülkadir Özkan tweeted in support of Terkoğlu, saying that he swore to the journalist's professional ethics.
"Even though we're on opposite ends, he's a son of this land till the end, he's national, he's domestic," Özkan said.
Barış’ı tanırım, mesleki ahlakına kefilim. Farklı uçlarda olsak da sonuna kadar bu toprakların çocuğudur, millidir, yerlidir. C.Dündar gibi ihanet şebekelerinin aparatı değildir. Gazetecidir. Başka mecralarda da çıkmış bir haberin hesabı şimdi Barış’a soruluyorsa düşünmek lazım! https://t.co/bGu1zQ4KqW— Abdülkadir Özkan (@akadir137) March 4, 2020
CHP deputy leader Onursal Adıgüzel said that the detention wasn't justified on the charges of uncovering the identity of an intelligence operative since it was already known to the public.
"Obviously the goal isn't detention, it's intimidation!"
Barış Terkoğlu, bir hafta önce TBMM’de canlı yayında duyurulan şehit MİT mensubunu haber yaptığı için “şehit olan MİT mensubunu deşifre etmekten” gözaltına alındı. Üstelik TBMM’de tam isim verilmişken kendisi soyismini kodlamasına rağmen. Elbette ki amaç gözaltı değil, gözdağı!— Onursal Adıgüzel (@onursaladiguzel) March 4, 2020