Journalists in Turkey
Turkish law enforcement detained some 38 journalists in the first eight months of 2020, a report by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) revealed. Meanwhile, access to 53 news stories and 75 websites was blocked. Charges of insulting the president resulted in the detention of 24 people, the arrest of three and an investigation into one person.
A report penned by CHP lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu has said that 29 journalists, writers and publishers have received jail terms during January-September period of this year, 20 of whom have been arrested. "The animosity against journalists that is on the rise during the AKP rule is due to the government's stance against freedom of press,” Tanrıkulu said.
Turkish police have detained four journalists in the eastern province of Van for reporting the throwing of two Kurdish men from a military helicopter. Police raided the journalists' houses, as well as the Van office of the Mesopotamia News Agency, and seized all cameras and technical equipment.
An Ankara court on Sept. 10 ordered OdaTV journalist Müyesser Yıldız to pay 20,000 Turkish Liras in compensation to Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on the grounds of “insulting” him, after she cited a secret witness in a trial related to the coup attempt who said Akar a was a member of the Gülen movement, T24 reported.
Top executives of the independent news portal Diken were acquitted of terrorism charges they faced for reporting on anonymous Twitter user Fuat Avni, who accurately predicted several events before they happened. Diken Founder Harun Simavi, Editor-in-chief Erdal Güven and former Deputy Editor-in-chief Semin Sezerer were accused of "aiding a terrorist organization without being a member."
Jailed journalist Murat Ağırel refused healthcare after being forced to wait for hours in large crowds. He was taken to an infirmary instead of a hospital, and transferred in handcuffs.
A Turkish public prosecutor ruled sexual assault threats against journalist Nevşin Mengü, politician Canan Kaftancıoğlu, lawyer Feyza Altun and actress Berna Laçin were "harsh criticism." The court said they didn't have legal grounds to prosecute the defendant for making a threat.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Yüksel Mansur Kılınç has submitted a draft bill to parliament that proposes giving digital media journalists press cards. The press law in Turkey doesn't allow digital media journalists to have press cards. They also lack significant advantages that print media outlets have.
Journalist Ender İmrek appeared in court on June 24 in the case that he is accused of "insulting" First Lady Emine Erdoğan "by not attributing nice qualities to her" in a piece that he criticized her for using a Hermes handbag worth $50,000. "This is a crime that doesn't exist. According to the indictment, not praising Emine Erdoğan is equal to insulting her," İmrek told the court.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has once again targeted a journalist over a report revealing nepotism in the municipality in the Black Sea province of Trabzon that's run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Soylu, who on May 18 targeted journalist Müyesser Yıldız - who was arrested a short while later - on Twitter, praised the couple in the story, while slamming journalist Saygı Öztürk.
International press groups, including the International Press Institute (IPI), PEN International and Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), on June 15 urged Turkey to release Kurdish journalist Nedim Türfent from prison ahead of June 21 that marks his 1,500th day behind bars. "We call on Turkish authorities once again to stop this injustice!" they said.
A Turkish court on June 16 arrested Voice of America reporter Arif Aslan hours after he was detained in the southeastern province of Van. The reason for the detention and arrest remains unknown. Media reports said that he was arrested over a previous case into him.
Editor's Pick
Soner Çağaptay and Raffaella A. Del Sarto write: The EU often praises itself as a promoter of democracy and regional stability by highlighting the power of its enlargement process to include new members in the “neighbourhood.” Yet in the case of Turkey, its ill-conceived policies may well have contributed to the opposite. A clumsy EU has repeatedly gotten its policy toward Turkey wrong, often inadvertently helping Erdoğan at key points during his rise while creating preventable tensions with Ankara.
Politics
Ali Babacan, the former deputy prime minister from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who founded the opposition DEVA in March, has said that critics of the government are being arrested or left unemployed for just expressing their opinions. “People are being detained just for speaking, for writing. You cannot consider a thought a crime. If you want just one opinion to persist in this country, this cannot happen. It is impossible,” Babacan said.
Turkish police on Oct. 28 detained five people over their alleged involvement in the suicide bombing that shook Hatay's İskenderun district earlier this week. İskenderun was rocked by an explosion on Oct. 26 which the authorities blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
President Erdoğan has asked whether people believe that "anyone can't bring home the bread." "Do you believe that anyone can't bring home the bread? Do you think such thing exists in Turkey? Turkey is ahead of many countries in terms of its minimum wage and salaries," Erdoğan told reporters, adding that Turkey is "at a great spot" when one looks at data from the IMF and OECD.
The second leg of Turkey's Rafting Championship took off in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Oct. 27. The four-day event brought together 400 athletes from across the country. Both male and female athletes will compete in categories for downstream rafting, slalom and RX, a unique sub-category of the sport.
A Turkish man named Ömer İ. shot and killed his ex-fiancé and her mother hours after the young woman petitioned for a restraining order against him on Oct. 27. The assailant committed suicide during a stand-off with police shortly after.
The cover-up of the ancient mosaics and frescoes was "unqualified to the point of destroying the structure's character and artistic value," Istanbul Municipality Deputy Secretary General Mahir Polat said. The 4th-century museum was transferred to the property of the state's religious authority, and will open for Muslim worship on Oct. 30.
Public housing residents of southern Hatay who lost their homes in a recent forest fire are still expecting the government to help them, weeks after they were rendered homeless by the flames. While many officials visit the area regularly, they merely take pictures and leave, housing complex residents said.
Leader of ruling People's Alliance member Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, babbled during his weekly speech at the party's group meeting as he forgot the word "cake." The chairman accused opposition parties of preparing to eat cake in Paris once he managed to speak again, possibly a reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's row with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Former Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who heads the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), has said that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's call for a boycott of call was “childish” and "a propaganda." "There are products carrying French brands that are produced in Turkey. They are produced here but their brand is French. What are we going to do, boycott those too?" he said.
Medical staff in both public and private institutions will not be allowed to quit their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a notice issued by Turkey's Health Ministry on Oct. 27. The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) released a statement with regards to the ministry's new regulation saying it is “unacceptable" at a time when the COVID-19 is still not being recognized as an occupational illness and healthcare staff are not being tested for the virus on a regular basis.
Firefighters have been battling the forest fires that erupted in the southern provinces of Adana, Mersin and Hatay on Oct. 27. Authorities have said that teams have been trying to bring the fires under control and some houses have been evacuated to keep locals safe.
The Turkish Lira further lost its value on Oct. 27, measuring more than 8.1 liras on the dollar as a result of more than 35 percent depreciation this year. The depreciation is a result of Ankara's increasingly strained relationship with the European Union, as well as the United States.
The German government has said that the Erdoğan regime has in recent years increased its support for Milli Görüş, an Islamist group monitored by German intelligence services due to alleged extremist leanings. In its response to a parliamentary question, the German government has also emphasized the links between Milli Görüş and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.
The ruling AKP has turned down the opposition's demand for budget discussions to be aired live on the official channel of parliament, called TBMM TV. The opposition deputies have said that these talks need to be conducted in a “transparent” manner as it concerns the people, with a CHP lawmaker saying that Turkey has not experienced such a “dark period” in its history before.
An employee of the United States’ Istanbul consulate was handed five years and two months in prison on charges of aiding the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. The court did not arrest Nazmi Mete Cantürk, meaning he will be free pending appeal.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar has said that the party condemns extremists' abuse of Islam to justify their violent actions, but also slams France's treatment of Islam in a row about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Many prisoners in Turkey, particularly political prisoners, are held in facilities hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from their families, making it very difficult for visitation. Requests by prisoners for transfer to a closer penal institution are now being rejected by the authorities on account of the coronavirus.
As coronavirus cases surge in Istanbul, Governor Ali Yerlikaya said that he can be a "scapegoat" if anyone's looking for someone to blame. The governor also said that he has been working closely with Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. “My job is not politics, it is service. To that end, I am continually in contact with İmamoğlu. You should know that we are working very well [together]. There is no problem whatsoever,” he said.
Economy
Turkey's Central Bank Governor Murat Uysal said that it has no target on exchange rates as the lira touched a new low for a third day on Oct. 28. Uysal said higher import costs, with the lira tumbling to record lows beyond 8.3 to the dollar, rising food prices and strong credit growth were the main causes of the upward revision.
Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak has said that the economy is growing despite the tumbling Turkish Lira. The lira weakened to a record low on Oct. 26, hit by investor unease over the central bank's decision last week to keep its policy rate on hold and various sources of geopolitical concern. Strains in ties with the United States, a row with France, a dispute between Turkey and Greece over maritime rights and the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh have all unsettled investors.
Turkish monthly inflation was almost four times greater than the official rate in September, according to a new model developed by a group of academics and researchers. According to the independent Inflation Research Group (ENAG)'s first published finding, consumer prices in September rose 3.61 percent from the previous month, compared to the official Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK)'s calculation of 0.97 percent increase.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez said on Oct. 22 Turkey will operate the gas field which it recently discovered in the Black Sea on its own, but it may cooperate with foreign firms in terms of detailed work and equipment. The minister's comments came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 17 Turkey had raised the estimated reserves of the field to 405 billion cubic meters after finding an additional 85 bcm.
The Turkish government has said that it "laughs off" boycotts imposed on Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. "We laugh off some countries' boycotts against Turkey. They should first learn to stand as independent countries," AKP deputy leader Numan Kurtulmuş said on Oct. 18.
Urban Beat
Turkey's southeastern city of Diyarbakır is nestled in Mesopotamia and has a deep legacy spanning millenniums and civilizations. A recent discovery on the 8000-year-old Amida Höyük archaeological site has unearthed an 1800-year-old heating system that was quite sophisticated for the time.
Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan's work that she created during her two prison sentences between 2016 and 2019 are on display in Turkey for the first time. The artist was jailed on terrorism charges and gained international fame after finishing her second sentence and holding a show at London's Tate Modern.
Turkey's Presidential Symphony Orchestra will thrive thanks to the completion of its long-awaited music hall, Conductor Cemi'i Can Deliorman said. Having been in the works for 25 years, the music hall's large auditorium can seat more than two thousand viewers.
Alterations on Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia reportedly violated guidelines mandated under the site's "UNESCO World Heritage" status. Converted within two weeks of the legal ruling that allowed Muslim worship, the ancient structure's mosaics were unlawfully covered up, and any work on it was deemed practically impossible, architectural publication Mimarlık Magazine reported.