The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the arrests in Turkey of Odatv News Manager Barış Terkoğlu and journalist Hülya Kılınç on accusations of revealing the identity of a Turkish intelligence officer.
Terkoğlu, who is also a columnist for the newspaper Cumhuriyet, was detained yesterday, March 4, following a news story published on March 3 on the funeral of a Turkish National Intelligence (MIT) agent who died in Libya. The author of the article, Hülya Kılınç, was detained later the same day on the same charges.
— IPI (@globalfreemedia) March 4, 2020
Terkoğlu and Kılınç were brought before a judge late on Wednesday night, where the article “Odatv obtains funeral footage of MIT agent who was martyred in Libya but buried without ceremony” was cited as the basis of the charge. The judge formally charged the two journalists before issuing an access ban against the news story.
Barış Pehlivan, a close colleague of Terkoğlu, 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 intelligence officer had already been made public through official statements to the parliament.
On March 6, the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK) blocked the Odatv website by administrative order. The prosecutor’s office then issued an order for Pehlivan’s detention. His lawyers have since filed a complaint for an alleged assault on Pehlivan by police officers whilst held in detention.
Three more journalists were also arrested in the following two days as part of the same investigation. Newspaper Yeni Yaşam’s editor-in-chief, Ferhat Çelik, and news editor, Aydın Keser, were arrested on March 8 for Yeni Yaşam’s coverage of the funeral of the intelligence officer. The nationalist Yeniçağ newspaper columnist, Murat Ağırel, was also arrested on the same day.
All three journalists were initially released following their police interviews but were then rearrested following an appeal against their release by the prosecutor.
In February 2016 the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled in a similar case, involving the journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, that the use of information and images publicized in previous news reports does not constitute a crime.
“We call on Turkey’s authorities to drop the charges immediately”, IPI Head of Europe Advocacy and Programmes Oliver Money-Kyrle said. “Journalists cannot be prosecuted for publishing information that has already been put in the public domain.”
Terkoğlu spent 19 months in jail from February 2011 as part of the Odatv trial with 13 co-defendants where the defendants were accused of membership of the alleged Ergenekon organization, which was accused of plotting against the Turkish government. After six years of trials, all 14 defendants from Odatv, including Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, were acquitted.
This article was updated on March 9, 2020.