Deniz Tekin, Diyarbakır – Seven journalists each face up to three years imprisonment for sharing on social media an article by the now-defunct Dicle News Agency (DİHA). The article revealed that Musa Çitil, the commander of a recent Turkish military operation in Sur, Diyarbakır, has previously been accused of criminal behavior related to the massacre of 13 civilians in Mardin’s Derik province during the 1990s.
Former news director of DİHA Ömer Çelik, former DİHA editor Abdulvahap Taş and former DİHA reporter Selman Çiçek were present at Diyarbakır 9. High Criminal Court. Selim Gönenç, the managing editor of Özgür Gündem newspaper İnan Kızılkaya and DİHA employees Hamza Gündüz and Çağdaş Kaplan did not attend.
Kemal Sancılı, an Özgür Gündem newspaper grant holder who is currently detained, had been scheduled to present his defense via the judicial teleconferencing system SEGBİS. However the SEGBİS room in Silivri Prison was being used by Selahatting Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party. Concurrent use of the room by Sancılı and Demirtaş was deemed to be a ‘security risk’ by the prison administration and Sancılı was therefore unable to present his defense at the hearing.
Representatives of the Diyarbakır branch of the Turkish Journalists Union and the Media and Law Studies Association were present to monitor the hearing.
Taş: Sharing this article was crucial to keep the public informed
After administrative identity checks were completed and the accusations were presented, former DİHA editor Taş rose to present his defense. Taş rejected the accusations and noted that multiple media outlets had reported on Çitil’s criminal history. Taş remarked that sharing the article via social media was an entirely legal method of keeping the public informed. “I am a journalist, I have never pointed individuals as targets in any of my news stories or my social media posts. I request my acquittal.”
The presiding judge asked Taş whether he posted the news stories whilst he was working at DİHA. Taş stated that he had been working for Diyarbakır Municipality Press Bureau at the time.
Çelik: Sharing a news article is the duty and right of a journalist
Former DİHA news director Ömer Çelik then took the floor. The presiding judge swiftly interjected to ask whether he would be repeating the arguments made by Taş. Çelik responded that while some of their arguments were similar, he intended to provide new points. The judge instructed him to do so “Shortly”.
“I shared the news story with relevant documents because I wanted to fulfill my duty as a journalist,” remarked Çelik. “This news story was formed in order to enlighten and inform the public over the subject. Even though the news article is considered to be targeting an individual, I would like to remark that this particular individual is not a stranger in the public eye. Therefore it is required for a journalist to report on such an individual. The news story aims not to point an individual as a target, but to inform the public.”
Presiding Judge: Are you going to repeat what he said?
As Çiçek took Çelik’s place to present his own defense, the presiding judge repeated his question – “Are you going to repeat what he said? ” Çiçek proceeded to deny the accusations against him and argue that he shared the news story to inform the public.
The presiding judge chose to shorten the defense statements of the defendants before they were transferred to the official hearing report.
Hearing adjourned until 2019
Resul Temur, a lawyer for the defense, emphasized that Çitil was indeed sued over the murder of 13 civilians and that Çitil was a publicly known figure. Temur argued that the news article was therefore a legitimate and lawful attempt to inform the public.
The prosecutor requested that İnan Kızılkaya, Çağdaş Kaplan and Kemal Sancılı be summoned before the court to present defense statements. The court accepted the prosecutor’s request and also issued an arrest warrant for Selim Gönenç, whose location is unknown. The hearing was then adjourned until January 16 2019.
Updated: December 3 2018