Journalists and advocates for press freedom are not shocked by the arrest of Tolga Şardan, citing the increasingly frequent invocation of Turkey's so-called censorship law against members of the media
On November 1st, journalist Tolga Şardan found himself under arrest for "Spreading Misleading Information to the Public," a charge stemming from Article 217/A of the Turkish Penal Code, also dubbed the censorship law. Şardan's arrest was due to an article he authored, which claimed to reveal a report to the President about alleged corruption within certain courthouses.
The piece in question, "What is in the 'judicial report' presented by the National Intelligence Organization to the Presidency?" appeared on T24 and is among the latest in a series of publications alleging bribery and corruption in the judiciary.
Timur Soykan's October 13th report, which suggested that judicial decisions were being bought, was quickly slapped with an access ban.
The response to Şardan's detention from press and professional bodies was one of resigned expectation, given the track record of the disinformation or censorship law being used to target journalists.
Gökhan Durmuş, head of the Journalists' Union of Turkey (TGS), commented on the situation, stating that while Şardan's detention is blatantly unlawful, it's hardly surprising. He pointed out the irony of journalists who expose corruption being arrested instead of the perpetrators of the corruption itself.
Faruk Eren, leader of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) Press-Work, highlighted the plight of journalists as significant victims of the recent spate of lawlessness.
Eren also brought attention to the same-day detentions of journalist Dinçer Gökçe and the arrest of former HDP deputy Hüda Kaya, which he believes speaks volumes about the current political climate.
Gökçe faced detention on November 1st for a report on "halktv.com.tr" under the same charge as Şardan but was later released on the condition of engaging with literature on press freedom and law.
The Presidency's Communication Center for Combating Disinformation refuted the existence of the alleged MİT report following Şardan's arrest, claiming his article was disinformation.
Özgür Öğret from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) voiced concerns that the disinformation law is now being used as a tool for censorship, a fear that was previously raised during the law's legislative process.
TGS President Durmuş also condemned access bans, calling them a form of societal amnesia, and urged for solidarity to secure the release of Şardan and other jailed journalists, insisting on the public's right to information.
Veysel Ok from the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) argued that Şardan's arrest violates both the Turkish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights' Article 10, which upholds freedom of expression.
The controversial TCK 217/A has been employed at least a dozen times against journalists since its inception. A legal challenge to the law is set to be reviewed on November 8th.
The law's history includes the detention of journalist Sinan Aygül in December 2022 for reporting on a child abuse case and the trial and subsequent acquittal of journalist Ruşen Takva for a tweet. The law was notably used following the February 6th earthquakes, leading to the detention and investigation of several journalists for their reporting on the disaster and its aftermath.
Journalist Ahmet Kanbal is currently on trial for a post about an election ballot box incident in Mardin, and Merdan Yanardağ, General Manager of Tele 1 TV, faced investigation for sharing a claim about an assassination team from Georgia targeting Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.