New penalties on media, rapper targeted by pro-gov’t pundits - Turkey free speech roundup

Opposition network Halk TV blacks out for five days

Turkey’s media watchdog Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) issued a five-day broadcast ban on opposition network Halk TV, citing a violation of Atatürk’s principles and belittling the Turkish army.

Halk TV will not be broadcasting from midnight Sept. 27 to midnight Oct. 2, the network said in a statement.

The network appealed for a stay of execution order, but it was rejected by the court. However, the blackout order has not been finalised. “RTÜK implements blackout orders before legal procedures are completed, due to its bylaws and established practices,” Halk TV said.

Journalist Ayşenur Arslan’s comments on a debate programme in June, where she said the Turkish government would “turn its eyes abroad whenever they get stuck domestically,” were cited as the main reason for the penalty.

Due to RTÜK bylaws, if Halk TV will permanently lose its licence if it is issued another blackout order, “as the original case continues,” the network said - even if the ruling is later overturned by court order.

“We know this matter is unlawful,” it said.


Turkish court bans access to pro-Kurdish newspaper website

A court in Turkey’s southern Hatay province has ruled to ban access to the pro-Kurdish Yeni Yaşam newspaper’s website.

The newspaper has not been informed on the reason for the ban, according to a statement published on a new URL.

On Thursday, an article on Yeni Yaşam about the access ban on news stories about Finance Minister Berat Albayrak’s land purchases had been banned from access. Similar articles about Albayrak, who is also the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had been banned earlier in the year.

Three more articles that were banned from access were on the abuse of a mentally disabled minor, opposition parties objecting to a new bill that will require NGOs to declare identities of their members to the Interior Ministry, and the financial ties of the TÜRGEV foundation, where Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan is a board member, with public companies.


Turkish rapper Ezhel targeted by pro-gov’t pundits for freestyle video

Following him sharing an improvised rap song over a series of Instagram stories, Turkish rapper Ezhel (né Ömer Sercan İpekçioğlu) was targeted by pro-government outlets for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Newspaper Sabah ran the headline, “Drug addicted rapper swears at President Erdoğan!

Beyaz Gazete pointed to the rapper’s conviction over praising drug use, and said, “The first thing he did after settling in Germany was to hurl unmentionable swear words at President Erdoğan.”

A Haber falsely said Ezhel spoke the words “F*** you Mr. Erdoğan,” and accused him of being a sex addict.

In the 48-second video, the 30-year-old rapper rhymes several words with the president’s last name, but stops short of saying his name, ending the video with “You won’t inherit this world either, f*** you Mr. E-“

“Does Mr. E stand for Emmanuel Macron? No French people thought so, why did you assume it was him?” a twitter user asked.

“Mr. E” has been trending on Turkish twitter throughout Friday, with many voicing support for the Turkish president, and many others standing up for Ezhel. There were also calls for his arrest.

Ezhel, often described as the voice of Turkey’s lost generation under Erdoğan’s now 19 year rule, spent a month in pre-trial detention before he was acquitted. However in June 2019, he was sentence to one year and eight months in prison for drug use, and the execution of the sentence was postponed for five years.

Later in 2019, the rapper moved to Berlin permanently. In a video released in September, after the move, Ezhel rapped about stealing and psychopathy as the camera zoomed in on Erdoğan’s presidential palace. The song, along with another by a group of Turkish rappers released on the same day, was deemed to be “a work of terrorists” by pro-government media.