A Guide to Understand the OdaTV Case – 3: Barış Terkoğlu, and Journalism in Court

The soL news portal published a series of articles concerning the background and the ongoings of the infamous OdaTV case. Signed Yiğit Günay, the articles investigate the trial’s judicial peculiarities as well as its political context and historical implications. Assuming the responsibility of providing English information on Turkey with a political perspective that is compatible with our stance, we decided to translate these articles for the English-speaking audience.

This third article of the series is freely translated from the Turkish original, titledOdatv davasını anlama kılavuzu 3: Barış Terkoğlu ve gazeteciliğin yargılanması, published on December 29th, 2011.

Editorial note: Since this article contains references to many other issues in Turkish politics, we decided not to prolong the translation with many footnotes but instead skip some parts that are harder to catch from the context.

You can reach all the articles by following the Odatv label.

In this third part of our article series on the Odatv trial, we examine the parts of the indictment that are related to Barış Terkoğlu1. The indictment is based upon nothing more than his journalist activities.

In our first article, we examined the first part of the indictment statement, ie. the part on the charges, the evidence and the offences claimed to be overtaken. The second part of the indictment consists of “the organizational positions of the suspects”. This part deals with each of the detainee separately and tries to illustrate their position in “the organization”.
So in this article, we will examine the claims about Terkoğlu based on the second part of the indictment.

Why Terkoğlu?

First of all; Barış is the only (OdaTV) detainee that I know personally, and he is actually a close friend of mine. As a matter of fact, this will make no difference. As in the previous articles, we will not make character analyses or hypothesize about political probabilities. We will focus on the indictment and evaluate the charges on the basis of law and reason. And this leads us to the second and the main reason for choosing Barış Terkoğlu: The section on Terkoğlu clearly demonstrates that in fact journalism is being judged.

Getting to know the mentality

Before examining the indictment, we shall focus on the mentality of this new regime, also referred to as the 2. Republic, that has been attacking the journalists. The most clear and simple illustration of this can be observed in Erkan Acar, the news coordinator of Zaman2, who also wrote a book on the Odatv case titled “Karanlık Oda” (The Dark Room). In the introduction of the book, Acar writes: “A journalist was not pulling the trigger of a pistol or the pin of a grenade on behalf of the terrorist organization. But, perhaps even more effectively, he was able to take part in the propaganda section.”
So, it is not necessary to be involved in a violent action or to be armed; a person who writes in accordance with the politics of “the terrorist organization” can be more dangerous than hit-men or bombers.

Interview, as a criminal activity

The indictment is prepared with this horrifying mentality, a brief exposition of which we saw above. And it charges Terkoğlu only on the basis of his journalistic activities.
This part of the indictment first handles the phone calls between Terkoğlu and Yalçın Küçük.3 Based on the records, it tries to prove that Küçük conducts Odatv. The first conversation is between Soner Yalçın and Barış Terkoğlu, and it goes as follows:

SY: Professor Yalçın just called, he says you boys should interview him. Are you available tomorrow or the other day?

BT: Okay, sure. Did he mention the subject?

SY: Well, the latest developments, he said. You’d make a pre-interview to decide on how it’ll go. You’d also say what you have in mind.

I don’t know if it is necessary to say what a ridiculous situation this is, but let me give another example.

As you might remember, Mehmet Ağar4 was tried last September on the charge that he “established an organization with the aim of committing criminal acts” and was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Suppose you are journalist. You call Ağar while the trial continues, let’s say in August, and make an interview. But guess what: it turns out you count as if you were a member of his organization.

On the other hand, if the matter is Küçük’s personal demand for the interview, then what would we say for the celebrities, who call the tabloid press “to get caught” in this or that spot? If such a celebrity is later accused of drug use, are we supposed to accuse the tabloid journalists of being the couriers? In fact, even giving such examples is against the solemnity of journalism. But they fit well into this weird indictment.

Later on, Terkoğlu calls Soner Yalçın and communicates Yalçın Küçük’s request that Soner Yalçın calls him to talk about “reporting a news item on the circulation of the newspapers.”

Another conversation on the phone is when Terkoğlu calls Soner Yalçın, and says that it would be a good idea to include Hikmet Çiçek’s5 article in the website and says that it is a good article. Then Soner Yalçın is convinced to publish the article without using the expression of “You’ve got mail from Silivri6.”

Yet another conversation is at the time when Yalçın Küçük launched a campaign arguing that the detainees of Ergenekon7 should be nominated in the parliamentary election.8 Ayhan Bozkurt wrote an article in Odatv about this issue. Yalçın Küçük criticizes this article in a conversation with Sait Çakır, another author of Odatv. Çakır calls Terkoğlu and says Küçük’s words “They should correct the text.”

Well, if nominating the detainees of Ergenekon is a crime, it is known that CHP committed it later on. Or else if asking for a correction in a news item is a crime, then it’s amazing news for the people who work in editorial departments where they had been receiving hundreds of such emails and phone calls on a daily basis.

It goes without saying that these conversations are quite normal for the news editor of a newspaper. But as the person in question is Yalçın Küçük, the prosecutor regards all the connections as crime.

The preparations to invent more criminals

One phone call is particularly interesting. Here is how the phone call between Barış Terkoğlu and Yalçın Küçük is explained in the indictment:

In brief, Barış Terkoğlu says: “Professor Yalçın” “excuse me, I’m trying to reach Deniz and Barış but their phones are either closed or out of service, I guess they’re with you at the moment, would it be possible if I could talk to them” “well we are going to make an interview tomorrow evening, they knew if we are going to dine with Mr. Merdan, Merdan YANARDAĞ” and after a while Yalçın Küçük hands the phone to the lady named Deniz…

What exactly is the element of crime here? Nothing. Apparently, this conversation is included in the indictment to give the message that Deniz and Barış, the friends of Barış Terkoğlu, as well as Merdan Yanardağ, an author of soL9, may be declared “guilty” when necessary. By including these irrelevant conversations, the prosecutor quietly threatens them.

How does a journalist think?

Another instance from the indictment illustrates that Terkoğlu thinks like a journalist rather than a politician. A person on the phone proposes to write an article for “a call to the Kurds to nominate arrested people for the parliamentary election like CHP does”. Terkoğlu explains that this cannot be a news item and that they cannot make such a call. He says “I couldn’t do that till now but we should first publish the details of the KCK10 case. As no one has read the indictment, neither of the sides show any interest.” and convinces the other person to write an item about the KCK indictment. The expected attitude from a news editor, isn’t it?

Why is this included in the indictment? The answer is hidden in the sentence that was written in capital letters by the police officers who secretly recorded the call: “YOU BETTER WRITE ON THE KURDISH ISSUE AGAIN.” The news editor asks for an article about the Kurdish issue, and this becomes a crime. Moreover, Terkoğlu further suggested what could be written on the subject: “Like, we can look at the charges against Hatip Dicle. You may ask in the end if he’s being punished in order to be kept away from politics. That can be one thing. I mean, you wouldn’t recommend politics but just demonstrate that the Kurds are banned from politics by the indictment.” Suggesting a news item: crime.

We shall give another instance to Terkoğlu’s journalism (and good journalism indeed) accounted as a crime. After an Ergenekon operation when Yalçın Küçük was arrested due to his visit to Bekaa for an interview with Öcalan; Terkoğlu emails Mahmut Şakar, one of the lawyers of Öcalan, and says “As you know, many Turkish journalists, politicians and researchers interviewed with PKK. However, the media supporting the government, especially the Islamist ones, create the impression that PKK only communicated with Kemalist-left journalists and authors. We would like to make a news item based on an interview with you (on the phone if you’d prefer) to learn about the Islamist people who communicated with Öcalan-PKK.” How would you call this other than a successful journalist reflex? Yet, right below this phone call, the indictment quotes the testimony of a secret witness which says it is known that inside PKK, Mahmut Şakar’s words are considered as Öcalan’s directives. Then a number of examples are given. Finally, it makes an email from a journalist to a lawyer look like a crime element.

At least you should doubt about the name of the document!

From the beginning I have been trying to show that Terkoğlu is declared to be a criminal due to his journalism activities. I shall now emphasize the most obvious example of this. The indictment cites the content of a document named “gündem toplantısı.doc” (Reunion on the agenda.doc) that was found in Barış Terkoğlu’s home computer. It consists of “the considerations about news items to be published in ODATV” (indictment’s words) done by Ahmet, Barış and Doğan. A reunion on the agenda as we know it. Here is what’s inside. (I kept the capital letters of the police as they are.)

Ahmet: If the kids work on it, they can find interesting interrogation examples from ERGENEKON. Barış, what do you say?

Barış: All right.

Doğan: Why didn’t the prosecutors of Ergenekon detain and interrogate Ağar? Is AKP blocking it?

Ahmet: That’s also a good question, but if we write it directly, it would make us look like denunciators. Yet with a careful formulation, it would be a very good question. THE ERGENEKON PROSECUTOR IS NOT INTERESTED IN UNSOLVED MURDERS OR SUSURLUK.11 HE JUST FOCUSES ON THE MILITARY. Ağar might not be included in Ergenekon for this reason.

Doğan: That a nice perspective too. I’m thinking maybe we can have a headline tonight.

Suggesting a news item (in a reunion on the agenda) that demands the unsolved murders to be investigated; also a crime. Don’t the prosecutors know this is regular journalism? If not, don’t they even get suspicious from the fact that the name of the document is “reunion on the agenda”?

The rest of the indictment is exactly the same as above, nothing against Terkoğlu beside his journalistic activities.

Except one thing. Ulaş Bayraktar, who got arrested in the Devrimci Karargah12 operation, has Terkoğlu’s number saved unnamed in his cellphone. Whatever that might prove…
And the conclusion: “Based on the detailed information and documentation above, the suspect Barış Terkoğlu is concluded to be a member of the Armed Terrorist Organization Ergenekon, that he acted in accordance with the directions he obtained from the suspects Yalçın Küçük and Soner Yalçın for the aims and strategies of the organization, that he used his media facilities to make black propaganda and to misinform the public; that he incited the population to enmity and hatred in order to create disorder …”

I wonder who might claim that Barış Terkoğlu is not being tried for his journalism.13 And if one does, I wonder if he/she ever read the Odatv indictment.

You can reach the previous parts of the article series here:
What are the journalists accused of? What is the evidence?
Were the digital documents sent through virus activities?

Ege M. Diren

1  Barış Terkoğlu: The news editor of Odatv.com
2  Zaman: A conservative newspaper that has organic relations to the Gülen movement.
3  Professor Küçük is accused of being the head of the organization.
4  Mehmet Ağar: Former police chief, politician and former government minister.
5  Hikmet Çiçek: Author and journalist. He is being tried in the Ergenekon trials under arrest.
6  Silivri: The location of the prison where the detained of the Ergenekon trial are held.
7  Ergenekon: The name of an organization, not yet proven to exist. Thus, we only refer to the Wikipedia article.
8  The discussion refers to the immunity of representatives in Turkey.
9  soL News Portal: The online news portal closely linked to the Turkish Communist Party.
10  KCK: Koma Civakên Kurdistan (Union of Communities in Kurdistan). The legislature body of PKK active in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.
11  Susurluk: We refer the reader to the Wikipedia article on the Susurluk scandal that took place on 1996.
12  Devrimci Karargah: Revolutionary Headquarters. An armed revolutionary organization in Turkey.
13  PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan argued in a party reunion that “the journalists are tried not due to their journalistic activities or their thoughts but due to something else.” (February 18th, 2011) Several commentators in the partisan media supported this claim. Later, Cemil Çiçek, the Speaker of the Parliament, repeated the same claim to the Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg when Stoltenberg asked him about the journalists in jail. (January 9th, 2012)

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