March 24, 2015

PM Davutoğlu sues Today’s Zaman editors over tweets

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has sued two journalists from Today's Zaman over tweets they wrote, the latest in a series of similar cases filed against journalists in Turkey.

Editor-in-Chief of Today's Zaman Bülent Keneş and Managing Editor Celil Sağır received case documents, including formal allegations and copies of Twitter messages they had written criticizing Davutoğlu, early on Tuesday. The legal complaint had been filed on Dec. 29, 2014.

According to the documents sent by the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, the two journalists are accused of “insulting a public servant.” Five tweets posted by Keneş on Feb. 8 and one tweet posted by Sağır on the same day were included in the legal complaint, on the grounds that they are in violation of articles 125/1, 2, 3-a, 4 and 53/1 of the Turkish Penal Code, articles that focus on the insulting of public servants.

Keneş was sued over a tweet in which he asked Davutoğlu whether he could be considered a slanderer for continuing to use term “parallel structure” without presenting concrete evidence, and posted another tweet in which he wrote, “It would be a lie to say that the word ‘PİÇ' does not suit you.”

“PİÇ” is a shorthand invented by pro-government trolls referring to the “parallel structure,” a term used by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to followers of the Gülen movement, particularly followers within the state's bureaucracy. The Gülen movement gained its name from its inspiration and founder, Turkish İslamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Sağır, criticizing Davutoğlu for lying, tweeted, “Mr. Davutoğlu, please do not tie yourself up in lies in order to be applauded more. Shame!”

This is not the first time Davutoğlu has challenged journalists from Today's Zaman over tweets they posted. On Dec. 29 of last year, Keneş, Sağır and Sevgi Akarçeşme, who also a columnist for the Zaman daily, were sued in a move that has only contributed to the sense that media freedom in Turkey is deteriorating. However, these journalists were only informed about the case on Feb. 12, when they received documents including allegations and copies of their Twitter messages critical of Davutoğlu.

In his original tweets, Keneş referenced a media crackdown on Dec. 14 that targeted important journalists Ekrem Dumanlı and Hidayet Karaca, among others. His tweet read, “Unless Davutoğlu [honestly] does not know that Dumanlı and Karaca went to court on Friday, he is a big liar.”

Davutoğlu had claimed that the two journalists did not go to the police to testify, but instead put on a big show of waiting for the police to come to them in their offices on Dec. 14. In actuality, Karaca and Dumanlı had gone to court before the detentions took place, on Dec. 12, to inquire about whether legal proceedings against them were in the works, and had been turned away. Keneş also pointed out that as prime minister, Davutoğlu should have known about this development. Davutoğlu has argued that these journalists were not persecuted due to their journalistic activities.

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 March 2015, Tuesday