Sal, Ağu

Two columnists of the opposition daily newspaper Yeniçağ, Batuhan Çolak and Murat Ağırel, have been the targets of a cyber-attack.

After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, "We have several martyrs in Libya” in a statement, the daily Yeniçağ published an article stating that a Turkish colonel had been killed in a bomb attack carried out by the Khalifa Haftar group on a Turkish military ship and that he was buried without any official announcement. The article written by Batuhan Çolak spread rapidly and got published in several news websites. But following criticism, the daily Yeniçağ removed the article from its website.

The same day, Twitter and Gmail accounts of Batuhan Çolak, who wrote the article, and Murat Ağırel, who shared it via Twitter, were hacked. «Without my phone, it is not technically possible to access my Gmail and Twitter accounts from a different computer and IP. But somehow our accounts were hacked. All our activities related to Google services were archived and downloaded. Our tweets about the martyrs in Libya were deleted. The same thing happened to our columnist Murat Ağırel. How is it possible that text messages from the GSM operators Turkcell and Vodafone were forwarded to other phones? This is not a random act of theft. It is unacceptable that agencies meant to ensure Turkey’s security are interfering with journalists’ social media accounts. This operation is an attack to the public’s right to information” said Çolak.

The journalists said they received text messages asking authorization lower their connection to a 2G cellular network. Although they did not give any authorization, their connections were changed to 2G and then their accounts were hacked.

Technology experts provided following commentary: « Murat Ağırel wrote that he received a text message asking permission to lower his connection from 4.5G to 2G, and without any action he received a second text message informing that the permission has been given. This incident has two steps. First, it seems that text messages have been sent as if they originated from the journalist’s phones. With these text messages, their networks were downgraded to 2G, which has SS7 bugs. And then, their phones were hacked. »

This cyber-operation against Yeniçağ columnists is alarming for all journalists. We previously witnessed these kind of cyber-operations that targeted journalists’ computers and the lawsuits that emanated from these interferences.

This attack to journalists is an attack to the public’s right to information. This attack is not only a threat to journalists who are struggling to write the truth but also a threat to their sources.


We call our fellow journalists to use their electronic devices carefully. Those who committed this cyber-attack should be identified and persecuted immediately. As long as these crimes remain unpunished, the political power will be held accountable for it.

I’m writing to you today on behalf of the DİSK Basın-İş journalists union. My name is Faruk Eren – the chair of the union. For years, our union fought to organize among a vast group
from journalists to printing house workers in Turkey.

For a long time, freedom of expression and the press has been under great pressure in Turkey; the same goes for democracy. Today, close to 150 journalists are in prison – one of
whom is a colleague of yours, Musa Kart. These days, we’re in an era in which we’re struggling to make our voices heard as our colleagues languish in Turkey’s prisons.

At a time like this, we have a request from you, cartoonists: Draw a cartoon for Musa Kart and all of Turkey’s jailed journalists and send them to us. As DİSK Basın-İş, we’ll publish them on social media as part of our new campaign.

We’ve organized a number of campaigns to help secure the release of our colleagues, and I can’t imagine help from a better place than you, cartoonists, for our present project. I have no doubt your cartoons will leave a lasting impression. That’s because, at the end of the day, solidarity helps all of us.

Faruk Eren
Chair of Press, Broadcast and Printing Press Workers Union of Turkey / DİSK Basın-İş

PS: Please help us spread this call for solidarity by sharing it on your networks.
DİSK BASIN-İŞ Türkiye Basın Yayın ve Matbaa Çalışanları Sendikası // Broadcast
and Printing Press Workers Union of Turkey
Web: http://www.diskbasinis.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Disk_Basin_is
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Back in January, a Turkish court meted out its punishment against journalists Ragıp Duran and DİSK Basın İş Board of Directors member Ayşe Düzkan over their participation in a solidarity campaign with the now-closed Özgür Gündem newspaper, together with Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol and Editors Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş.

The Istanbul 13th Court of Serious Crimes sentenced Aykol to three years and nine months in prison for conducting terrorist propaganda and Bektaş, Çelebi, Duran and Düzkan to 18 months in jail each. What’s more, the court declared that there was no cause for a reduction in their sentences, since “they didn’t show enough remorse in their behavior during the hearings.” As a result, the court refused to suspend the sentences, noting that it “did not come to the opinion that (the journalists) would not commit a similar crime in the future in the event that the sentences were suspended.”

The case went to appeal, but the court has upheld the sentence, declaring the sentences to be lawful.

Even if we don’t have the ability to alter the decisions of the judiciary, it behoves us to make a few corrections in the name of defending journalism, the truth and justice. Becoming “an editor-in-chief on duty” to demonstrate solidarity with Özgür Gündem is an obligation if one is to defend journalism, as well as freedom of the press and expression. Journalism is not a crime, and it is impossible to expect anyone to express remorse for something that is not a crime.

Rather than remorse, we feel pride at how our Board of Directors member and our journalistic friends have shown solidarity with the paper. We’re not trying to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again in the future; instead, we’re emphasizing that we will again defend journalism when necessary. It’s simply part of having a conscience.

At a time when the charter rights related to freedom of the press and expression are trampled upon and even the Supreme Court has effectively ceased to be, we know well that it is impossible to claim that the courts “correctly interpreted the incident” — as they purport to have done in this case — and that these punishments are political, rather than legal.

We have defended journalism, and we will continue to do so. Most importantly, we’re not remorseful about doing so.

The punishments against Hüseyin Aykol, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Hüseyin Bektaş, Ragıp Duran and our Board of Directors member Ayşe Düzkan are unjust. We loudly proclaim once more that we stand shoulder to shoulder with all journalists that have been wronged by the law.


About case

A Turkish court has upheld prison sentences that a lower court originally passed on 16 January 2018 against journalists Ragıp Duran and DİSK Basın-İş Board of Directors member Ayşe Düzkan for participating in the “Editor-in-Chief on Duty” campaign with the now-closed Özgür Gündem newspaper. At the same time, the higher court also upheld sentences against Özgür Gündem Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol and two of the paper’s editors, Mehmet Ali Çelebi and Hüseyin Bektaş. 

As a result of the latest decision, Aykol will spend three years and nine months in prison for conducting terrorist propaganda, while Bektaş, Çelebi, Düzkan and Duran will each serve 18 months.

As DİSK Basın-İş, we will continue to provide further updates on the matter.

On the eve of November 12, the Israeli army bombed Al-Aqsa Canal, one of the most important sources of information, during the attack on Gaza, and demolished a few houses where the civilians resided. Two Israeli soldiers and seven Palestinian civilians lost their lives during the Monday night conflict. Al Aksa Channel began broadcasting shortly after. Many journalists wearing vests with the sign PRESS were targeted, and some lost their lives, during the Great Return March protests since 30th March, Land Day for the Palestinians. Targeting media organizations and journalists in times of conflict is a method that many military forces resort to, and is primarily an attack on the public's right of access to news. DİSK Basin-Is condemns the Israeli Army's attacks on Palestinian media and journalists, and we declare that we advocate our colleagues and the the right of access to news of the people all over the world.

For quite some time, Cumhuriyet newspaper has been a target of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). They took the newspaper’s journalists captive and sought to sentence them to dozens of years in prison. They tried everything, only to run into the resistance of the journalists who work there. When the newspaper’s administrators and writers were arrested, others stepped up to assume their place out of a sense of solidarity. Naturally, it makes us proud to say that one of those was our chair, Faruk Eren.

This time, however, those that couldn’t destroy Cumhuriyet from the outside opted to use the fifth column from within, making common cause with those who would run the paper into the ground – so long as it became theirs. Such people sent informants’ letters to the palace, resulting in the arrest of journalists. While journalists at home and abroad were engaged in solidarity, they revealed themselves to be witnesses for the prosecution.

Ultimately, they succeeded, grabbing the positions they so lusted after. Alev Coşkun, who provided testimony against Cumhuriyet employees, became the Cumhuriyet Foundation chair, while Aykut Küçükkaya was named editor-in-chief.

No sooner had they assumed their positions than they put their plans into practice. They set about altering the paper’s front page while removing our chair and acting Cumhuriyet news editor, Faruk Eren, as well as DİSK Basın-İş member and Cumhuriyet News Editor Bülent Özdoğan.

We know well who is behind this, as well as how they acted as strike breakers when the laborers at Cumhuriyet’s printing shop began labor action. What’s more, we know of their greed for power.

And as we know them, they know us. They knew well that our friends would not pledge fealty to them simply to remain in their positions. They knew well that our friends would continue to protect journalism and editorial independence under any circumstance. That’s why their first target was DİSK.

But every time you target the workers of Cumhuriyet, you will find DİSK as an opponent.

And in the face of this purge at Cumhuriyet, we call on all labor, professional and democratic groups, especially journalistic organizations, to defend the right to the news and the profession of journalism.

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