Appeals court upholds journalist Cemal’s sentences

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Journalist Hasan Cemal speaks during 10th International Conference on the EU, Turkey & the Kurds on December 4, 2013 at European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency

A Turkish appeals court has upheld a prison sentence and punitive fine for veteran Journalist Hasan Cemal, while reversing a lower court decision acquitting Cemal of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Friday.

According to the report the court of appeals has upheld a suspended one year, three months sentence for Cemal handed down by the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court. Cemal is accused of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization in an article that appeared on a news website.

The court also upheld the imposition of a TL 6,000 fine for serving as “editor-in-chief on duty” for the pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem daily by the same criminal court. Özgür Gündem, along with 14 other media outlets, was shut down by a government decree on issued on Oct. 29, 2016.

The appeals court ruled to reverse a decision on the acquittal of journalist Cemal in a case where he was accused of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.
Cemal was well known among critical journalists in Turkey.

Turkey was ranked 155th among 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 26.

If Turkey falls four more ranks, it will make it to the list of the countries on the blacklist, which has the poorest records in press freedom.

Journalists Mehmet Gündem, Nuh Gönültaş and Behram Kılıç were arrested by an İstanbul court on Tuesday on charges of links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The US-based Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, has named Turkey as among the countries that have a “not free” press, in a report released on April 28.

According to Freedom of the Press 2017, the Turkish government, using enhanced powers under a state of emergency, carried out a massive purge of media outlets accused of links to an attempted military coup in July.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) show that 253 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Nov. 5, 2017, most in pre-trial detention without having been convicted. Of those in Turkish prisons, 228 are under arrest pending trial, while only 25 journalists have been convicted and are serving time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 133 journalists who live in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

The government also closed down more than 180 media outlets after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

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