Ahmet Böken, a journalist who used to work for public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) and has been behind bars since August 2016, has been handed down a prison sentence of nine years, nine months on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.
Böken was among the dozens of journalists who were jailed in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the coup attempt. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the putsch.
During the final hearing of his trial at the Ankara 18th High Criminal Court on Tuesday, Böken denied the terror charges and said what he did was to perform his job as a journalist. He also denied using the ByLock mobile phone application, which according to Turkish authorities is the top communication tool among Gülen followers.
“I did nothing other than serve my nation. I am requesting my acquittal,” Böken said.
The court announced its final verdict and gave him a sentence of nine years, nine months on charges of membership in a terror organization.
Böken helped transform TRT into a popular network and won an award for an impressive job in Venice after competing against 120 channels from 19 countries. He served as a juror for the Emmy Awards sponsored by the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Since he graduated from Ankara University’s faculty of communications in 1994, Böken had worked as a reporter, editor, news presenter and news director for the private Samanyolu network. He also wrote columns for the network’s news website. When the network launched a 24-hour news broadcast network in 2007, he became its chief editor. The government tapped his talent in 2010 when he was offered the opportunity to run the TRT Haber news channel. He gave lectures on broadcasting at university communications faculties.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockhol Center for Freedom (SCF) show that 245 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 26, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 189 were under arrest pending trial while only 56 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 140 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the Turkish government also closed down about 200 media outlets after the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.