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2 journalists face lengthy jail sentences due to criticism of Afrin operation

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An indictment drafted by Turkish prosecutors seeks 10 and a half years for two journalists, Artı TV Ankara representative Sibel Hürtaş and Mezopotamya news agency reporter Hayri Demir, due to their social media messages about a Turkish military operation in Syria’s Afrin region, the Diken news website reported on Tuesday.

On Jan. 22, Turkish police detained dozens of people including local politicians and journalists due to their criticism of the Afrin operation, which was launched jointly by the Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20 against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Hürtaş and Demir were among the detainees but were later released on judicial probation.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has drafted an indictment for the two journalists in which it seeks a total of 10 years, six months in prison based on the 216th article of the Turkish Penal Code, which concerns inciting the public to hatred and enmity, and Article 7 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law, which concerns disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization through the media.

Remarks made by Hürtaş during an interview with former Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Ahmet Faruk Ünsal in which she said, “We should ask why Turkey was disturbed by Afrin when it was a secure and safe place,” made their way to the indictment as evidence of a criminal act.

Hürtaş, whose trial is set to begin soon, said the prosecutor’s move is a serious blow to freedom of the press and expression.

“I will continue to perform my job as a journalist within the framework of media ethics,” the journalist said.

The Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have reacted strongly to people who oppose the operation, and prosecutor’s offices have initiated investigations into those who share social media messages critical of the operation.

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