Uğur Akgül, a former reporter for the now-closed Dicle news agency (DİHA), began serving a sentence at Mersin Prison on Wednesday for reporting on the destruction caused by operations carried out by Turkish security forces against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province in 2015.
Akgül was sentenced to two years, six months in April 2017 and has been out on bail pending appeal.
Turkish security forces had been trying to clear southeastern towns and cities of PKK militants since July 2015, when a two-year cease-fire with the PKK collapsed, shattering a settlement process launched by the government in late 2012 to end Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem and triggering the worst violence seen in the region in two decades.
According to a report by Amnesty International in December, an estimated half million people were forced from their homes as a result of a brutal crackdown by Turkish authorities over the last year, which may have amounted to collective punishment.
In March 2017 Zehra Doğan, an artist and a reporter for DİHA, was given a prison sentence of two years, nine months, 22 days for painting the destruction in Nusaybin.
“I was given two years and 10 months [jail time] only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, they [the Turkish government] caused this. I only painted it,” Doğan said in a tweet.
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
(Stockholm Center For Freedom [SCF])