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Journalist sentenced to prison on terrorism charges in first hearing of trial

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A journalist was sentenced to 15 months in prison on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda in the first hearing of her trial at a high criminal court in southeastern Turkey on Wednesday, Turkish media outlets reported.

Perihan Kaya, a former Jin News reporter, was given the jail sentence due to her membership to the now closed-down Free Journalists’ Association (ÖGD), her social media posts, her phone calls with her colleagues and the testimony of the secret witnesses.

Kaya, who attended the hearing at the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court, denied all the charges and the claims about her in the secret witness testimony. She said she was only engaged in journalistic activities in Diyarbakır.

When the presiding judge asked Kaya whether she had attended the events organized by the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), Kaya said she followed DTK events and press releases as a journalist.

Turkey considers the DTK, the umbrella group of the Kurdish political movement, a “terrorist organization” and the legislative branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.

The court refused to suspend the sentence given to Kaya, who will appeal the court’s ruling.

In the meantime, The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) in a statement on Wednesday condemned the prison sentence given to Kaya and demanded the journalist’s immediate acquittal.

“These sanctions for journalistic activities are unacceptable. We believe that these attempts to silence journalists overshadow press freedom. We demand environments where journalists can write freely without being threatened by legal persecution,” said the CFWIJ statement.

Journalistic activities have more frequently been regarded in Turkey as criminal acts or terrorism particularly after a military coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. Following the failed putsch, dozens of critical journalists were arrested, while hundreds of media outlets were closed down as part of a government-led post-coup crackdown.

One of the leading jailers of journalists in the world, Turkey was ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April.

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