The first hearing in the trial of Turkish journalist Melis Alphan, who faces a prison sentence of up to seven-and-a-half years on terror charges for posting a Nevruz photo in 2015, was held at a high criminal court in İstanbul on Tuesday.
Alphan is being tried on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda due to a photo she posted on social media during celebrations marking the spring festival of Nevruz in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır in 2015.
The indictment claims Alphan sought to disseminate terrorist propaganda because the Nevruz photo she posted on her social media account showed flags and banners of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), all listed as terrorist organizations by Turkey, as well as photos of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.
In her defense statement Alphan said she shared a photo from the celebrations that was broadcast by many TV stations in Turkey.
“I was not even there. The accusations against me are related to the flags and banners carried by the people in the photo. I am standing trial just because of sharing a photo. Do I have links to a terrorist organization? The crime is made up. I did not commit these crimes. I demand my acquittal,” said the journalist.
Representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Erol Önderoğlu, Evrensel daily editor-in-chief Fatih Polat and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Hüda Kaya were present at the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court to observe Alphan’s trial.
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.