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Turkish journalist gets suspended sentence over cartoon tweet

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A columnist for a leading Turkish opposition daily has been handed down a suspended sentence of nine months on charges of “inciting hatred and animosity among the public” for posting a cartoon on Twitter, the Birgün daily reported on Tuesday.

Cumhuriyet journalist Enver Aysever had tweeted a cartoon that showed a janitor, dressed in white overalls, spraying disinfectant into the cracked-open head of a heavily bearded man who appeared to represent conservative Muslims in Turkey.

“I was sentenced to nine months in prison on charges of ‘inciting hatred and animosity among the public’ by posting a cartoon. The decision is deplorable in terms of freedom of speech, rule of law and democracy,” Aysever tweeted.

Turkish prosecutors launched an investigation into Aysever on March 20 on accusations that his tweet containing a cartoon by cartoonist Mehmet Birol Çün “denigrated religious values observed by a part of the public.”

The indictment, drafted by the İstanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, said there were complaints against Aysever for posting messages on social media that denigrated the religious values observed by a segment of society.

The prosecutor sought a sentence of between nine and 18 months for Aysever over his tweet.

The Turkish government has been trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, closing down media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure.

Turkey, which has dropped precipitously since it was ranked 100th among 139 countries when Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its first worldwide index in 2002, the year the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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