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Prosecutor seeks 11 years, eight months for TV journalist on insult charges

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A Turkish prosecutor is seeking 11 years, eight months in prison for prominent TV journalist Sedef Kabaş, who was arrested last month on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, local media reported on Friday.

Kabaş, who was detained during a midnight police raid in İstanbul on Jan. 22 following comments she made about Erdoğan on a TV program aired on TELE1 on Jan. 14, was arrested pending trial by a court later the same day.

Commenting on Erdoğan’s years-long performance as president during the television program, Kabaş said, quoting a Circassian proverb, “When an [ox] enters a palace, it doesn’t become a king. [However], that palace becomes a barn.”

Kabaş also posted the proverb on Twitter, which prompted an investigation into her on charges of insulting the president.

According to Turkish media reports, the indictment seeks seven years in prison on charges of “insulting the president” and four years, eight months more for “insulting a public officer” due to her remarks regarding Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Transportation Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu.

In a separate defamation lawsuit, Erdoğan demanded TL 250,000 ($18,490) from Kabaş in non-pecuniary damages for her allegedly insulting remarks targeting him.

Twenty-nine international human rights and journalists organizations, including ECPMF, International Press Institute (IPI), Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Freedom House, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and PEN Turkey, in a joint statement earlier this month called for the release of Kabaş from pre-trial detention and for an end to the judicial harassment of the independent media in Turkey, according to European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF).

The international groups also called for the withdrawal of broadcast fines and bans against TELE1 and an end to the discriminatory issuance of punitive measures against independent broadcasters by Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).

RTÜK earlier in February imposed a fine on the Tele1 TV station and temporarily halted the broadcast of one of its programs due to Kabaş’s remarks.

RTÜK is frequently accused of contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations critical of the Turkish government.

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