Turkish court faults Birgün daily for report on Erdoğan’s son-in-law

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An İstanbul court has ruled in favor of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar, the chief technical officer of Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle producer Baykar, and his brother Haluk Bayraktar in a lawsuit they filed against the Birgün daily and one of its reporters, Birgün reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, the İstanbul 23rd Civil Court of First Instance recently ordered the newspaper and reporter İsmail Arı to pay each of the complainants TL 100,000 ($6,266) in damages due to a report by the journalist that was published in Birgün on Aug. 21, 2021.

Titled “TÜBİTAK works for the son-in-law’s foundation,” the report accused the Bayraktars of using millions of Turkish lira from the budget of Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council (TÜBİTAK), on whose board Haluk Bayraktar sits, to organize TEKNOFEST, an aerospace and technology festival organized by Selçuk and Haluk Bayraktar’s Turkey Technology Team (T3) Foundation in 2021.

The Bayraktars had demanded a total of TL 250,000 ($15,679) from Birgün and Arı in the lawsuit they filed on Sept. 22, claiming that the daily and Arı had no intention of reporting news or informing the public but were aiming to attack their personal rights.

A similar lawsuit filed by the brothers was previously rejected by the Ankara 18th Civil Court of First Instance, Birgün said.

Ali Deniz Ceylan, one of the lawyers representing Birgün, said the report was “lawful and within the limits of press freedom,” describing the court’s verdict as “a desperate and shameful decision” and including one of the highest awards for damages imposed for a news report in the history of the Turkish press law.

“The lawsuit filed at the İstanbul 23rd Civil Court of First Instance was a typical example of the cases frequently launched by the government and its circle that seemingly demand protection of personal rights but is actually aimed at deterring the [critical] press outlets from reporting. … First, we’ll appeal this decision. I hope it will be overturned as soon as possible,” he added.

President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government increased its crackdown on critical media outlets and journalists in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016 following which dozens of journalists were jailed, while more than 200 media outlets were closed down under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

Turkish journalists are often targeted and jailed for their journalistic activities. Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index.

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