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Turkish journalist faces investigation for covering alleged sexual abuse of 12-year-old girl

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An investigation has been launched into a Turkish journalist working for the Kısadalga news website who last month published a report on the alleged sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl, the website reported on Wednesday.

In her news story dated Dec. 14, Hale Gönültaş wrote that the girl, named Didem, who was revealed to be working at a nightclub while she was under state protection, was sexually abused by two individuals aged 17 and 18 in the western Turkish province of Aydın. However, the abusers were initially released pending trial and were ultimately acquitted of the charges against them.

Despite her and her mother’s objections, Didem was in February 2022 placed in a children’s dormitory in Manisa province that operates under the Ministry of Family and Social Services for “safety reasons,” according to Gönültaş.

The girl then went missing and was found several times over and was revealed to be working at a nightclub while she was under state protection. The girl had been missing again for 11 days at the time of Gönültaş’s reporting.

An investigation was launched into Gönültaş after a police officer filed a criminal complaint against her due to her news story on the girl.

The officer, identified in the report only by the initial E., was claimed to have known the girl’s whereabouts and that she was forced to work at a nightclub but was keeping silent about it.

The officer also reportedly filed complaints against the girl’s mother and the Federation of Women’s Associations of Turkey (TKDF), which provided support to the mother regarding her daughter’s situation.

The officer argued that Gönültaş reported on the claims against him with the aim of discrediting him and Turkey’s Security Directorate General.

Gönültaş said she would file criminal complaints against two police officers who came to her house to call on her to testify for the investigation and spoke to her in a threatening manner, accusing her of “libeling a police officer.”

The journalist also said she didn’t accept the charges against her since she acted with “purely journalistic motivation” and based the report on such evidence as WhatsApp messages, criminal complaints and other documents.

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