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Courts hand down suspended sentences to 2 journalists for insult, injury

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Two Turkish courts have handed down suspended sentences to two journalists on charges of insult and intentional injury, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Wednesday.

The opposition Birgün daily’s political editor, Gökay Başcan, was given a suspended sentence due to a photograph and photo caption used in an article published on Jan. 15, 2021 that criticized the lack of judicial independence in the country.

The article included a photo of Yüksel Kocaman, the former Ankara chief public prosecutor and current member of the Supreme Court of Appeals, visiting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after his wedding, along with the statement, “Kocaman was appointed to the Supreme Court of Appeals shortly after the wedding,” implying that Kocaman’s close relationship with Erdoğan won him a seat on the court.

The İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on Wednesday handed down a suspended sentence to Gökay of 23 months on conviction of “insulting a public officer” and “insulting the president.”

The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) also reported on Wednesday that journalist İdris Yılmaz, who was attacked while investigating corruption allegations in the Erciş district of Van in eastern Turkey, received a suspended prison sentence of more than four months for “intentional injury.”

Journalist İdris Yılmaz

Yılmaz and fellow journalist Erhan Akbaş were attacked by contractor Şahin Yağar and his associates on Oct. 14, 2017 while attempting to report on a coastal road project that was put out to tender by the Erciş Municipality. The journalists’ equipment was damaged during the attack.

The Erciş 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on June 6 handed down a suspended sentence to Yılmaz, considering his camera to have been a weapon causing injury when attempting to defend himself.

Turkey, which is known among the top jailers of journalists in the world, ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of 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, especially after President Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016.

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