27 int’l rights, press groups call for release of jailed TV journalist Sedef Kabaş

Twenty-nine international human rights and journalists organizations have in a joint statement called for the release of prominent TV journalist Sedef Kabaş from pre-trial detention and for an end to the judicial harassment of the independent media in Turkey, Turkish Minute reported, citing the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF).

Kabaş was detained during a midnight police raid in İstanbul on Jan. 22 following comments she made about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on a TV program aired on TELE1 on Jan. 14.

In their joint statement the international groups, which included the 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, called for the immediate release of Kabaş and of all other detained or arrested journalists.

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.

The crime of insulting the president carries a jail sentence of one to four years in Turkey.

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 last week 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.

In addition, the international organizations also called for a full investigation into the death threats against journalist Alican Uludağ, “whose safety and protection must be guaranteed by the authorities.”

Uludağ, a court reporter and Ankara chairperson of the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), received death threats on Twitter following his reporting that the judge who ordered the arrest of Kabaş was the same judge who ordered the re-arrest of Osman Kavala in 2020.

Kavala, a 64-year-old businessman and philanthropist, has been held without a conviction since October 2017 for allegedly financing a wave of 2013 anti-government protests and playing a role in an attempted coup against President Erdoğan in 2016.

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