8 Kurdish journalists sentenced to over 6 years’ imprisonment in Turkey

Photo: Artı Gerçek

Eight Kurdish journalists who were arrested as part of an Ankara-based investigation and released pending trial on May 16, 2023 have been sentenced to six years, three months in prison, the Artı Gerçek news website reported.

The journalists, affiliated with the Mezopotamya Agency (MA) and JINNEWS, were convicted on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

The case involved MA reporters Diren Yurtsever, Berivan Altan, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalçın, Emrullah Acar, Ceylan Şahinli, Zemo Ağgöz and Deniz Nazlım, along with JINNEWS reporters Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer, and former MA intern Mehmet Günhan.

The Ankara 4th High Criminal Court announced its verdict following a recess. Eren, Şahinli and Günhan were acquitted of charges of membership in a terrorist organization. However, the court sentenced the remaining eight journalists to six years, three months in prison each.

The Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) expressed strong condemnation of the sentences. In a statement the DFG accused the government of attempting to silence journalists through judicial means. “The aim is to make Kurdish journalists incapable of doing their job. Labeling journalists as ‘members of an organization’ based on fabricated witness statements and their reporting is unacceptable,” the DFG statement read. “This verdict sends a message that journalists highlighting the Kurdish issuewill be punished.”

The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

Kurdish journalists in Turkey frequently face legal harassment, stand trial and are given jail sentences for covering issues related to Kurds and the outlawed PKK.

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey, which has been suffering from a poor record of freedom of the press for years, ranks 158th among 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index published on May 3 on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

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