Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into the Cumhuriyet daily’s court reporter, Alican Uludağ, due to a report he wrote about a Turkish court’s decision in July to put an American pastor under house arrest after keeping him in pre-trial detention for almost two years, according to a tweet from the Turkey branch of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
After he was kept in pre-trial detention in an İzmir prison for almost two years on terrorism and espionage charges, US pastor Andrew Brunson was moved to house arrest in July despite expectations of the US administration for his release.
Following the court’s decision on Brunson, Uludağ wrote an article questioning the independence of the court because the same court had ruled for the continuation of Brunson’s pre-trial detention a week earlier. “Is it the judiciary or the state that both jailed and released [the pastor]?” was the headline of his story. The journalist claimed Brunson was jailed by the government and was put under house arrest by the government and not by the court.
The investigation into Uludağ has been initiated based on Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which concerns insulting the Turkish Republic and the state’s agencies and organs.
Uludağ will testify to prosecutors next week, according to RSF.
The detention of Brunson has strained relations between Turkey and the US. In retaliation for Turkey’s failure to free the cleric, the US administration sanctioned two Turkish ministers and doubled tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Turkey. US President Donald Trump had threatened Turkey with further “large sanctions” if the Turkish government failed to release Brunson and send him home.
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 236 journalists and media workers were in jail as of September 20, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 168 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 147 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)