According to a trial monitoring study conducted in Turkey by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) and the International Press Institute (IPI), journalistic work is used as evidence against journalists in the overwhelming majority of convictions.
The study was supported by the European Commission’s Civil Society Support Programme-II and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and covers the February 2019 to March 2020 period.
According to MLSA Co-director Veysel Ok, journalism is still associated with terrorism in Turkey and in most of the trials, “The evidence is made up of social media posts, news stories, articles and TV broadcasts.”
The report says that in 98 of the 169 cases (60 percent) defendants were charged with terrorism-related offenses. In 76 percent of these cases, the prosecution relied primarily on journalistic work such as published articles and news reports as well as statements and announcements made on TV broadcasts and in social media posts as evidence. In many such cases, the courts handed down substantial prison sentences or high fines.
According to the study, right to a lawful judge remained a concerning topic. In 27 percent of the cases at least one member of the judicial panel was changed. In 22 percent of the cases, it was the presiding judge who was changed.
Moreover, in most of these cases changes to the panel of judges occurred in the later stages of trials, and this further slowed proceedings as the new judges needed time to familiarize themselves with the case. The groups’ press release states that the “[a]ppointments of new judges later in a trial undermines the impartiality of judges that appear to have been appointed to deliver pre-determined verdicts in cases they are unfamiliar with.”
The trial monitoring report also includes detailed case studies in different categories of charges.