Uğur Akgül, a former reporter for the now-closed pro-Kurdish Dicle news agency (DİHA), was sent on Wednesday to Mersin Prison to serve out a sentence for reporting on the destruction caused by operations carried out by Turkish security forces against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province in 2015.
Akgül was sentenced to two years, six months in April 2017 and has been free on bail pending appeal.
Turkish security forces had been trying to clear southeastern towns and cities of PKK militants since July 2015, when a two-year cease-fire with the PKK collapsed, shattering a settlement process launched by the government in late 2012 to end Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem and triggering the worst violence seen in the region in two decades.
According to a report by Amnesty International last December, an estimated half million people were forced from their homes as a result of a brutal crackdown by Turkish authorities over the past year, which may amount to collective punishment.
In March 2017, Zehra Doğan, a Turkish artist and reporter for DİHA was given a prison sentence of two years, nine months and 22 days for painting the destruction in Nusaybin.
“I was given two years and 10 months [jail time] only because I painted Turkish flags on destroyed buildings. However, they [the Turkish government] caused this. I only painted it,” Doğan said in a tweet.
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 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of August 6, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 170 were under arrest pending trial while only 67 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 144 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 turkeypurge.com)