Journalist assaulted in eastern Turkey faces trial for insulting attacker

Journalist Sinan Aygül

Sinan Aygül, a local journalist based in the eastern province of Bitlis who in June was physically attacked after covering municipal corruption allegations, is now facing trial on charges of insulting one of the assailants, Voice of America (VOA) Turkish edition reported on Tuesday.

If convicted, Aygül may face up to two years in prison on insult charges.

“If I receive a sentence, I will be imprisoned for a longer time than the assailants,” he said in a statement. “They tried to kill me in public for defending taxpayer money. The instigators were clearly identifiable, but they got away with what they did.”

Aygül was physically assaulted by two people connected to Mehmet Emin Geylani, a local district mayor and a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The incident took place shortly after he reported on alleged irregularities involving the municipality, and one of the attackers reportedly said, “If you write about the mayor again, you’ll die.”

Aygül has been constantly targeted due to his coverage of corruption allegations involving members of the AKP. He was previously arrested following a complaint by Vahit Kiler, a former AKP lawmaker from Bitlis, but was later released. The journalist had also reported on allegations of nepotism.

Veysel Ok, co-director of the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), said the prosecution was unacceptable as Aygül had uttered the words under severe provocation during the attack.

“The fact that the judiciary is prosecuting the journalist when it is supposed to go after the perpetrators and combat impunity with the aim of preventing similar attacks on journalists in the future is a message to the journalist that he should stop talking about it,” Ok said.

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, closing down media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016.

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