Journalist convicted of libel for report on pro-gov’t media group executive

Mob boss Sedat Peker

An İstanbul court has handed down a prison sentence to the managing editor of a newspaper for reporting on a mafia boss’s allegations about the executive of a pro-government media group, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Yeniçağ newspaper.

Erdem Avşar, managing editor of Yeniçağ’s internet edition, on Wednesday was given a one-year sentence by the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on conviction of libel for covering mob boss Sedat Peker’s corruption claims involving Serhat Albayrak.

Albayrak is the deputy chairman of the Turkuvaz Media Group, which has close ties to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He is also the brother of Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son-in-law and a former finance minister.

Avşar has the right to appeal the decision with a regional appeals court.

Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups and once a staunch supporter of Erdoğan, left Turkey in early 2020 following the publication of a report related to arms trafficking to Syria that was allegedly carried out under the guise of humanitarian aid.

The mob boss, who lives in exile in the UAE, sent shockwaves across the country in the summer of 2021 through scandalous revelations on social media about state-mafia relations, drug trafficking and murders implicating former and current state officials and their family members.

He talked about a bribery network involving some politicians and bureaucrats.

Peker claimed that Serhat Albayrak was “the power behind” former Capital Markets Board (SPK) chair Ali Fuat Taşkesenlioğlu, who was involved in a bribery network with his sister, former AKP lawmaker Zehra Taşkesenlioğlu, Erdoğan’s advisor Serkan Taranoğlu and pro-government daily Hürriyet columnist Burak Taşçı.

He claimed that they were all involved in the operation of a network extorting the owners of companies that are listed on the stock exchange.

Albayrak denied Peker’s claims in a statement released by his lawyer, describing them as “slander” and “defamation.” He also filed criminal complaints against the journalists covering Peker’s claims about him.

Turkey, one of the world’s top jailers of journalists, is 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.

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