Journalist Hakan Aygün was briefly detained by Turkish police and released after giving a deposition as part of a prosecution prompted by a tweet critical of the Turkish government’s national pandemic relief campaign, he announced on Saturday on Twitter.
Aygün had been released pending trial on May 6 after he was arrested on April 3 for provoking the public to hatred and animosity with a “pun tweet” alluding to the government’s national pandemic relief campaign.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched a national donation campaign on March 31 to assist victims of the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, the international bank account numbers (IBANs) of donation bank accounts were shared on social media, upon which dissidents mocked the campaign with puns.
“Ey IBAN edenler!” journalist Aygün tweeted, replacing the word “iman” (faith) with IBAN, referring to the famous introductory address in sermons, “Oh, those believers!” The public prosecutor considered the tweet an insult to Muslim values under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code.
“I was detained by the coast guard on my boat, taken to the prosecutor’s office and released. I couldn’t go for a deposition because I was in prison. So I was detained twice on the same charge!” Aygün tweeted.
According to the Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2020 World Press Freedom Index in which Turkey was ranked 154th among 180 countries in terms of press freedom, Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.
The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has documented that 177 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey, while 168 wanted on fabricated terrorism charges have been forced to live in exile.
The Turkish government has seized nearly 200 media outlets including the country’s largest daily as well as most popular TV networks since 2015.