Journalist given suspended sentence on Erdoğan insult charges

Journalist Levent Gültekin

An İstanbul court has handed down a suspended sentence to a journalist on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan due to his criticism of the president on TV, Turkish Minute reported on Tuesday.

The Bakırköy 44th Criminal Court of First Instance on Tuesday gave journalist Levent Gültekin an 11 month suspended sentence for insulting the president during a program on the pro-opposition Halk TV on September 27, 2022.

Gültekin announced the development on his X account.

Levent Gültekin on X: “Bugün görülen davada Cumhurbaşkanına hakaretten 11 ay 20 gün ceza aldım. Sağlık olsun bakalım.” / X (

The journalist’s comments on Halk TV referred to a terrorist attack on a police station in the southern province of Mersin in September 2022, in which a policeman was killed.

Gültekin said the government’s polarizing discourse was responsible for such incidents occurring in the country.

“If there is a separatist in Turkey, it is Tayyip Erdoğan,” Gültekin said, accusing the president of polarizing people and trying to stay in power by fomenting enmity among the public. He also accused Erdoğan and his government of being mired in corruption and having no plans to relinquish power.

In his defense during Tuesday’s hearing, Gültekin emphasized the responsibility of journalists to criticize, adding that their main task is to inform and warn the public about events in the country.

In Turkey thousands of people are investigated, prosecuted or convicted of insult charges against the president, which is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

Justice Ministry data showed last week that between 2019 and 2022, a total of 52,348 citizens were investigated on charges of insulting the president or insulting the Turkish nation, state, republic or state institutions, which is outlined in Article 301.

Only 1,716 insult cases were filed during the terms in office of the five presidents who preceded Erdoğan.

Turkey, which is known as one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, ranks 165th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, which was released in early May.

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