Journalist given suspended sentence on Erdoğan insult charges

Journalist Mustafa Bildircin

A Turkish court has handed down a suspended sentence to a reporter from the anti-government Birgün daily on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish Minute reported, citing the newspaper.

Birgün reporter Mustafa Bildircin was given the 11-month suspended sentence due to a report published by the daily on Jan. 13, 2022 in which he revealed how members of some religious groups and communities as well as pro-government foundations have filled state posts under Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

The report, titled “Karanlık Sarmalı” (Cycle of Darkness), does not include any insults against Erdoğan, who is referred to as the AKP leader in one instance and as the father of Bilal Erdoğan in another.

Insulting the president 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.

Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) in a statement on Tuesday condemned the sentence handed down to Bildircin, who is an executive board member of the ÇYD’s Ankara branch, saying that Turkey has become a country where journalists are systematically punished for their work.

The association said 263 journalists appeared in court at least in 174 trials in 2022 and that 40 of them were given prison sentences totaling 93 years.

The ÇGD said it was well aware that the sentence given to Bildircin is neither the first nor will it be the last handed down to a journalist but that journalists will not be deterred by such punishments from doing their job.

“We will overcome this darkness with our fight for journalism,” said the association.

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 announced in early May.

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