Journalist indicted over remarks about father of slain soldier

journalist can atakli

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of up to three years for a veteran journalist on charges of “inciting hatred and hostility among the people” due to his remarks about the father of a slain soldier, Turkish Minute reported, citing the TR724 news website.

An investigation was launched into journalist Can Ataklı in late December over his statements about the father of one of 12 Turkish soldiers who were recently killed in an attack by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq.

The soldiers died in two separate attacks carried out by the PKK, a group designated by Turkey and much of the international community as a terrorist organization, on Turkish military bases in northern Iraq on December 23 and 24.

Mehmet Aslan, the father of Kemal Aslan, one of the slain soldiers, who spoke at his son’s funeral in the eastern province of Elazığ on December 24, said he doesn’t forgive those who advocate for the freedom of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who are currently in prison.

Aslan was referring to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), whose former leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, had promised in March 2022 that he would release the two men if his party came to power in the 2023 elections.

Demirtaş, the former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has been behind bars since November 2016 on politically motivated charges.

Kavala, who faced charges that ranged from espionage and financing protests in 2013 to taking part in a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2016, was arrested in October 2017 and sentenced to life in prison in 2022 for allegedly trying to topple Erdoğan’s government.

The two men remain in prison despite decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) calling for their release.

Commenting on Aslan’s remarks about Demirtaş and Kavala in a video he released on his YouTube channel on Monday, Ataklı criticized the soldier’s father, saying that even if he is the father of a martyr, he does not have the right to speak in such a way against Demirtaş and Kavala.

An indictment drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office charges Ataklı with “inciting hatred and hostility among the people” and seeks a prison sentence of between one and three years.

Ataklı faces the charges despite having an offered an apology the following day to the all families of martyrs in Turkey who might have been offended by that particular part of his commentary.

He said nine seconds of his 22-minute video had been taken out of context by the pro-government media in an attempt to launch a smear campaign against him.

It is common for journalists in Turkey to face charges, prosecution and prison for merely  expressing their opinions or engaging in professional activities.

Turkey, which has a poor record in freedom of the press, was ranked 165th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, plunging 16 places from its ranking of 149th in 2022.

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