Journalist reporting from northern Syria gets suspended sentence on terrorism charges

A former reporter from Turkey’s Dicle news agency (DİHA) has been handed down a suspended three-year sentence on conviction of terrorism due to his professional activities in northern Syria, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Artı Gerçek news website.

The Ankara 15th High Criminal Court handed down a prison sentence of two years, 10 months to journalist Hayri Demir on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK, which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

During the last hearing of Demir’s trial on Wednesday, when the journalist was not in attendance, his lawyer Nuray Özdoğan said videos and images from northern Syria taken by his client that made their way into the indictment are journalistic materials.

The lawyer said pro-government TV station A Haber and pro-government newspaper Hürriyet also used Demir’s photos and videos from northern Syria in 2015, adding that NTV also broadcast images and videos from the region similar to those of Demir at the time.

“Is what constitutes a crime here the fact that my client worked for DİHA?” the lawyer asked.

Demir was acquitted of the charges of terrorist organization membership, another charge in the indictment.

Kurdish journalists in Turkey or those working for Kurdish outlets frequently face legal harassment, stand trial and are given jail sentences for covering issues related to Kurds and the PKK.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index, released in early May.

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