Journalist reporting on child abuse in eastern Turkey detained

Journalist Sinan Aygül was detained on Tuesday on charges of “inciting hatred and hostility” after reporting on a child abuse incident in Turkey’s eastern province of Bitlis, the T24 news website reported.

Aygül, editor-in-chief of Bitlis News and the head of the journalists association in the province, tweeted on the alleged abuse of a 14-year-old child, claiming that the suspects were a police officer and a member of the military.

According to Aygül, after the revelation, the governor of Bitlis called him and said they had spoken to the relevant judicial authorities about the case and that the suspects were not a police officer and a military member as Aygül had claimed. Aygül then corrected the news and said the identity of the suspects had not yet been determined.

After his clarification, Aygül announced his detention on social media. “I was detained on charges of inciting hatred and enmity for reporting a child abuse case 3 hours ago. My house is currently being searched by the police. I am being detained and taken to the police station. I am a journalist, journalism is not a crime,” he tweeted.

Aygül was sent to a courthouse on Wednesday morning and was subsequently arrested.

He was the first journalist to be arrested under a controversial “disinformation” law, which criminalizes the dissemination of “false or misleading information” and stipulates prison sentences of between one and three years.

The law, which was approved in parliament and signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in October, has attracted widespread criticism from rights groups and the opposition on accusations it will further cripple free speech in Turkey.

Aygül had previously been fined and jailed many times for exposing another child abuse case in Bitlis and for reporting on other incidents. According to Aygül, more than 130 investigations have been launched into him over his exposés.

Turkey, which is one of 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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