Journalist sentenced to 11 months in prison for insulting Erdoğan

Journalist Uğur Koç

A Turkish court has sentenced journalist Uğur Koç to 11 months in prison on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Thursday.

Koç was convicted over a news report published in the BirGün daily, of which he was editor-in-chief at the time.

The report featured a photo of an alleged criminal taken in front of a poster of Erdoğan that was already circulating on social media, according to Gazete Duvar.

Under the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison.

According to Justice Ministry data, prosecutors launched over 52,000 investigations into individuals on allegations of insulting Erdoğan or his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) between 2019 and 2022.

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

Rights groups and international organizations have been urging Turkey to abolish the law, which is an undue restriction on free speech, especially since the president is no longer required to be politically impartial under the country’s presidential system of governance adopted in 2017.

Insult charges are often leveled against ordinary citizens expressing criticism and journalists covering news.

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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