Journalist who stood trial for reporting on opposition politician acquitted of charges

A court in the southeastern Turkish province of Hakkari has acquitted a journalist of charges of spreading misleading information in one of his reports about an opposition politician, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Ruşen Takva was held on Wednesday at the Hakkâri 1st Penal Court of First Instance.

Takva faced charges of spreading misleading information under Article 217 of the Turkish Penal Code due to his report about a local politician from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). He reported in December 2022 that former MHP Hakkari provincial chairman Fatih Özbek was involved in an armed attack in the city and injured a person; however, his security guard, who is related to him, assumed responsibility for the attack and turned himself in to the police instead of Özbek.

The MHP is an election ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Prosecutors demanded the punishment of Takva on the grounds that his report, which allegedly included misleading information, led to unrest in the streets of Hakkari. The journalist said, however, in his defense that he wrote his report after the unrest began and posted videos online showing the tensions in the city.

Takva denied the accusations directed against him and said he would do the same thing if a similar incident were to take place in any part of Turkey as a requirement of his job as a journalist.

He asked for his acquittal.

The court ruled for Takva’s acquittal on the grounds that the elements of a crime were not present.

It is common for journalists in Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, to face threats, physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.

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 is ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

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