PEN Norway releases ‘indictment guide’ for Turkey’s prosecutors

PEN Norway, a branch of global press association PEN International, has released a guide for Turkey’s prosecutors to follow when drafting indictments for cases concerning freedom of expression and the media, the Bianet news website reported on Monday.

The “Indictment Writing Guide for Prosecutors in Turkey” was published as part of the NGO’s project to examine indictments prepared by prosecutors and identify their shortcomings in terms of compliance with international human rights standards and fair trial principles.

As part of the project 29 indictments drafted between 2020 and 2023 were examined by legal professionals and law experts from Norway, Austria, UK, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

PEN Norway said indictments full of defects and deficiencies are at the core of trials directly related to freedom of expression in Turkey and that these indictments disregard a number of fundamental principles such as a presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.

The group said the guide aims to improve Turkish prosecutors’ indictment writing skills and contribute to fewer indictments being drafted in cases related to free speech and press freedom.

Journalists, academics, activists and social media users in Turkey commonly face accusations of terrorism, insult, denigration and inciting hatred over their public, televised or online commentary. Recent legislation enacted by the government has also criminalized spreading “false or misleading information.”

Many human rights groups have also reported a lack of judicial independence in the country, which was ranked 117th among 142 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) in October, dropping one rank in comparison to the previous year.

Turkey is among the top jailers of journalists in the world and was 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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