Turkey convicts journalist over criticism of former interior minister, gendarmerie commander

Journalist Zafer Arapkirli

A Turkish court has convicted journalist Zafer Arapkirli of insult charges due to his social media criticism of former interior minister Süleyman Soylu and current gendarmerie general commander Arif Çetin, Voice of America Turkish edition reported on Thursday.

Originally more than a year in prison, Arapkirli’s sentence was later converted into a fine of TL 8,857 ($290). The journalist was also ordered to cover Soylu and Çetin’s attorney’s fees.

Arapkirli had quoted a news report on allegations implicating the gendarmerie and criticized Soylu and Çetin over their personal responsibility for the situation, which triggered complaints by the two officials.

Commenting on the ruling, the journalist said the judiciary was being weaponized to deter criticism.

Arapkirli has a similar conviction with fine that is pending appeal, the report said.

Journalists in Turkey commonly face accusations of terrorism, insult, denigration and inciting hatred in connection with their work. Recent legislation enacted by the government has also criminalized spreading “false or misleading information.”

Often cited among the top jailers of journalists in the world, the country 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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