Turkish authorities should stop bullying journalists and drop charges against Oktay Candemir: CPJ

Oktay Candemir

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkish authorities to immediately drop all charges against journalist Oktay Candemir, who was charged with “insulting the memory of a dead person” after he posted a satirical tweet about a historical drama series produced by state broadcaster TRT on Ertuğrul Gazi, the father of the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

“The last thing that Turkey – long one of the world’s leading jailers of the press – needs is new ways to bully and jail journalists,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Authorities should immediately return the computer and archive of Oktay Candemir and drop the absurd charge against him.”

Candemir, who wrote columns for the pro-Kurdish Nupel news website, was arrested on Tuesday in the eastern city of Van. He was released Wednesday under judicial supervision, with a travel ban and a requirement to regularly check in at a police station while his trial is pending. Candemir’s personal computer and news archive were confiscated by the police, according to a report by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA). If convicted, he faces up to two years in prison.

In a statement made as he left the courthouse, Candemir said he believed the charge was an attempt to make journalists feel under pressure and take a step back. According to Candemir’s lawyer, Deniz Yıldız, the insult offense was actionable only if a relative of the deceased person files a complaint, and in this case no one has done so. Meanwhile, Candemir has ongoing trials for resisting the police and for his reports on Turkey’s military operations in Syria’s Afrin region.

According to the CPJ, Turkey is one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists together with China, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In a December 2019 report the CPJ said Turkey has “stamped out virtually all independent reporting.”

According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 175 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey, while 167 are wanted and are either in exile or remain at large.

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