Turkish court orders journalists to pay damages to retired general

Journalists Mehmet Baransu (L), Yasemin Çongar, Ahmet Altan, Yıldıray Oğur (R)

A court in İstanbul has ordered four journalists to pay damages to a retired general due to five articles that were published in the now-defunct Taraf daily, Expression Interrupted reported on Wednesday.

The trial concerned Taraf’s coverage of an alleged 2003 military plot, known as “Sledgehammer,” devised by ultranationalist officers to overthrow the government

Journalists Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Mehmet Baransu and Yıldıray Oğur were tried and found guilty in 2022 of “obtaining information related to national security” and were sentenced to prison, while retired general Çetin Doğan, whose name was involved in the Sledgehammer allegations, had sued for damages in civil court, claiming defamation.

Taraf, a daily known for its coverage of allegations of coup-plotting and misconduct involving Turkey’s military, was shut down by executive decree as part of the government’s widespread crackdown on media outlets after a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Many of its reporters have faced criminal prosecution, including Baransu, who has been behind bars since 2015 on several charges related to his news coverage.

Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailers of professional journalists and was ranked 158th among 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index published on May 3.

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