Turkish court sentences former TRT cameraman for allegedly insulting Erdoğan

Binali Erdoğan, a cameraman who used to work for the state-run Turkish Radio and Television (TRT), has been given a suspended jail sentence of 10 months on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media, Turkish media reports said on Tuesday.

The cameraman was fired by the TRT due to his messages critical of President Erdoğan and was put in pre-trial detention on Oct. 20, 2017, in İzmir on insult charges. He was released 32 days later pending trial.

The TRT launched a criminal complaint against cameraman Erdoğan on charges of insulting the president.

The İzmir 25thPenal Court of First Instance concluded Erdoğan’s trial on Tuesday and handed down a suspended jail sentence of 10 months.

The cameraman said in his defense that he had no intention of insulting the president and that his views should be taken within the scope of freedom of expression.

Hundreds of people in Turkey, even including high school students, face charges of insulting President Erdoğan. The slightest criticism is considered an insult, and there has been a rise in the number of cases in which people inform on others claiming that they insulted the president, the government or government officials.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency on July 21, police teams under the command of the cybercrime unit determined the existence of 126,000 social media accounts related to alleged terrorist organizations in the last two years.

The report said about 50,000 out of 68,000 profiled social media accounts that allegedly posted pro-coup messages in the wake of a coup bid in July 2016 belong to alleged members of the Gülen movement.

According to the report, 17,000 of the social media accounts are allegedly linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), while a thousand of them are said to be connected to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

It was also claimed that 60 percent of social media posts believed to be supportive of “terrorist organizations” have been made by alleged members of the Gülen movement. The Turkish government led by President Erdoğan has labeled the pacifist Gülen movement as a “terrorist organization,” calling it “FETÖ.”

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 236 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Sept. 13, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 168 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 147 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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