Turkish court sentences journalist Yasir Kaya to 6 years in prison over Gülen links

A Turkish court sentenced journalist Yasir Kaya, former news director of Fenerbahçe TV, to six years, three months in prison on Monday over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The hearing at the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court was attended by Kaya and his lawyers. Although the defendant denied all the accusations, including his alleged use of the ByLock mobile phone application, the court initially sentenced him to seven years, six months in prison.

Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool among alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen, and even housewives have either been dismissed or arrested for allegedly using ByLock since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The court then reduced his sentence to six years, three months for good behavior during the trial. The court also ruled for the continuation of an international travel ban imposed on Kaya.

Kaya was arrested on August 16, 2017, over his alleged links to the Gülen movement and he released on March 24, 2018 on judicial probation.

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 239 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 31, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 170 were under arrest pending trial while only 69 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 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 a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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