Turkish journalist Coşkun faces 3 years in prison over report

Journalist Canan Coşkun.

An İstanbul prosecutor presented his final opinion to a court on Tuesday in a case against journalist Canan Coşkun, demanding up to three years’ jail time on accusations of “targeting officials involved in a counterterrorism operation.”

The verdict will be given by the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court on July 19.

The Cumhuriyet daily’s court correspondent Coşkun on Sept. 20 reported on the testimony of lawyers who had been detained for alleged membership in the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C), which is designated as a leftist terror group by Turkish authorities. The prosecutor also accused Coşkun of “putting the investigation into the group at risk.”

Meanwhile, a judge for the İstanbul 3rd Penal Court of Peace on Tuesday ruled to block Internet access to the tweets of Turkey’s Journalists Union (TGS) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) that expressed solidarity with a journalist standing trial for reporting on the tax haven businesses of a Turkish minister.

Newly appointed Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, previously energy minister, had filed a criminal complaint against Cumhurriyet daily journalist Pelin Ünker for reporting in November 2017 on the offshore businesses of Albayrak and his brother revealed by the Panama Papers, a project of journalists around the world exposing politicians’ business ties with tax havens.

Ünker’s report covered the time that Albayrak and his brother were executives with Çalık Holding in the early 2000s. In addition to the Albayrak brothers, then-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s two sons had offshore companies in tax havens.

A week later, a judge for the İstanbul 4th Penal Court of Peace ordered a block on Internet access to those news stories. After the revelation, Albayrak also filed criminal complaints against the journalists who reported on the Panama Papers, including Ünker.

The TGS and RSF tweets called on colleagues to attend the first hearing in Ünker’s trial in a show of support for her right to exercise freedom of expression. “Mr. Minister, congratulations for your new job. … You can’t silence us. See you in court,” the TGS tweeted on Tuesday after the judge’s decision.

Former Energy Minister Albayrak recently was appointed treasury and finance minister by his father-in-law, President Erdoğan.

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 July 9, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 178 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 143 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. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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