Turkish journalist sent to prison after employer fails to pay fine for offensive column

Turkish journalist Hakan Gülseven was arrested on Tuesday in Balıkesir province after the media outlet he was working for, the Yurt daily, failed to pay a fine resulting from a conviction in 2014, the Diken news website reported.

Gülseven wrote a column criticizing what he called insulting remarks made by former Sakarya Governor Hüseyin Avni Coş and was tried and handed down an 11 month, 20 day jail sentence, which the court later commuted to a TL 7,000 fine.

The Yurt daily could not pay the fine, according to his lawyer, Deniz İpek, and the verdict has now been converted to 350 days in prison. Gülseven was sent to Burhaniye Prison in Balıkesir following his detention by police.

Journalist Gülseven was released on Wednesday night after his friends paid for his fine. Gülseven wrote on his Twitter account that  “My old friends from ODTÜ (Middle East Technical University) got me out of prison as of tonight. Thanks to them and everyone who acted in solidarity. I will be able to write in detail later.”

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 242 journalists and media workers were in jail as of June 3, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 182 were under arrest pending trial while only 60 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 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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