The IPI global network condemned today a ruling by an appeals court in Turkey upholding sentences against five journalists who allegedly “revealed” the name of a Turkish national intelligence (MIT) officer after reporting on his funeral.
In September 2020, the five journalists were sentenced to various prison terms by a local court. Ferhat Çelik; Aydın Keser of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Yeni Yaş; and Murat Ağırel of Yeniçağ newspaper were sentenced to four years, eight months and 17 days each, while Barış Pehlivan and Hülya Kılınç of OdaTV were sentenced to three years and nine months each. They were convicted of “revealing information regarding intelligence operations” under MIT Law No. 27 after reporting on the funeral of an MIT officer who died in Libya earlier in 2020. All five defendants were acquitted on an additional charge of “revealing secret documents regarding the national security and political interests” under Article 329 of the Turkish Criminal Code, which foresees up to 10 years in prison. Former OdaTV journalist Barış Terkoğlu was acquitted of both charges.
This week, an Istanbul regional appeals court upheld that ruling. However, all five journalists can still appeal to Turkey’s Supreme Court of Cassation following reforms introduced in 2019. Previously, defendants who received jail sentences less than five years could not appeal further.
“The appeals court ruling is the latest unjust development in a Kafkaesque case in which five journalists were sentenced for revealing the name of an intelligence officer, despite the fact that this officer’s name had already been made public by members of Turkey’s parliament”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavas said. “The Supreme Court of Cassation must urgently overturn these verdicts and reaffirm media freedom and the right of journalists to report on public affairs.”