The International Press Institute (IPI) called today on Turkish authorities to dismiss all charges against local journalist Ozan Kaplanoğlu who was sentenced earlier this month to almost two years in prison for reporting on a press release.

Kaplanoğlu, the editor-in-chief of the online news site and a board member of the Bursa Association of Contemporary Journalists, was accused of “spreading terrorist propaganda” for reporting on a press statement in January 2018 launched at the Labor Party (EMEP) building in the western Turkish province of Bursa. The launch saw trade unions, civil society groups and political parties read out a common statement against the Turkish military operation in Afrin, Syria.

“The fact that journalists who carry out journalistic activities are being sentenced to prison is nothing but the targeting of journalism itself”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavas said. “Local journalists in Turkey are especially vulnerable to intimidation by the authorities as they lack legal resources to defend their rights. Kaplanoğlu’s sentence must be overturned on appeal to protect freedom of the press.”

Following the press release, on February 2, 2018, the police detained Kaplanoğlu on charges of making terrorist propaganda. Kaplanoğlu was released on bail three days later after his initial statement was taken by the court.

On June 10, 2021, Kaplanoğlu was sentenced to one year, ten months, and 15 days in prison during a hearing held at the Bursa 10th High Criminal Court. Kaplanoğlu has appealed the ruling at the regional court.

Kaplanoğlu, who has worked as a local journalist for years in Bursa, spoke to IPI following the verdict, stressing the importance of local journalism to keep the public informed. He said that news produced locally helps to enrich the national news flow.

“One of the most serious difficulties of practicing journalism for local independent media organizations is the risk of being arrested along with those who made the press statement. And this trial process brings extra difficulties and negative impact to independent media, such as reducing the sales of newspapers and making it difficult to get advertisements”, Kaplanoğlu added.

Kaplanoğlu, who has been subject to investigations for his reporting before, underlined that this sentence was not the first given to him in Bursa. He said these penalties were part of the authorities’ policy of intimidating local journalists.

IPI has submitted an alert on the Council of Europe Platform to protect and promote the safety of journalists on Kaplanoğlu’s case.