The International Press Institute (IPI) traveled to Diyarbakır, Turkey, to monitor the first hearing of the case in which JINNEWS News Agency News Director Safiye Alağaş, who is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and faces a prison sentence of 7.5 years to 15 years. Alağaş was arrested in Diyarbakır on June 16, 2022 along with 15 colleagues (14 journalists and one media worker). She appeared before the court for the first time after a year in detention.

The hearing was held on June 15, 2023 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court. Representatives from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association (DFG), Media and Legal Studies Association (MLSA), Mesopotamia Women Journalists Platform (MKGP), and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also monitored the hearing.

The hearing, which was scheduled to start at 10:40, started three hours late due to the court’s workload and was attended by Alağaş, her lawyers Resul Temur and Pirozhan Karali, and her interpreter since Alağaş preferred to defend herself in Kurdish.

As evidence, the prosecutor presented news articles, images, social media posts and headlines used by JINNEWS. Alağaş denied all the accusations.

Alağaş’s lawyer Resul Temur said: “I would like to draw attention to the systematic judicial harassment of the Kurdish press and Kurdish journalists and the ideological background of the investigations. The police use the term ‘press terror’ in the investigation documents which cannot be explained in legal terms. It is clear that there is a different motivation behind this investigation.” Temur further added that “the content presented as evidence by the prosecutor does not constitute a crime, and that they fulfill the criteria of reality, timeliness and proportionality of a news piece.”

Temur emphasized that his client was involved in journalistic work alone and demanded that Alağaş be released. Lawyer Pirozhan Karali stated that the parts of the indictment, which is about 400 pages, that are actually related to Alağaş directly only consisted of 10 pages, and demanded the immediate release of her client.

After a short break for an interim decision, the judge decided to release Alağaş and adjourned the case to November 9, 2023.

IPI will continue to monitor journalism in Turkey on trial. In addition to demonstrating solidarity with journalists facing repression, we seek to remind Turkish authorities of their obligations to respect and protect media freedom under international and domestic law.

For IPI’s previous trial observations, please click here.