Jail terms for Turkish reporters who named intelligence agents in Libya

The defendants denied the accusations, saying they were doing their jobs as reporters.
Thursday 10/09/2020
Demonstrators hold posters of jailed journalists as they hold a protest in front of a courthouse in Istanbul on September 9. (AFP)
Demonstrators hold posters of jailed journalists as they hold a protest in front of a courthouse in Istanbul on September 9. (AFP)

ISTANBUL - A Turkish court gave jail sentences on Wednesday to several journalists for revealing identities of two security agents who died in Libya where Ankara is involved military on the side of the Islamist-dominated Government of National Accord (GNA), a lawyer said.

The charges centered on articles and social media posts published  although Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself said in February that “several martyrs” had been lost in Libya.

The court sentenced Aydin Keser, Ferhat Celik and Murat Agirel, who work for the pro-Kurdish Yeni Yasam daily, to four years and eight months in jail on the MIT law charges.

It sentenced OdaTV editor-in-chief Baris Pehlivan and reporter Hulya Kilinc to three years and nine months on the same charges, while acquiting OdaTV news director Baris Terkoglu.

They were all released pending appeals, one of the defence lawyers Serkan Gunel told the media.

Pehlivan, Kilinc and Agirel had been in jail since March.

“What I have done is only journalism,” Kilinc told the judge earlier in her defence. “I have been a journalist for 20 years. I have no intention to commit a crime.”

The defendants denied the accusations, saying they were doing their jobs as reporters.

Critics say Erdogan has eroded the independence of courts and the media since a crackdown following an attempted coup in 2016.

Turkey has provided military help to the GNA, including air defence equipment, intelligence support and the dispatching of Turkish army personnel and thousands of mercenaries.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the journalists were charged May 8 by an Istanbul with violating the country’s intelligence laws in their coverage of a Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative who was killed in Libya.

“Journalists from the opposing factions of Turkey’s social and political spectrum are charged together in this indictment with the claim of a conspiracy against Turkey’s intelligence agency, of which there is no evidence presented,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Turkey should stop attempting to control independent journalism with intimidation, immediately free the arrested journalists, and drop this case,” added Said.

The CPJ, which reviewed the indictment papers, said the charges “stem from the journalists’ coverage of the death of an MİT operative who was killed in Libya”. The reporters are accused of  disclosing information about the officer while covering  his funeral in Turkey on March 3.

“The indictment also charges Eren Ekinci, a civil servant at the media office of the Akhisar municipality, where the officer’s funeral was held, with violating the country’s intelligence laws for allegedly sharing footage of the funeral”, said the media organisation.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Turkey among the top jailers of journalists worldwide.

As many as 85 journalists and other media workers are currently in jail under Turkey’s broad anti-terrorism laws, according to the Turkish Journalists Syndicate, including many who were detained in a crackdown following a 2016 coup attempt.