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Eighteen journalists could face seven years in jail for publishing photo

Members of special security forces stand outside the main courthouse in Istanbul, Turkey, 31 March 2015
Members of special security forces stand outside the main courthouse in Istanbul, Turkey, 31 March 2015

AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

This statement was originally published on ifj.org on 5 August 2015.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European organisation, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), have urged Turkey to drop the “terrorism charges” against 18 journalists who could face 7.5 years in prison for publishing a photo.

Following a series of crackdown on online media in the past weeks in Turkey, the chief prosecutors' office in Istanbul yesterday launched a prosecution against 18 journalists working for nine different newspapers on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” after publishing a picture from an hostage siege that took place on 31 March 2015 in Istanbul when two terrorists from the outlawed Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) attacked a Turkish prosecutor in his office.

Journalists working for the daily newpapers Cumhuriyet, Millet, Şok, Posta, Yurt, Bugün, Özgür Gündem, Aydınlık and Birgün are being prosecuted for the publication of a picture showing the siege.

The image widely circulated on social media was also published by several Turkish and international newspapers and news websites to illustrate their coverage of the siege. Among the 18 prosecuted journailsts, Can Dündar, the edior-in-chief for Cumhuriyet, compared this case with the broadcasting of the footage depicting the execution of journalists by ISIS. “7.5 years of jail for publishing a photo of a hostage taken by the DHKP-C but nothing for broadcasting footage of hostages taken by ISIS,” said Dündar in a message published on his social media account.

"We are gravely concerned by this attack on media freedom in Turkey by the government," said the IFJ president Jim Boumelha. "This latest threat to criminalise journalists as terrorists is unacceptable in any democratic society. We urge the authorities to allow journalists to do their jobs in order to inform the Turkish population.”

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, the EFJ President, added, “Journalists should be allowed to make their own editorial decision without the fear of censorship or imprisonment. The government must stop abusing the judicial system and using it to silence journalists and critical voices.”

The IFJ and EFJ affiliate, the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), defended the journalists saying “reporting the facts as they are in the public interest is called journalism, not doing propaganda on behalf a terrorist organisation.”

The 18 journalists being prosecuted in this case are :

Berkant Gültekin, Birgün newspaper
Ibrahim Aydin, Birgün newspaper
Kaan Özbek, Sok newspaper
Orhan Duman, Sok newspaper
Sedat Gülmez, Millet newspaper
Cuma Ulus, Millet newspaper
Seçil Sengelir, Posta newspaper
Mehmet Emin Öztürk, Posta newspaper
Basak Günsever, Yurt newspaper
Orhan Sahin, Yurt newspaper
Gökhan Corbaci, Bugün newspaper
Temel Tanadalan, Bugün newspaper
Abbas Yalçin, Cumhuriyet newspaper
Can Dündar, Cumhuriyet newspaper
Reyhan Capan, Özgür Gündem newspaper
Emire Eren Keskin, Özgür Gündem newspaper
Murat Simsek, Aydinlik newspaper
Mehmet Sabuncu, Aydinliknewspaper

In the past weeks, Turkey has also tightened its censorship on the internet and media. Access to over 100 news and information websites and social media was blocked. Nearly all of the more than 77 million websites hosted by WordPress.com were inaccessible to the people of Turkey due to administrative decision taken by the Turkish authorities. The TGS (Journalists Union of Turkey, EFJ-IFJ affiliate), TGC (Association of Journalists in Turkey), Disk Basin-Is (Progressive Journalists Union of Turkey) and Kurdish and Turkish journalists gathered recently in Istanbul to speak out against the growing media bans and censorship in the country.

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