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Turkish journalists get two years in jail for reprinting Charlie Hebdo cartoon

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 28 April 2016.

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the two-year jail sentences that an Istanbul court passed today on two journalists with the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet for reproducing the cover cartoon of the Charlie Hebdo “Survivors Issue,” the first issue published after the January 2015 attack on the Paris-based magazine.

The court convicted Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya under article 216.1 of the criminal code of “inciting hatred and hostility” of a religious nature by including small versions of the cartoon in their columns. It showed Mohamed holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign under the headline “All is forgiven.”

Both the Turkish authorities and Islamist groups hounded Cumhuriyet over this show of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo one week after the shooting attack in which eight staff members and four others were killed.

“Convicting Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya is intolerable,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Not only have these journalists never incited hatred but, on the contrary, they were the leading victims of a violent campaign unleashed against Cumhuriyet.”

“The justice system seems to have legitimized this campaign by imposing exceptionally harsh sentences. We urge the appeal court to overturn this conviction on the constitutional grounds of freedom of expression.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's daughters and son-in-law were among the 1,280 people who, together with the Islamic group Özgür Der, filed a complaint against the journalists.

Cumhuriyet lawyer Bülent Utku told RSF that he immediately appealed against the conviction. For the time being, Karan and Cetinkaya are still free but they will go to prison if the sentence is upheld. Utku deplored the court's failure to use its right to suspend the sentence or commute it to a fine.

Karan and Cetinkaya have received repeated death threats since their show of solidarity.

“No one has to share our opinion,” Karan said during one of the last hearings in the trial. “But if senior political officials – who are liable to exert an influence over society and who are supposed to remain neutral vis-à-vis the different communities – provoke violence, murder and lynching, this means that everyone is in danger. If not today, then tomorrow.”

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