Pro-Kurdish reporter sentenced to jail in Turkey

New York, March 13, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the jail sentence handed to a journalist in Turkey and calls on authorities to overturn the ruling on appeal.

A regional court in eastern Van province sentenced Murat Aydin, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency, or DİHA, to six years and three months in jail on charges of alleged membership in the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, local press reported. Aydin denied the accusations and said he was being prosecuted in connection with his work. His lawyer, Halil Kartal, told CPJ that he would be appealing the verdict and that Aydin would not be jailed until the Supreme Court of Appeals had reviewed the case.

Kartal told CPJ that prosecutors cited Aydın’s professional activities as evidence, including the journalist’s phone conversations with DİHA and other news outlets. In one, Kartal said, the reporter had relayed a statement from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, which holds 36 seats in Turkey’s parliament, to the pro-PKK satellite station Roj TV.

“Turkey has the opportunity at this very important political juncture to do right by all its journalists,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “The appeals court should overturn the politicized verdict against Murat Aydın. Reporting on Kurdish affairs is not a crime. We urge Turkish authorities to uphold the democratic values they espouse by releasing all jailed journalists and allowing the media to perform their vital role of informing the public without fear of reprisal.”

Aydın was arrested in October 2011 and held in Bayburt M Type Prison until he was released in September 2012 after his first court hearing. Kartal told CPJ that Aydın was abused by police during his arrest and detention. Aydın said that authorities had focused exclusively on his journalism during the interrogations, according to an open letter he wrote that was published by the independent news portal Bianet while he was in jail.

Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, according to CPJ research. At least 49 journalists were behind bars when CPJ conducted its worldwide prison census on December 1, 2012.