Istanbul, July 19, 2019–Documentary filmmakers Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Çayan Demirel, directors of the 2015 documentary movie “Bakur” (“North”), about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were sentenced to four years and six months in prison yesterday for “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization” by a court in the southeastern city of Batman, according to news reports. The court initially sentenced the defendants to three years each but increased the sentences as required by Turkish law because the “propaganda” was made “through press and broadcast,” according to the same reports.
“The harsh sentences handed down against filmmakers Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Çayan Demirel for documenting the Kurdistan Workers Party are just the latest example of the use of Turkey’s anti-terror law to crush freedom of expression,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. “We call on Turkish authorities to drop this case and stop conflating news coverage of terrorism with actual terrorism.”
Mavioğlu and Demirel were not under arrest during the trial, and are free pending appeal but banned from foreign travel, the reports added. Mavioğlu tweeted after the verdict, saying they were not able to offer their final defense statement to the court.
In 2018, CPJ was a signatory to a joint letter calling for their acquittal, addressed to the Culture and Justice Ministers.