A Turkish court is seen in Istanbul on July 6, 2018. Turkey's courts recently opened their new judicial year with fines and stiff penalties for journalists. (AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkish courts open new judicial year with fines, jail sentences for journalists

September 12, 2019 3:18 PM ET

Turkish courts opened their new judicial year on September 2, 2019, with delayed sentences of jailtime, fines, and mandatory library time for journalists, according to news reports.

On September 10, an Izmir court issued a delayed sentence to Melike Aydın, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Jin News Agency, of 1 year and 3 months in prison for "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization" in her social media posts, reports said; the sentence will only be imposed if the journalist repeats the offense in the next five years.

On September 11, an Istanbul court sentenced Uğur Dündar, a columnist for the opposition daily Sözcü, to 11 months and 20 days in prison for insulting former prime minister and parliamentary chair Binali Yıldırım in a 2014 column, according to a report by his employer. During its sentencing, however, the court changed the punishment to a mandate that Dündar spend at least two hours a week in a library reading about “crimes against dignity” for five months and 25 days, according to news reports.

Dündar’s lawyer, İsmail Yılmaz, told Sözcü that Yıldırım withdrew his insult complaint during the duration of the trial, which should have voided the charges; he said he planned to appeal the verdict.

On September 12, an Istanbul court acquitted Cem Şimşek, a news editor responsible for representing the leftist daily Evrensel in court, of charges of insulting the president’s son-in-law in an article published in the newspaper, according to a report by his employer, but issued a 41,660 lira ($7,323) fine to the paper for improperly publishing a correction to the article in question.

The Evrensel article was published on July 13, 2018, and criticized a Turkish economic program, according to reports. Berat Albayrak, who is minister of finance and of the treasury, and is also the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, filed a complaint with an Istanbul court shortly after the article’s publication, and the paper published a correction on July 22, according to that report. In its September 12 acquittal, the Istanbul court ruled that the daily improperly retitled the article after issuing its correction, according to the Evrensel report.

Also on September 12, an Istanbul court issued delayed sentences, meaning they will not be imposed unless the accused repeat the offense within the next five years, to Cihan Acar, former reporter for the shuttered opposition daily Özgür Düşünce, lawyer Veysel Ok, and Barış İnce, former news editor responsible for representing leftist daily BirGün in court, according to reports.

Acar and Ok were both issued delayed sentences of five months in prison for insulting the Turkish judiciary in an interview Ok gave to Acar in 2015, reports said. Both plan to appeal the sentences, according to those reports.

İnce was give a delayed sentence of 11 months and 20 days in prison for allegedly insulting President Erdoğan in written testimony he presented to the court, reports said.

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