Istanbul, September 8, 2020 – Turkish authorities should immediately return the confiscated property of journalist Oktay Candemir and drop all charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Yesterday, police in the eastern city of Van arrested Candemir, a freelance journalist who writes columns for the pro-Kurdish news website Nupel, at his home, according to news reports.
Today, the court released Candemir after charging him with “insulting the memory of a dead person,” according to a report by the Media and Legal Studies Association, a local free expression group. He is subject to a foreign travel ban, is required to regularly check in to a police station while his case is pending, and police have confiscated his computer and personal archive, according to that report.
The insult charge stems from a satirical tweet that Candemir posted on his personal account on September 3, where he has about 7,500 followers and frequently posts his reporting and commentary, in which he mocked a historical drama series produced by state broadcaster TRT. Authorities allege that the tweet insulted Ertuğrul Ghazi, a sultan who died around 1280, according to those reports.
If convicted, he could face up to two years in prison, according to Turkish law. No trial date has been set, according to those reports.
“The last thing that Turkey—long one of the world’s leading jailers of the press—needs is new ways to bully and jail journalists,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna, in New York. “Authorities should immediately return the computer and archive of journalist Oktay Candemir and drop the absurd charge against him.”
Candemir told the court that he did not mean to insult historical figures but just made fun of the modern series, according to the Media and Legal Studies Association report. Deniz Yıldız, Candemir’s lawyer, said that insult offense was actionable only if a relative of the deceased person files a complaint, and said that no one had done so, according to that report.
In a statement made as he left the courthouse, Candemir said he believed the charge was an attempt to “make journalists feel under pressure and take a step back,” according to the Media and Legal Studies Association.
CPJ emailed the Van central police department for comment but did not receive any response.
Journalists in Turkey have often faced difficulty getting their confiscated property returned from police, sometimes not getting it back at all, according to CPJ reporting.
[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its second paragraph to correct the name of the outlet where Candemir contributes columns.]