German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel is seen in Berlin, Germany, on July 16, 2020. He was recently charged with "degrading" Turkey in his work. (Reuters/Marlene Gawrisch/Die Welt)

Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel charged with ‘degrading’ the country

Istanbul, May 13, 2021 – Turkish authorities must cease their legal harassment of journalist Deniz Yücel and drop all of the charges against him, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, Turkish prosecutors charged Yücel, the former Turkey correspondent for the German newspaper Die Welt, with “publicly degrading the Turkish nation and the State of the Republic of Turkey” in two articles from 2016, according to news reports and a copy of the indictment, which CPJ reviewed.

The trial is scheduled to start on July 1 in Istanbul in Yücel’s absence, as he lives in Germany; if convicted, he could be issued a jail term of up to two years, according to those reports. Yücel tweeted yesterday that he stood by his writing.

“Turkish authorities are going out of their way to concoct new charges to harass Deniz Yücel, whose only crime was that he did his job as a member of the press,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza Said, in New York. “Authorities should drop the trumped-up charges against Yücel and end their vindictive campaign to stifle him and other reporters in the country.”

According to the indictment, Yücel “degraded” Turkey in two articles he published in Die Welt in 2016: one in which he used the term “genocide of the Armenians,” and another in which he repeated a well-known political joke about Turks and Kurds.

Yücel, a German-Turkish dual citizen, was previously imprisoned in Turkey from February 14, 2017, to February 16, 2018, pending an investigation into allegations of “propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization” and “provoking the people to hatred and animosity,” according to CPJ research; upon his release, he fled to Germany.

He was subsequently tried in absentia and acquitted of the provocation charge but convicted of propagandizing, and was sentenced to 2 years and 9 months in prison, according to CPJ’s reporting and reports, which said that he planned to appeal the ruling.

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had publicly accused Yücel of being a member of the outlawed group PKK, a German agent, and a terrorist, as CPJ has documented.

CPJ emailed the Justice Ministry of Turkey for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.