Turkish journalist and press freedom advocate Hakkı Boltan was sentenced to two years in prison on insult charges. (Screenshot: YouTube/Mezopotamya Ajansı)

Turkish journalist and press freedom advocate Hakkı Boltan sentenced to 2 years in prison for insulting president and prime minister

Istanbul, June 29, 2021 – Turkey must not contest journalist Hakkı Boltan’s appeal, and should ensure that all members of the press can work freely and without fear of imprisonment, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Earlier today, the 12th Diyarbakır Court of First Instance, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, convicted Boltan of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, and sentenced him to two years and 17 days in prison, according to news reports and the journalist’s lawyer, Resul Tamur, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

The sentence includes 14 months and 17 days for insulting Erdoğan, and 10 months for insulting Davutoğlu, according to those sources.

Boltan, former chair of the Free Journalists Association advocacy group, is free pending appeal, Tamur told CPJ.

“Turkey must not contest the appeal of journalist and press freedom advocate Hakkı Boltan, who should not go to prison for exercising his freedom of speech,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Turkish authorities should make the necessary legal reforms so that journalists need not live in fear of arbitrary imprisonment for insulting state figures.”

Boltan was first charged with “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official because of their duty” in 2019, as CPJ documented at the time.

The charges stemmed from a public statement Boltan gave in 2016, when he served as the journalist association’s chair, in which he expressed concern over the death of Rohat Aktaş, a journalist for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, in the city of Cizre, and blamed Erdoğan and Davutoğlu for the violence between Turkish forces and Kurdish rebels there, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ.

CPJ emailed the Directorate of Communications of the presidency and the Ankara office of the Future Party, which Davutoğlu currently leads, but did not receive any replies.

[Editors’ note: This article has been changed in its fourth paragraph to correct Boltan’s former affiliations.]