Turkish Deputy Health Minister Selahattin Aydın recently sued three newspapers for allegedly defaming him in their coverage of a disupte in parliament. (Photo: YouTube/Medipol University International)

Turkish government official sues 3 newspapers for covering corruption allegations made in parliament

In late August and early September 2021, Turkish Deputy Health Minister Selahattin Aydın filed civil defamation lawsuits against the leftist opposition dailies Cumhuriyet, BirGün, and Evrensel seeking damages over their coverage of corruption allegations made against him in the country’s parliament, according to reports by the independent news website Bianet and by each outlet targeted by the suits.

Aydın alleges that each outlet is guilty of “tarnishing” his reputation and dignity by reporting on a lawmaker’s question in parliament in June accusing Aydın of illegally giving preference in contracting to a software company with connections to his family, according to those sources.

In a statement published by Cumhuriyet on July 23, Aydın denied that he had committed any corrupt actions, and called the paper’s coverage of those allegations “slander and defamation targeting not only myself, but also the ministry I represent.” He is seeking 100,000 Turkish liras (US $11,574) in damages from each newspaper, according to the outlets’ reports.

Aydın sued Cumhuriyet in late August at the Istanbul Court of First Instance, and sued BirGün and Evrensel in early September, those reports said.

His suits name Cumhuriyet responsible news editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça and reporter Erdem Sevgi; BirGün publisher İbrahim Aydın and reporter Mustafa Bildircin; and Evrensel responsible news editor Görkem Kınacı, according to the outlets.

The title of “responsible news editor” is a legally required position in Turkish media outlets, and makes its officeholder responsible for the outlet’s content in court cases.

BirGün lawyer Tolgay Güvercin and Evrensel lawyer Devrim Avcı told CPJ via messaging app that they have not received notifications for any upcoming court dates. The lawyers said that the case would go to trial and a judge would only be able to dismiss or vacate the suits once that trial had concluded.

CPJ emailed Aydın for comment but did not receive any reply.