Istanbul, September 20, 2022—Turkish authorities should not fight the appeal of journalist Hatice Şahin and stop persecuting journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On Monday, September 19, Şahin, a freelance journalist who was a former reporter for the pro-Kurdish privately owned daily newspaper Yeni Yaşam, was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for the charge of being a member of a terrorist organization by the Ninth Court of Serious Crimes in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, according to reports and tweets of Platform for Independent Journalism, known as P24, which monitored the September 19 sentencing hearing.
The court did not issue an arrest warrant for the journalist who was not present at the hearing but extended her standing foreign travel ban pending appeal of the charge, according to those sources. Şahin’s lawyer, Resul Tamur, told the court that the case against the journalist was based on secret witness testimonies that he called “lies,” and urged Şahin’s acquittal, the reports said.
“Turkish authorities should not fight the appeal of journalist Hatice Şahin,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s Program Director, in New York. “Turkey should stop charging journalists with terrorism when they are doing their jobs and start taking measures to improve the country’s press freedom record.”
According to CPJ’s review of the 78-page indictment against the journalist, the first 73 pages focus on the history and gatherings of the Democratic Society Congress, known as the DTK, a nongovernmental group that authorities allege is connected to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as PKK. The evidence against the journalist in the indictment relates to her reporting on the group’s meetings, such as taking flights from Istanbul to Diyarbakır on the dates the group had gatherings in 2017; personal notes and agenda; wiretapped phone records of short conversations with individuals on where to meet and when; and secret witness testimonies claiming that Şahin was involved with terrorism. Şahin has pleaded not guilty of the charge, according to the indictment.
Since 2018, several people have been arrested and put on trial for their alleged involvement with the group, according to reports. One of the journalists, Ayşegül Doğan, received the same sentence and charge as Şahin in 2020.
CPJ emailed the Diyarbakır chief prosecutor’s office for comment but did not immediately receive any reply.