A court is seen in Istanbul, Turkey, on January 11, 2023. Courts recently found journalists Mehmet Güleş and İsmail Çoban guilty on terrorism charges. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Turkish courts find 2 journalists guilty on terror charges

Istanbul, April 18, 2023—In response to Turkish authorities’ sentencing of two journalists on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement of condemnation:

“By issuing prison sentences to Mehmet Güleş and İsmail Çoban, Turkish authorities have yet again abused the country’s anti-terror legislation,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Authorities should not contest the journalists’ appeals and should cease their practice of retaliatory prosecutions against members of the media covering Kurdish issues.”

On Tuesday, April 18, local media outlets reported that two courts in eastern Turkey separately found Mehmet Güleş and İsmail Çoban guilty of making propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Both journalists pleaded not guilty.

The Second Elazığ Court of Serious Crimes sentenced Güleş, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, to 21 months and 25 days in prison, but then delayed the enforcement of that sentence, reports said. During his trial, authorities’ evidence included news stories Güleş shared on social media by his former employer, the shuttered pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency.

Separately, the Fifth Diyarbakır Court of Serious Crimes sentenced Çoban, the former responsible news editor for the shuttered Kurdish-language outlet Azadiya Welat, to 18 months and 22 days in prison, and did not delay the execution of that sentence, reports said. During his trial, authorities presented news stories by Azadiya Welat about the PKK as evidence. 

Çoban has been imprisoned since 2018 on other terror-related charges related to his work.

Resul Temur, a lawyer who represents both Güleş and Çoban, told CPJ via messaging app that he believed the journalists were being punished for their work, and said they intend to appeal the verdicts. CPJ emailed the chief prosecutor’s offices of Diyarbakır and Elazığ for comment but did not receive any replies.