Turkish journalist Sedef Kabaş speaks to the media on October 6, 2015, in Istanbul. An Istanbul court on June 22, 2023, denied a request to dismiss another charge of "insulting the president" filed against Kabaş. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Turkish journalist Sedef Kabaş facing new trial for ‘insulting’ President Erdoğan

Istanbul, June 22, 2023—In response to an Istanbul court on Thursday, June 22, denying the request to dismiss another charge of “insulting the president” filed against journalist Sedef Kabaş, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement:

“Turkish authorities’ persistence in putting journalist Sedef Kabaş on trial for allegedly insulting the president is a severe threat to free speech in the country,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “The case against Kabaş must be dropped. Journalists in Turkey should be able to offer reporting and commentary regarding state officials without fear of retaliation.”

Kabaş, a former news anchor who now works as a TV commentator, was charged with insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in tweets in which she questioned the validity of his college diploma, made allegations of corruption, and criticized numerous policies and statements of the president, according to the four-page indictment reviewed by CPJ. She often posts political commentary on Twitter, where she has 1.4 million followers.

During the June 22 hearing, which a CPJ representative attended, Kabaş’s lawyers asked to take the case to another court after the current one denied their plea to either dismiss the case or acquit the journalist; the court delayed the second hearing in her case until November 16, 2023, to give Kabaş’s lawyers time to justify that request.

Kabaş was arrested for the same charge over her on-air comments in January 2022. She was found guilty and sentenced to two years and four months in prison, but was released pending appeal on March 11, 2022.

Insulting Turkey’s president can carry a prison sentence of up to four years, with an added penalty if the insult was made in public, according to Article 299 of the Turkish penal code.

CPJ’s emails to the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office and the president’s office seeking comment did not immediately receive any replies.