An Istanbul court found journalist Barış Terkoğlu guilty of “making targets of those assigned to combat terrorism” and sentenced him to two years in prison on May 2, 2024. (Screenshot: Halktv/YouTube)

Turkish court sentences journalist Barış Terkoğlu to 2 years under terror law 

Istanbul, May 2, 2024 — Turkish authorities should not contest the appeal of journalist Barış Terkoğlu after he was sentenced to two years on terrorism-related charges and review the related legislation to prevent retaliatory prosecution against journalists for their critical reporting, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

The 13th Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes on Thursday found Terkoğlu, a columnist for the pro-opposition daily Cumhuriyet, guilty of “making targets of those assigned to combat terrorism” and sentenced him to two years in prison, his outlet reported. Terkoğlu, who was not immediately arrested, told CPJ after the verdict that his lawyers would appeal.

“Barış Terkoğlu did not target anyone. He has been found guilty for reporting the facts and analyzing them as a journalist, nothing more,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Turkish authorities should not fight Terkoğlu’s appeal and review the vindictive use of the law article for ‘making targets of those assigned to combat terrorism’ due to continued prosecutions of journalists who report on security forces and judiciary.”

Terkoğlu’s trial began in 2021 after a complaint filed by Akın Gürlek, former head judge of the 14th Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes and current deputy justice minister, citing a 2020 column published in Cumhuriyet and a news story published on the independent news website Odatv, where Terkoğlu previously worked as the news editor.

Terkoğlu pled not guilty at the final hearing on Thursday and said: “Judges, prosecutors, and police are citizens. Therefore, they can be criticized for the actions they take and the decisions they make. Giving them exclusive protection is unconstitutional. I criticize the judiciary in 90% of my articles. That’s one thing, targeting [people] is another.”

Terkoğlu told CPJ that his lawyers assumed he would spend approximately six months in prison if they lost the appeal. “There wouldn’t be any prison time to consider if they would have filed a simple ‘insult’ trial,” he said.

Turkish authorities previously used the article to prosecute a Cumhuriyet journalist for her reporting in 2018.

CPJ emailed the chief prosecutor’s office in Istanbul and the Justice Ministry of Turkey for comment but did not receive a reply.