A man holds a cell phone and speaks in front of a book shelf.
In June 2024, a Turkish court sentenced seven people involved in the May 10, 2019, attack on columnist and TV commentator Yavuz Selim Demirağ (shown) in the capital, Ankara. (Screenshot: Yavuz Selim Demirağ Ufuk Çizgisi/ YouTube)

CPJ welcomes sentencing of 7 involved in 2019 beating of Turkish journalist

Istanbul, June 13, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes a Turkish court’s sentencing of seven people involved in the May 10, 2019, attack on columnist and TV commentator Yavuz Selim Demirağ in the capital, Ankara.

The 36th Ankara Court of Serious Crimes on Tuesday, June 11, sentenced seven men to nine years in prison each on charges of causing “intentional injury” and making threats, according to a report by 12 Punto, a news website known for its critical coverage of the government, and court documents reviewed by CPJ. Demirağ will appeal the verdict in an effort to have the defendants tried on attempted murder charges.

“The sentencing of seven men who brutally beat Turkish journalist Yavuz Selim Demirağ in 2019 is a positive step on the path to end Turkey’s culture of impunity for violence against journalists,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “However, Turkish authorities should heed Demirağ’s appeal of the verdict and take concrete, swift action to ensure journalists in Turkey feel safe from similar assaults and threats.”

Demirağ was beaten by at least six men with baseball bats outside his home in an attack that left him hospitalized. The sentencing came exactly five years, one month, and one day after the attack, Demirağ told CPJ by phone, adding that the trial began 3.5 years after the incident. The journalist told CPJ he believes his attackers were instigated to assault him due to his political commentary.

The sentences had increased time because the defendants acted as a group and told the court they regretted their actions, according to the 12 Punto report and court documents. The defendants have maintained that the attack was not in connection to Demirağ’s journalism but was instead caused by a traffic disagreement.

None of the defendants were immediately arrested after the verdict pending an appeal, Demirağ told CPJ, adding that one is already in prison and a second is expected to be arrested for a delayed sentence, both from unrelated trials.

Demirağ told CPJ that he hoped the verdict in his trial and the May 2024 sentencing of seven people involved in a raid on a broadcast studio would be a “deterrent” for future attacks against the media in Turkey. “Despite everything, this is a positive development against impunity,” Demirağ said.

In April 2022, at least 50 people raided the Deniz Postası’s broadcast studio, during which attackers beat journalist Azim Deniz and his guest.

CPJ emailed the law firm representing the defendants and the chief prosecutor’s office in Ankara for comment but did not receive any reply.

[Editor’s note: The second paragraph was updated to correct who will face additional charges if the appeal is accepted. The fourth paragraph was updated for clarity.]