Two police officers salute in front of a group of people.
Turkish traffic police salute in Ankara on November 10, 2023. A Turkish court convicted eight journalists and sentenced them to six years and three months imprisonment on July 3, 2024. (Photo: AFP/Adem Altan)

Turkish court sentences 8 Kurdish journalists to 6 years

Istanbul, July 3, 2024—Turkish authorities should not contest the appeals of eight journalists sentenced to six years and three months in prison on Wednesday and stop prosecuting journalists with baseless claims of terrorism, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

The 4th Ankara Court of Serious Crimes convicted eight journalists on charges of membership in a terrorist organization as part of a mass trial of 11 journalists employed by the pro-Kurdish outlets Mezopotamya News Agency and JİNNEWS. They remain free pending appeal. The other three journalists were acquitted.

“Turkish authorities charged a group of Kurdish journalists with membership in a terrorist organization while presenting no solid evidence to back their accusations and yet somehow found eight of them guilty,” said Özgür Öğret, CPJ’s Turkey representative. “Authorities should not fight the journalists’ appeals and must stop filing baseless charges of terrorism against members of the media.”

The court found Mezopotamya editor Diren Yurtsever; Mezopotamya reporters Berivan Altan, Deniz Nazlım, Emrullah Acar, Hakan Yalçın, Salman Güzelyüz, and Zemo Ağgöz Yiğitsoy, and freelance journalist Öznur Değer guilty of being members of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey has designated a terrorist organization. None of the journalists attended the hearing and were represented instead by their lawyers.

The court acquitted Mezopotamya reporter Ceylan Şahinli, JİNNEWS reporter Ümmü Habibe Eren, and former Mezopotamya reporting intern Mehmet Günhan.

The authorities detained the 11 journalists in October 2022 and indicted them in February 2023. CPJ emailed the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for comment but received no immediate reply.