Zehra Doğan

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

A Mardin court in March 2017 convicted and sentenced Zehra Doğan, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish, all-women Jin News Agency (JİNHA), to two years, nine months, and 22 days in prison on charges of "being a member of a [terrorist] organization" and "propagandizing for a [terrorist] organization," according to news reports. An appeals court upheld the verdict and police took Doğan into custody on June 12, 2017, according to reports.

Doğan was first detained by police in Nusaybin, in southeastern Mardin Province on July 22, 2016. The following day, the Nusaybin Court of Penal Peace ordered the journalist jailed, pending trial, on charges of "being member of an armed terrorist organization," CPJ reported at the time. Mardin’s Second Court for Serious Crimes on October 9, 2016, indicted her on that charge, and of "making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization." On December 9, 2016, the 2nd Mardin Court of Serious Crimes released Doğan pending the outcome of her trial, according to reports.

At the time of Doğan’s arrest, Nusaybin was the site of urban warfare between Turkish security forces and ethnic Kurdish fighters. According to the record of her interrogation by police, the court’s order to jail her pending trial, and her indictment, all of which CPJ reviewed, the state’s evidence consists of testimony from people saying they saw Doğan talking with people in the street.

The witnesses said that they could not hear the conversations, but that they were "organization meetings." Witnesses also said they saw Doğan ask locals to pose for photographs with tools as though they were helping fighters dig trenches and construct barricades to show the local population’s support for the fight. Doğan denied being a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), maintained that the conversations in question were interviews conducted as part of her reporting, and denied that the photographs were posed, the records show.

Doğan is also an artist. In an interview she conducted via her lawyer, published in the online newspaper Gazete Karınca on July 20, 2018, Doğan said that prison authorities denied her access to art supplies so she has to create her own from plants, toothpaste, and menses. Doğan said that the prison’s management confiscated and destroyed 20 of her works, with the explanation that they were “forbidden.” 

The street artist known as Banksy painted a 20-meter (66ft) high mural of Doğan in New York City on March 15, 2018 to draw attention to her imprisonment, according to news reports. Also in 2018, the International Women’s Media Foundation honored Doğan with its Courage in Journalism Award.

Doğan’s lawyer Kamuran Tanhan told CPJ in September 2018 that the law allows individuals to spend the last year of their sentence on parole but that authorities have denied a request for parole in Doğan’s case. Gazete Karınca reported on October 25, 2018 that Doğan is detained in Tarsus Prison in the southeastern province of Mersin.