Turkish court sentences journalist to jail under anti-terror law

FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the attempted coup at the Presidential Palace in Ankara
REUTERS/Umit Bektas

A Turkish court sentenced a journalist from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper to more than two years in jail on Thursday on charges of making people potential targets for militant groups through her reporting, the paper said.

Human rights organisations have voiced increasing concern about media freedom in Turkey, where President Tayyip Erdogan won elections last month triggering a move to a powerful executive presidency.

The case was triggered by an article which Canan Coskun wrote last September about prosecutors’ questioning of detained lawyers for two hunger-striking teachers allegedly linked to the leftist DHKP-C militant group, designated a terrorist group by Turkey.

The court found that Coskun, who covered Istanbul courts for the paper, made “people involved in the fight against terrorism a target”, the Cumhuriyet said.

A lawyer for Coskun told the court that the naming of a prosecutor in that article did not amount to making that person a target and denied the charges against her, rights group Amnesty International reported on Twitter.

“Another punishment for press freedom,” main opposition party lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu, who attended the hearing, wrote on Twitter. “Writing a story and being a journalist is sufficient for a court to take a ‘negative view'”.”

In April, a court sentenced 14 staff of Cumhuriyet – one of the few remaining voices critical of the government – to jail on charges of terrorism and supporting a U.S.-based cleric blamed for organising an attempted coup in July 2016.

Since then more than 120 journalists have been detained and more than 180 media outlets closed on suspicion of links to the network of the Islamic preacher, Fethullah Gulen.

Free speech advocacy group Reporters Without Borders in April ranked Turkey 157 out of 180 countries in its annual report on global press freedom, and estimated about 90 percent of Turkey‘s newspaper coverage is pro-government.

Erdogan has frequently lashed out at media criticising the crackdown that followed the abortive putsch in 2016 and Turkey‘s military operations into northern Syria.