Sultan Coban, a Danish journalist of Kurdish origin who works for the Danish public TV channel TV2 and used to report for the Copenhagen daily Berlingske, received a 15-month suspended jail sentence from the court in the central city of Konya in a trial completed in a single hearing.The photo share by Coban was taken by Danish parliamentarian Serdal Benli in the Syrian city of Manbij in August 2016, and showed civilians fraternizing with Kurdish members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a mainly Kurdish militia which, at that time, was helping to liberate northern Syria from Islamic State occupation. It was accompanied by the words: “An image that says more than a thousand words: in Manbij, darkness is replaced by the light of freedom and the colours of life. Thank you to these courageous men and women who let us live this experience and these extraordinary moments #YPG."
“This journalist’s conviction is the latest example of the Turkish government’s misuse of its terrorism legislation,” said RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, who attended the trial. “The government’s reforms will only be credible if judicial independence is clearly guaranteed and judicial abuses of this kind stop.”
The court ruled that Coban had tried to “legitimize” Kurdish organizations on the grounds that they were “supposedly involved in humanitarian actions.”
Under Turkey’s terrorism law, the dissemination of information about Kurdish armed groups operating in Turkey and Syria is punishable by up to seven and a half years in prison, because Turkey regards them as terrorist organizations. At least 33 journalists were given prison sentences under this law last year.
Coban’s lawyer tried in vain to get the court to respect Turkey’s undertakings to the European Court of Human Rights and to apply the judicial reform legislation that took effect last October, which is supposed to guarantee free speech and press freedom.
Coban told the court: “I grew up in Denmark and I work for Danish media. Certain subjects regarded as terrorism by Turkey come under the freedom to inform and freedom of expression in my country. If I had wanted to propagandize, my profession would have given me many opportunities. I have no links with any terrorist organization.”Although her prison sentence was suspended and she should be allowed to leave Turkey soon, her lawyer has decided to appeal.
Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.