Turkish appeal court confirms prison sentences for two journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores an Ankara appeal court’s decision to confirm the prison sentences of two journalists who were convicted of divulging or obtaining “confidential information” while covering Turkey’s military interventions in Libya and Syria in November 2019. The Turkish authorities must end this judicial persecution and must stop obstructing the freedom to report the facts, RSF says.
n a decision adopted on 3 November and made public on 4 January, the Ankara departmental appeal court rejected the appeals by Müyesser Yildiz, the OdaTV news website’s Ankara representative, and Ismail Dükel, an Ankara-based reporter for the outspoken TV channel Tele1, against the sentences they received from an Ankara assizes court at a hearing attended by RSF on 8 March 2021.
The assizes court sentenced Yildiz to three years, seven months and ten days in prison for “obtaining and divulging confidential information concerning state security,” and Dükel to one year and 15 days in prison for “obtaining confidential information.”
“Müyesser Yildiz’s life has been turned upside down for more than two years by a baseless prosecution that revealed that she had been subjected to illegal wiretapping. As for Ismail Dükel, he was given a prison sentence simply for taking phone calls from a low-ranking military officer. These two cases are a sad reminder that in Turkey, the least pretext is used to dissuade investigative reporters from doing their job.
Yildiz is alleged to have discussed Turkey’s military interventions in Libya and Syria in phone conversations with an army sergeant-major, Erdal Baran. She was arrested on 8 June 2020 and was transferred three days later to prison, remaining there until the day she was convicted, when she was released pending the outcome of her appeal.
Dükel was arrested on the same day as Yildiz but was released under judicial control three days later. He was convicted of receiving information from the same army sergeant-major, who has also been tried and convicted in connection with this case.
Dükel is not facing any real possibility of being jailed because he is convicted only of obtaining confidential information. But Yildiz, who divulged the information as well, could be returned to prison to “complete her sentence” if her conviction is upheld by Ankara’s Court of Cassation, Turkey’s highest appeal court, to which her lawyers have now appealed. This procedure could take a year or more.
In September 2020, an Ankara court ordered Yildiz to pay damages to defence minister Hulusi Akar for an April 2018 article in which a “secret witness” at the trials held after the abortive coup in July 2016 was reported to have accused Akar of being a member of the organisation that, according to the authorities, was behind the coup attempt.
Yildiz previously spent 18 months in prison in 2011/12 with OdaTV journalists Baris Terkoglu and Baris Pehlivan, when they were alleged to have been supporting Ergenekon, a Turkish nationalist political network accused by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of wanting to destabilise his government. All three ended up being acquitted.
Turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index.