Turkish investigative reporter arrested for reporting on judicial corruption

The journalist Tolga Sardan was jailed in Ankara, on 1 November 2023

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of a veteran investigative reporter who has been arrested under Türkiye’s “disinformation” law for referring in an article to judicial corruption cases cited by the Istanbul public prosecutor. Türkiye must stop using this law to silence journalists, RSF says.

An investigative reporter and editorialist with the T24 independent news website, Tolga Sardan was jailed in the capital, Ankara, on 1 November, one day after the publication of his story headlined “What’s in the ‘judicial report’ that the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) submitted to the president’s office?”.

Sardan, who has worked as a journalist for 35 years, is charged with “disclosing misleading information” for referring in his article to a report on corruption within the judicial system that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office is said to have requested from the MİT. Following the article’s publication, the Centre for Combatting Disinformation, an offshoot of the presidential communications department, posted a tweet denying the existence of any such MİT report.

After being questioned on 1 November, Sardan was brought before a judge who ordered him detained pending trial. His lawyers plan to appeal the pre-trial detention order. He is facing up to three years in prison under penal code article 217/A, which Law No. 5237 added to Türkiye’s penal code in October 2022. 

RSF produced a damning report last month on the devastating impact of this law, which targets investigative journalists in particular. Türkiye’s constitutional court is due to examine the law’s constitutionality on 8 November in response to a request by the Republican People's Party (CHP), the main opposition party.

“We call for the immediate release of this investigative journalist, who the authorities are trying to silence by means of the ‘disinformation’ law, an addition to Türkiye’s already draconian legislative arsenal that has been used constantly since its promulgation a year ago to persecute Turkish journalists. It must be repealed as a matter of the utmost urgency.”

Erol Onderoglu, RSF Special Representative in Türkiye

Sardan’s story followed one by the journalist Timur Soykan on 13 October in the daily newspaper BirGun (Day). It revealed that the Istanbul prosecutor general had sent a request for an investigation to the Superior Judicial Council (HSK) containing serious allegations of corruption within the judicial system. Soykan’s story prompted a series of public interest articles by many other journalists including Gokcer Tahincioglu and Sardan about these allegations. Istanbul judges have blocked access to hundreds of story links about this affair since mid-October.


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Updated on 02.11.2023