Turkish “Paradise Papers” reporter sentenced to 13 months in prison

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the 13-month jail sentence and fine of 8,660lira (1,400 euros) that an Istanbul court imposed yesterday on Pelin Ünker, a Turkish journalist involved in the Paradise Papers investigation, and calls for her acquittal on appeal.

The court convicted Ünker of “insult and defamation” for reporting in November 2017 that then Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his two sons set up companies in Malta to avoid tax. Her reporting was published in the newspaper for which she worked at the time, Cumhuriyet, a Turkish member of the international media consortium that participated in the Paradise Papers investigation.

At the end of yesterday’s hearing, which RSF attended, the court refused to suspend Ünker’s prison sentence on the grounds that she showed no remorse during the trial and that the court was therefore not convinced that she would not commit the same “crime” again.

“This latest conviction continues the Turkish authorities’ persecution of investigative reporters in Turkey" RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu said. “This harassment of investigative journalism must stop. We urge the authorities to overturn Pelin Ünker’s conviction for the sake of public interest reporting, including the exposure of corruption in Turkey.”

Ünker’s lawyers tried without success to convince the court’s president that coverage of the former prime minister’s investments and the arrangements made by his two sons to avoid paying tax served the public interest.

Ünker has not been arrested because her lawyers plan to file an appeal with a week. The regional appeal court could issue a ruling on the appeal with a few months. If the sentence is upheld, she will be jailed.

Turkey is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 10.01.2019