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Culture

Journalists in Turkey face charges for Charlie Hebdo caricature

Following the terrorist attack on "Charlie Hebdo" in January, two Turkish journalists published a Muhammad caricature and now face charges.

Two Turkish journalists face up to four-and-a-half years in prison for having printed a controversial Muhammad cartoon originally published by the French satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo." An employee of the daily "Cumhuriyet" confirmed a report by the Turkish news agency DHA on the indictment, reported German news agency dpa.

The Istanbul prosecutor accuses "Cumhuriyet" columnists Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya of having disturbed public peace by printing the cartoon, and of having insulted the Prophet as well as the religious values of the people in Turkey.

Hoping for a fair trial

Following the terrorist attack on "Charlie Hebdo" in Paris in January, the left-nationalist newspaper had reprinted, among other things, the cover picture showing a weeping Prophet Muhammad in a reduced form. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had then called the picture a "provocation," adding that press freedom did not include the freedom to insult religion.

"The media in Turkey are under pressure," journalist Hikmet Cetinkaya told dpa. As a journalist working in the country, he had reckoned with the fact that the cartoon could spark outrage. "But some of our colleagues have been killed in the attack," Cetinkaya defended his action.

He hopes for a fair trial: "I do not want to lose faith in Turkey as a law-abiding state."

Critical reporting 'not desired'

Freedom of the press in Turkey has been "practically abrogated," criticized the federal chairman of the German Journalists' Association, Michael Konken, referring to a Dutch journalist who has been accused by Turkish authorities of released terrorist propaganda.

In addition, a photographer of the German magazine "Der Spiegel" was arrested at the airport of Istanbul in March, to be sent back to Germany the next day. The news magazine subsequently voiced a protest to the Turkish embassy in Germany.

"Many of my colleagues now believe that I have been on a list of undesirable persons in Turkey, and that the suspicion of terrorism was only serving as a pretext," Andy Spyra wrote in the current issue of the magazine.

Should international pressure on the Turkish government grow, they might release a few journalists from jail, said Konken. "But that does not change the fact that independent and critical reporting is not desired."

gmf/sc/ad/kbm (dpa, AP)

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