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Journalists face jail terms in Turkey

August 5, 2015

Eighteen Turkish journalists are facing charges of spreading terrorist propaganda for publishing a photo of a lawyer killed during a hostage siege. Prosecutors are seeking jail terms of up to seven and a half years.

Symbolbild Medien in der Türkei
Image: AFP/Getty Images/O. Kose

The 18 staffers from nine newspapers stand accused of trying to portray a terrorist organization as "strong and capable enough for any action," according to an indictment cited by local media on Wednesday.

The charges relate to a photograph showing far-left militants holding a gun to the head of a gagged Istanbul prosecutor, Mehmet Selim Kiraz, in March. Kiraz and two militants were killed in a shootout following a siege that lasted several hours. The image, initially released by the banned leftist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), was circulated widely online at the time.

Following the deadly standoff, Turkish authorities ordered Facebook, Google and other websites to remove the photograph. The government also criticized newspapers that had published the pictures.

Türkei Can Dündar
Dundar denies publishing the photograph to endorse the DHKP-CImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Vedat Arik/Cumhuriyet Newspaper

One of the accused, Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar, said he made the decision to publish the photograph to demonstrate the ugly face of terrorism, and in no way wanted to endorse the leftist group. His co-defendants include journalists and editors from dailies Millet, Sok, Posta, Yurt, Bugun, Ozgur Gundem, Aydinlik and Birgun. All have pleaded not guilty, reports said.

Prosecutors are seeking prison sentences ranging from 18 months to seven and a half years, according to local media.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had a difficult relationship with journalists and social media outlets in Turkey, both as president and in his previous role as the country's prime minister. Authorities have frequently used the country's broadly defined anti-terrorism laws to prosecute reporters and enact brief bans on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

nm/jil (Reuters, AP, dpa)