Turkish journalists Hikmet Cetinkaya, left, and Ceyda Karan, are to appeal two-year jail sentences imposed on them yesterday for fomenting ‘hatred and enmity in the people via means of the press’ by republishing cartoons of the ‘prophet’ Mohammed from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
According to this report, the cartoons in Cumhuriyet, an opposition newspaper, sparked outrage in sections of Turkish society when they were published in January last year as a gesture of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, days after a massacre at the Parisian office by Islamist gunmen.
Turkish police had stopped and searched Cumhuriyet trucks as they left the printing press and protesters in Istanbul later burned copies of the newspaper.
The case was pressed by lawyers linked to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president, and several members of his family. Erdogan – “the thinniest-skinned President in the World” – was himself was jailed for “inciting religious hatred” in 1998, after reciting a poem attributed to the Ottoman writer Ziya Gökalp.
It was not immediately clear whether Cetinkaya and Karan would serve time in jail. Turkish courts frequently issue suspended sentences for such violations, meaning the convicted are free unless they repeat the offence.
The sentencing comes amid a mushrooming crackdown on Turkish and international news media within the country. According to PEN International, some 28 writers and journalists were either detained or imprisoned in Turkey at the end of 2015 while more than 100 remained on Trial, most for national security offences.
Cumhuriyet’s editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, and the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, are currently on trial on trial behind closed doors on charges of revealing state secrets and could face multiple life sentences if found guilty.
International trial monitors and press freedom groups have condemned those proceedings, describing the case as an instance in which “journalism is on trial”.
In recent months, Turkey’s media crackdown has become increasingly intertwined with Europe’s attempts to cooperate with Ankara as part of a pact designed to prevent the mass movement of refugees into the continent.
Germany’s Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, has been criticised for allowing a case to be pursued against a German comedian, after Turkey filed a formal complaint under a rarely used German law that prohibits insulting foreign leaders.
The Dutch foreign minister, Bert Koenders, also warned on Tuesday that the Netherlands could not guarantee the safety of citizens travelling to Turkey if they have been critical of Turkish leaders.
Hat tip: Peter Sykes