May 31 2019

Journalist receives jail term for insulting president in Turkey

Updated with new information on Fırat Erez receiving a prison sentence for insulting the president

A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced a journalist to jail for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media.

“I was given a prison sentence of 11 months and 20 days. Yet, no one’s name is mentioned in my tweets,” journalist and writer Sedef Kabaş said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Fırat Erez, a former member of a group known for aggressive media tactics and influence among senior officials, the Pelicanists, said he was sentenced to 10 months in prison for insulting Erdoğan on social media. He said his sentence had been suspended.

Erez worked as a freelance content producer and artistic director for the group, and later as an editor for some of its websites, including Lies of the Day, which aims to dispute news stories critical of Erdoğan's ruling party.

In Turkey, insulting the president carries a jail sentence of between one and four years, according to the Turkish Penal Code.

The Turkish government has been using social media posts, cartoons, news reports and other articles as evidence for charging people with insulting the president.

Thousands of people have faced prison or fines. In 2015, Turkish prosecutors filed another lawsuit against Kabaş after she posted tweets about alleged corruption committed by Erdoğan and his inner circle in 2013, news website Gazete Duvar said.

Kabaş had faced trial on charges of targeting anti-terror police and of defamation, but she was acquitted the same year, Gazete Duvar reported.

Between 2010 and 2017, 12,893 cases of insulting the president were filed, academic and cyber rights activist Prof. Yaman Akdeniz said in a report in August. Of that total, 12,305 were filed by lawyers representing Erdoğan, who assumed office in 2014, he said.