Turkish journalists facing jail over coverage of intelligence agent’s death

A Turkish prosecutor has demanded prison sentences ranging from eight to 19 years for seven journalists and a civil servant accused of revealing details of the death of a National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) operative in Libya, Diken news site reported on Tuesday.

Journalists Hülya Kılınç, Barış Pehlivan and Murat Ağırel, Barış Terkoğlu, Aydın Keser, Ferhat Çelik, Erk Acarer, and municipal employee Eren Ekinci are accused of breaking laws on the country’s intelligence service and “disclosing confidential information and documents pertaining to national security.” 

The defendants either published reports and/or shared information on social media about the funeral of a MİT operative killed during a mission in war-torn Libya, where Turkey backs the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), which had been fighting an offensive against rival faction, the Libyan National Army (LNA), supported by Russia, Egypt and the UAE.

In March, news site OdaTV’s director Terkoğlu, editor-in-chief Pehlivan and reporter Kılınç were arrested for publishing the identity of the MİT official. Terkoğlu has since been released pending trial.

Ağırel from Sözcü newspaper has also been imprisoned for six months while Acarer from Birgün newspaper is being tried in absentia.

Ekinci, a municipal worker from Manisa, is accused of providing pictures of the funeral to the journalists.

Oda TV, which showed footage of the MİT operative’s funeral in the western province of Manisa, maintains it did not violate laws by publishing the officer’s identity since an opposition deputy had already named him at a televised parliamentary press conference when the article was published.

The next hearing in the case is set to take place on Wednesday.