Turkish journalist sentenced to prison over ‘Paradise Papers’ leak

A Turkish court sentenced investigative journalist Pelin Ünker to 13 months in prison in addition to a 8860 lira ($1,615) fine over her articles detailing large transactions in overseas tax havens conducted by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s sons, independent new site T24 reported.

Referred to as the ‘’Paradise Papers’’ data leak, the reports covering the Yıldırım’s sons’ stake in offshore shipping companies, landed Cumhuriyet reporter Ünker in legal hot water with the former prime minister’s family in July 2018. 

In November 2017, Cumhuriyet reported that Yıldırım’s two sons were the main beneficiaries of five shipping companies registered in Malta for tax optimisation purposes.

The family did not deny the report, but brought a suit against the newspaper, citing its attempt to “create a false and partial perception by public opinion.”

"I did my duty as a journalist. The story was about public figures. I did my job in sharing the incident with the public. He was given the right to respond. I don't think the story I did constitutes a crime,’’ Ünker has said regarding the charges levelled at her.

Ünker and her lawyers are preparing to take the case to an appeals court, T24 said.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Turkey 157th among 180 countries on the 2018 World Free Press Index, describing Turkey as “the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists.”

A government crackdown on media which began before the country’s 2016 failed coup attempt, intensified in the aftermath of the putsch, with Ankara shutting down more than 100 news outlets by decree.