Up to 17 years’ imprisonment sought for six journalists

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul has brought charges against six journalists who were arrested in early March for their reporting on Libya. Accused of disclosing state secrets, the journalists face a prison sentence of between eight and seventeen years for “violation of the intelligence law”.

The basis of the charge is a new article in the Turkish penal code, which regulates “crimes against the national secret service” and explicitly concerns journalists who are in prison for reporting on Ankara’s war missions in Libya.

The journalists, Mehmet Ferhat Çelik and Aydın Keser from the pro-Kurdish newspaper Yeni Yaşam, Murat Ağırel from Yeniçağ and Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkoğlu and Hülya Kılınç from the online news portal Oda TV, were arrested at the end of February and the beginning of March respectively.

The journalists are accused of “disclosing information and documents on intelligence activities”. Their reports concerned the funeral of members of the Turkish secret service MIT who were killed in Libya, but whose death had already been the subject of public discussion beforehand.

The journalists of Yeni Yaşam had only reported on soldiers who had died in Libya. There was no mention of MIT members in their reporting.

Erk Acarer, a journalist and social anthropologist now living in exile in Germany, and an employee of the press office of the CHP-run municipality in the district of Akhisar in Manisa province, in western Turkey, are also accused of having disclosed state secrets in the course of the proceedings. However, it is not yet clear when the trial will be opened.

The journalist initiative “Haberin var mı” (“Do you know”) has recently started a letter campaign for the imprisoned journalists and called for participation via the social media under the hashtag #GazetecilereMektupVar to set a sign of solidarity. On their Twitter profile, the initiative has published pictures of virtual envelopes with the addresses of the journalists. The background to the action is as follows: “They are in prison because they informed the public, spread the truth and provided facts. Now it’s our turn to write.”