A 24-year-old journalist has been sentenced to 138 years in prison for publishing news accounts on terrorist activity, reports an international freedom-of-the-press organization.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Emin Demir, former editor of Turkey’s daily newspaper Azadiya Welat, was charged with “propaganda” under Turkish law for reporting on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a separatist organization listed by several nations, including the U.S., as a terrorist organization.
But Demir’s lawyer, Servet Osen, insists Demir’s articles were merely news reporting, not propaganda.
Azadiya Welat is Turkey’s only Kurdish-language newspaper, but reporting on those within the ethnic minority who wish to form their own state has drawn the ire of the Turkish government.
According to Reporters Without Borders, at least nine Azadyia Welat journalists are currently in prison on “propaganda” charges, including two other former editors, Vedat Kursun, serving a 166-year sentence, and Ozan Kilinc, serving for 21 years.
“Reporters Without Borders deplores Turkey’s abuse of its anti-terrorism law to censor and punish journalists who raise the issue of its Kurdish minority or quote certain Kurdish leaders,” the organization states. “Under Article 7/2 of the law, propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization is punishable by imprisonment. [But] as neither ‘propaganda’ nor ‘terrorist organization’ is defined, the article can easily be interpreted in the broadest possible way to target almost any journalist or media.”
The organization claims Turkey’s insistence that Kurdish independence “remains taboo” constitutes “judicial harassment” of the press “used as a pretext for legal proceedings against too many media and journalists in Turkey.”
Demir’s 138-year sentence was calculated by counting 18 months in jail for each one of her 84 articles written in Azadiya Welat between 2008 and 2009, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.
“Reporters Without Borders calls on the appeal court in Diyarbakir to cancel the arrest warrant against Emin Demir and on the appeal court to reject the iniquitous and disproportionate sentence against the journalist,” the group’s website states. “The organization repeats its call for amendments to the anti-terror law and for the release of Berivan Eker, Bedri Adanir, Vedat Kursun, Ozan Kilinc and all the other journalists imprisoned under this law for their work as journalists.”