Journalists In Turkey Sentenced To Prison For Reporting Corruption In Government

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor


In another example of the diminishing freedom of the press in Turkey, Yurt newspaper reporter Meriç Şenyüz and Ulusal Kanal reporter Özer Sürmeli received sentences of six and five months respectively for their reporting of a December seventeenth corruption probe involving, among others, then Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan.

Turkey has an unfortunate history of repression of media critical of government, though in the last year an estimated forty imprisoned journalists have been released. According to BIA Media Monitoring Reports, the number of jailed journalists in Turkey fell from 104 in 2010 to 59 last year and to 19 by November 2014. However the underlying trend of jailing journalists in Turkey and many other nations of the world continues.

On January seventeenth, Şenyüz’ article included the following statement, (roughly translated) “In order for Bilal to erect a mall in Etiler District, land belonging to a police school was seized. Title was then transferred to the municipality from police authorities. Then, the land was declared as a ‘Hazard Zone’. Afterward, the mall project began.”

Şenyüz later announced he was appealing the ruling. He wrote the following to his twitter account, “This is understandable but those who stole millions…have not even made a statement. I am frustrated by this.”

Flag of TurkeyIn a January ninth article authored by Sürmeli in Ulusal Kanal titled “Bribery delivery in the toilet [stall],” the reporter exposed various bribery allegations stemming from the December seventeenth corruption probe. The news account revealed that graft was exchanged between various actors.

The article claimed that individuals representing various corporations and institutions exchanged money in, of all places, a disabled person’s bathroom stall in the city of Izir.

The court ruled that in its verdict that Sürmeli “caused the persons involved in the matter to be perceived as criminals.” It is not as if that did not appear obvious to anyone but it is allegedly a criminal offense to publish such facts.

Both men however remain free pending further court proceedings.

Several other journalists also were jailed for investigative reporting of the corruption probe. Charges in this group ranged from Insults (Turkish Penal Code Article 125) to Violating the Confidentially of an Investigation, (Turkish Penal Code Article 285).

The laws themselves are far reaching and nearly every aspect of investigative reporting, as is customary in the West, carries substantial risk of criminal charges levied against reporters.
Here are both articles of the Penal Code:


ARTICLE 125- (1) Anyone who undermining the honor, dignity or respectability of another person or who attacks a person’s honor by attributing to them a concrete act or a fact, or by means of an insult shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three months to two years, or punished with a judicial fine. In order to convict for an insult made in the absence of the victim, the act must have been witnessed by at least three persons.

(2) If the act is committed by means of a spoken, written or visual message addressing the victim, the perpetrator shall be sentenced to the penalties set out above.

(3) If the offence of insult is committed:

a) against a public official in connection with their duty;

b) in response to the expression of religious, political, social, philosophical beliefs, thoughts and opinions, in response to an individual’s changing or attempting to propagate their religious, political, social, philosophical beliefs, thoughts and opinions, or in response to an individual’s compliance with the requirements and prohibitions of their religion;

c) by reference to the holy values of a person’s religion, the penalty shall be not less than one year.

(4) (Amended by Law 5377 of 29 June 2005 /Article 15) Where the offence of insult was committed in public, the penalty shall be increased by one sixth.

(5) (Amended by law 5377 of 29 June 2005 /Article 15) In the case of insults to public officials in connection with their efforts working as a committee, the offence shall be deemed to have been committed against all committee members. In such a case, the provisions related to concatenated offences shall be applied.

Violation of Confidentiality

Article 285 – (1) Anyone who publicly breaches the confidentiality of an investigation shall be sentenced to imprisonment of from one to three years. In the case of breaches of confidentiality with respect to decisions taken during investigation that are confidential by law, and for procedures carried out in accordance with such decisions, the offence shall be deemed to have occurred even where it was not committed publicly.

(2) Anyone who publicly breaches the confidentiality of declarations or images produced in hearings that according to the law had to be held or had been decided to be held in closed session shall be sentenced according to the provision in paragraph 1. Where the protection of a witness is an issue, the offence shall be deemed to have occurred even where it was not committed publicly.

(3) The sentence shall be increased by one half if the offences are committed by means of the press or publication.

(4) If, during the investigation and prosecution stages, images are published that label persons as guilty, a sentence of imprisonment of from six months to two years shall be imposed.

Article 285 can have the legal effect of burying acts of corruption in that under this statute, unless modified elsewhere within the penal code, the authorities can expand an investigation over years of delay and subject a reporter to criminal prosecution if at any point during such investigation the media divulges details of such. Such conditions are ripe for the furtherance of corruption and malfeasance of office.

BIA News worries that the Turkish Government’s approach in portraying certain news reports as being conspiracies and unlawfully influencing the court system are causing journalists to believe that a new wave of arrests could greatly impact critical journalism.

By Darren Smith


Democratic Turkey Forum (Laws current as of 2008)

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

44 thoughts on “Journalists In Turkey Sentenced To Prison For Reporting Corruption In Government”

  1. Bill, you should check some videos of Carson’s appearances while helping some candidates. The people like him very much. He could certainly be trusted to approach the health care problem honestly.

  2. Almost same here, where nasty whistle blowers are put to jail by invoking a century-old law(s).

    1. Diogenes – anyone can convict the guilty, it takes a real attorney to convict the innocent.

  3. MsJetTexas made this comment on the House Files Lawsuit thread, but it is also germane here:

    The Obama & Liberal Press incest family. . . no wonder he had the press in his back pocket . . . .

    ABC News executive producer Ian Cameron is married to Susan Rice, National Security Adviser.

    CBS President David Rhodes is the brother of Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications.

    ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman is married to recent White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

    ABC News and Uni-vision reporter Matthew Jaffe is married to Katie Hogan, Obama’s Deputy Press Secretary

    ABC President Ben Sherwood is the brother of Obama’s Special Adviser Elizabeth Sherwood

    CNN President Virginia Moseley is married to former Hillary Clinton’s Deputy Secretary Tom Nides.

    National Barack Channel is owned by the White House.

    MSNBC Alex Wagner is married to Obama administration’s senior adviser Sam Kass, currently the president’s senior nutrition policy adviser.

    Sure does redefine “Incestuous” let alone conflict of interest. Nepotism be damned. Looks like a common gene pool that needs a heavy shot of Clorox. How can the message go wrong when you have friends like this in the media.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

    1. Squeeky – it is not just the incestual relationships, but the number of reporters that have been hired by the WH and then staff who have left the WH to become reporters. It is like the Never Ending Story.

  4. Plus, remember James Rosen last year, and the DOJ snooping on his emails???

    Michael Walsh, New York Post columnist, May 23:

    The Justice Department’s secret seizure of phone records from The Associated Press and its monitoring of Fox News reporter James Rosen are nothing less than thuggish attempts to criminalize the practice of journalism — the only profession specifically protected by the US Constitution.

    The New York Times, editorial board, May 22:

    With the decision to label a Fox News television reporter a possible ”co-conspirator” in a criminal investigation of a news leak, the Obama administration has moved beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news.

    From Twitter: Keith Olbermann:

    My experience dealing with @JamesRosenFNC was unpleasant and contentious. And I fully support him against this unwarranted act by DOJ

    The Wall Street Journal, editorial board, May 21

    With the Fox News search following the AP subpoenas, we now have evidence of a pattern of anti-media behavior. The suspicion has to be that maybe these “leak” investigations are less about deterring leakers and more about intimidating the press. We trust our liberal friends in the press corps won’t mute their dismay merely because this time the target is a network they love to hate.

    LA Daily News, Jonathan Dobrer, May 21, 2013:

    The secret searches of emails and phone records of AP reporters and editors is an outrage. The criminalizing of Fox reporter James Rosen is an attack on the American people’s right to know what our government is doing. The chilling effect that these terrible policies can have on our nation is grave. It must not be allowed to stand.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  5. Here is another example of how American journalists face the same problem:

    In an interview yesterday with Howard Kurtz of Fox News, Melissa Francis, host of “Money” on the Fox Business Network, repeated a set of previous claims that her former employer, CNBC, had censored her for being critical of Obamacare four years ago. “It was at the time that the president and his surrogates were out arguing for the passage of Obamacare and they kept saying again and again that it wasn’t going to cost a dime . . . I was asking repeatedly of our guests, ‘How is that possible?’”

    In Francis’s telling, her skeptical approach to Obamacare drew interest from CNBC’s management. “After my show one day, I was called upstairs to our manager’s office and told that . . . my comments were inappropriate,” recalls Francis. She responded that she was examining the “dollars and cents” of the program. “I was told that I was, quote, ‘Disrespecting the office of the president’ by questioning the math of Obamacare.”

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  6. If he was like our journalists of the MSM he would not have had any problem . Our journalists know how to keep a president happy with them .

  7. slohrrs, I’m well aware of our relationship w/ Turkey. But, in the past decade or so Turkey has gone south on us quickly. Any group can become tomorrow’s terrorists. But, I think the Kurds are @ the lower end of the spectrum. I hope we can agree there are no good choices in that hellhole region of the world. But, in a changing environment one must adapt. Arm and give air support to the Kurds, they will defeat ISIS. That’s the current crisis. Right now we are just giving air support. Obama is fighting this war like Johnson fought Viet Nam.

  8. That’s because they had to. Germany is knuckling under now, even though they are not very happy with us at all. No surprise there. China gives us a long leash on credit now because it serves them well. At some point, they’ll dump the dollar altogether, and that’s when it will get interesting. Yes, you make a good point above, I am always skeptical of the press and hold no preconceived ideals.

  9. elrond:

    You’re right. There was a brouhaha recently over a Republican who fined a newspaper that wrote disparaging articles about him.

    It’s up to us, and a universally skeptical press, to keep politicians honest. No matter which party is in office, the press should act like they are completely untrustworthy and investigate accordingly.

  10. Slohrss:

    Based on what? What are your sources that confirm that it is ONLY a matter of cash for all of our allies?

    The PM of GB knowingly took a severe political hit to join us in Iraq.

    Our finances are also intertwined with the Chinese. Do you think they will have our backs, no matter what, because of the money?

    I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in politics and international alliances from my father’s experiences. I recall him telling me the moment he became disgusted with politicians. He was testifying before Congress on a military issue. He met with the Dem who called for the hearings, all prepared with the data and information to explain the whole situation. The pol said, yes, he was aware of all that. It wasn’t really an issue. He was having a tough time ahead of an election and needed something to run on. My father sputtered about the millions of dollars wasted, all the man hours, preparing for a case that this pol knew full well was not really an issue, just so he could get some votes.

    I’ve learned two things over the years: Past behavior predicts future. And don’t trust a politician farther than you can throw him or her.

  11. Karen, I hate to tell you it’s ALL about the cash. We are just tight with GB because our banking and economies are intertwined. When push comes to shove, that’s what it will always come down to.

  12. We have to compare the histories of our allies. Pakistan pretty much lies to our faces and takes boatloads of cash. Great Britain has supported us with troops when it was hard. Canada frequently helps us, and at least does not agitate for our destruction.

    All allies are not the same.

    That’s why it’s offensive to me when our leaders throw aside our oldest friends, including Israel, in an attempt to court new ones that are not sincere, but just want our cash.

  13. BarkinDog:

    My father was in Turkey once for the government. He met a man who was scrupulously honest. He admitted, at one point, that he had survived a Turkish prison. It’s usually a death sentence, breaking bigger rocks pointlessly into smaller ones, malnutrition, and being worked to death. The sentences are typically short but brutal. When he survived serving time, he vowed to NEVER go back in that hell hole, and became the most honest man on the planet.

    I would be terrified of accidentally breaking the law in Turkey, although Istanbul is supposed to be a wonderful tourist destination.

    My friends went there for their anniversary . . . unfortunately when riots broke out against the government. A kind shop owner allowed them to take shelter inside from the tear gas. They weren’t hurt, and have one heck of an adventure story for their grandkids.

  14. All allies are pretty much fair weather allies. Time to wrap up NATO as well, then we don’t have an issue with Turkey. Once again, their country, their rules.

  15. The only reason why the US refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide is because Turkey is one of our few allies in the ME. However, they have proven themselves to be fair weather allies time and again.

Comments are closed.