A decision to sentence six journalists in Turkey to life imprisonment over alleged links to the 2016 coup has been described as ‘barbaric’ by the Society of Editors.
The convictions, the first relating to media figures, followed a long trial during which the prosecution alleged that the journalists sent “subliminal messages” via TV appearances and newspaper columns urging the overthrow of the government.
Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors described the sentences as an unprecedented assault on media freedom.
He said: “The decision to sentence media figures in Turkey to life in prison without what appears to be substantial proof of their involvement in the coup is appalling and nothing less than barbaric.
“Not only have these journalists lost their jobs and their livelihoods, they now face life in prison on charges that are dubious and appear to be seriously lacking in evidence.
“The difficulties facing freedom of expression in Turkey are huge and the situation is dreadful. This barbaric sentencing not only sets a horrifying precedent for other journalists in the country that are facing similar charges, but should rightly be condemned worldwide as an unprecedented assault on media freedom.”
The sentences were handed out on Friday and included life sentences for prominent journalists Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan who have been detained since 2016. Nazl? Il?cak was also sentenced to life in prison. The conviction against Mehmet Altan defies an order by Turkey’s highest court to release him after it found last month that his imprisonment had violated his constitutional rights.
The three other journalists sentenced were Fevzi Yazici, Yakup Simsek and Sukru Tugrul Ozsengul.
All were found guilty of links to US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen who has been widely blamed by President Erdogan as responsible for the attempted coup.
The ruling has been condemned by human rights groups including the UN and OSCE representatives on media freedom.
The sentencing of the six came on the same day that another Turkish court ordered the release of Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist who spent more than a year in jail without charge.