Turkey begins trial of journalists for 'revealing state secrets'

Reporters, editors and columnists face years in prison for their stories about Ankara's military activity in Libya

People hold placards that read " Murat Agirel is not alone " and " we want justice for Murat " outside the courthouse, in Istanbul, Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Seven journalists went on trial on Wednesday, accused of revealing state secrets for their reports on the funeral an intelligence officer who was killed in Libya. (AP Photo/Mehmet Guzel)
Powered by automated translation

Seven journalists in Turkey went on trial on Wednesday, accused of revealing state secrets over their reports on the funeral of an intelligence officer who was killed in Libya.

The journalists from OdaTV  news website, the pro-Kurdish newspaper Yeni Yasam  and the nationalist daily Yenicag  were charged with breaking national intelligence laws and of revealing secret information.

If convicted, they face between eight and 19 years in prison.

OdaTV editor-in-chief Baris Pehlivan, editor Baris Terkoglu, reporter Hulya Kilinc, and Yeni Yasam editor-in-chief Ferhat Celik and news editor Aydin Keser were charged over their reports on the intelligence officer who died in February, and Turkey's military activity in Libya.

Murat Agirel, a columnist for Yenicag, and Erk Acarer, a columnist for the left-leaning BirGun newspaper, are accused of revealing the intelligence official's identity on social media.

Mr Acarer is abroad and will be tried in his absence.

Eren Ekinci, an employee of the municipality where the intelligence officer's funeral took place, is accused of providing information to OdaTV.

The prosecutors accused the defendants, who have been detained since March, of acting “in a systematic and co-ordinated manner”.

Critics say the intelligence officer was identified during discussions in Turkey’s Parliament and that his name was no longer a secret.

Dozens of people gathered outside the courthouse in Istanbul to show solidarity with the journalists.

The Committee to Protect Journalists  called on the Turkish authorities to drop the charges.

“Turkey should stop attempting to control independent journalism with intimidation, immediately free the arrested journalists and drop this case,” said the group’s Europe and Central Asia co-ordinator, Gulnoza Said.

The committee ranks Turkey among the top jailers of journalists worldwide.

About 80 journalists and other media workers are in jail under Turkey’s broad anti-terrorism laws, says the Turkish Journalists' Syndicate, many members of which were detained in a crackdown after a 2016 coup attempt.

Turkey maintains that the journalists are being prosecuted for criminal acts and not their work.