Journalist who stood trial for posting Nevruz photo acquitted of terror charges

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Journalist Melis Alphan, who faced a prison sentence of up to seven-and-a-half years for posting a Nevruz photo in 2015, has been acquitted of terrorism charges.

Alphan was standing trial on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda due to a photo she posted on social media during celebrations marking the spring festival of Nevruz in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır in 2015.

“I have been acquitted. I am very happy. I offer my thanks to my dear friends, colleagues and everyone who has supported me,” she tweeted following the second hearing of her trial in an İstanbul court on Friday.

The indictment claimed Alphan sought to disseminate terrorist propaganda because the Nevruz photo she posted on social media showed flags and banners of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), all listed as terrorist organizations by Turkey, as well as photos of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

In her defense statement at the first hearing in April Alphan said she shared a photo from the celebrations that was broadcast by many TV stations in Turkey.

“I was not even there. The accusations against me are related to the flags and banners carried by the people in the photo. I am standing trial just because of sharing a photo. Do I have links to a terrorist organization? The crime is made up. I did not commit these crimes. I demand my acquittal,” said the journalist.

The International Press Institute (IPI) on Thursday called on Turkish authorities to drop charges against the journalist ahead of her trial.

“This is an outrageous example of targeting journalists who reported on, supported and shared previous official activities of the government during peace talks with Kurdish representatives to solve a long-term national conflict,” IPI Turkey Program Coordinator Renan Akyavaş said. “Alphan is being prosecuted just for sharing a photo taken from an officially sanctioned event during an official process which the government now aims to forget, act as if it never happened and to deem everything related to it illegal.”

She added: “The Turkish government’s current attitude is one of targeting those independent journalists who reported positively on the peace process but continued their criticism against the government since then and are therefore being targeted now on baseless accusations.”

“This is absolutely unacceptable, and Turkey must immediately end the prosecution of Alphan and compensate her for the damage done to her during this baseless prosecution.”

Journalistic activities have more frequently been regarded in Turkey as criminal acts or terrorism particularly after a military coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. Following the failed putsch, dozens of critical journalists were arrested, while hundreds of media outlets were closed down as part of a government-led post-coup crackdown.

One of the leading jailers of journalists in the world, Turkey was ranked 153rd out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in April.

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