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Journalist gets suspended sentence due to report on Turkish Red Crescent executives

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A Turkish court has handed down a suspended two-year sentence to a journalist from the Birgün daily due to a report on executives from the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), the Birgün daily reported.

Birgün reporter İsmail Arı stood trial due to a report in Birgün on Oct. 6, 2020 about administrative fines imposed on Turkish Red Crescent Chairman Kerem Kınık and then-General Manager İbrahim Altan by the Interior Ministry due to irregularities at the organization. The daily published the bank receipts for the fines paid by the Kızılay officials.

The journalist faced charges of unlawfully obtaining personal data and disclosing it.

Arı’s lawyer, Tolgay Güvercin, said at the third hearing of his client’s trial at an İstanbul court on Thursday that the journalist’s report about the Turkish Red Crescent executives was of interest to the public and that the public has a right to information according to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

The lawyer demanded Arı’s acquittal, saying the elements of a crime were not present in his client’s actions.

However, the court handed down a suspended sentence of two years to Arı, meaning that if he does not commit the same “crime” within five years, he will not be jailed.

Last week, another journalist from the Birgün daily, editor Mehmet Emin Kurnaz, received two suspended sentences of 11 months, 20 days each for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his far-right ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli in a May 2021 report on allegations of mafia-state collusion.

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists worldwide, has been cracking down on critical journalists for years. This week, 11 journalists working for pro-Kurdish news outlets were detained in operations across several provinces.

Turkey was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index.

The crackdown on journalists who criticize the government, its members, policies and President Erdoğan, intensified after a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016 following which dozens of critical journalists were jailed, while many media outlets were closed down in the aftermath of the failed coup.

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