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Top court finds rights violation in conviction of journalist for reporting on corruption

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a prison sentence imposed on a local journalist who was convicted of libel for reporting on corruption constituted a violation of his rights, the Bianet news website reported.

The court’s ruling concerns Özgür Boğatekin, a journalist working for the Gerger Fırat newspaper in the eastern Turkish province of Adıyaman.

He reported in 2013 on bureaucrats in the Gerger district who were allegedly involved in corruption in public tenders and the collection of money for Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) projects although TOKİ had no housing projects at the time in the district.

District Governor Ömer Bilgin filed a criminal complaint against Boğatekin on allegations of libel. The journalist stood trial and was given a suspended sentence of 12 months in 2015 that was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2020.

Boğatekin took his case to the Constitutional Court, which found the violation of two articles of the Turkish constitution in his prosecution.

The top court said Article 26 of the constitution, which concerns freedom of expression, and Article 28, regulating freedom of the press, were violated. The court also ruled that the government pay Boğatekin TL 30,000 ($1,000) in non-pecuniary damages.

It is common for journalists in Turkey, which is among the top jailer of journalists in the world, to face prosecution and jail time due to their journalistic activities.

Earlier this week, prominent Turkish journalist Nazlı Ilcak, 79, was sent to prison to serve a sentence handed down on conviction of libeling a public prosecutor.

Turkey is ranked 165th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ latest press freedom index.

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