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Press freedom under attack in Turkey as TV executives jailed

PRESS freedom in Turkey was dealt a further blow on yesterday after three broadcast executives were sentenced to jail on trumped-up terrorism charges.

Hayatin Sesi TV executives Mustafa Kara, Ismail Gokhan Bayram and Gokhan Cetin were each sentenced to three years, nine months in prison over allegations of making propaganda for terrorist organisations.

The TV station was one of the media organisations closed under the Decree Law (KHK) issued under the state of emergency in October 2016.

Defence lawyer Devrim Avci charged: “It was not enough to shut it down, they wanted to punish them repeatedly.”

They were charged after covering news of the Isis bomb attack of a peace rally in Ankara in which 102 people were killed. 

Hayatin Sesi’s live broadcast from the scene was used as a criminal indictment in the case.

The TV station was sued for allegedly making propaganda for Isis, (PKK offshoot) TAK, and  the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the same case.

But Ms Avci explained that many national and international broadcasting organisations reported on the explosions, saying that to do so is a requirement of journalism.

"When you report as news a terrorist action, you are not a member of the terrorist organisation," she said.

The court, which announced its decision at the end of the hearing, sentenced the trio to three years and nine months in prison by a majority vote.

Following the trial, lawyers and representatives of the professional press organisation reacted to the verdict holding a press conference in front of the courthouse.

Ms Avci told those gathered: “The court gave the following justification in its decision — the weight of the crime, the purpose of the defendants and the motive ...

“My clients have informed the public about how political power is hiding knowledge.

“Already political power can easily call anyone outside itself the terrorist. We object to this decision and will appeal.”

She warned that hundreds of workers have been detained during the construction of Istanbul’s third airport but that the incidents were not reflected on television screens in Turkey.

“If Hayatin Sesi TV had not been shut down, it would have carried news about them. 

“Because of that, those with political power immediately called them ‘terrorists’ and brought them to court.”

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