Press Freedom

Journalists Elif Akgül and Haluk Kalafat are to stand trial on infamous Article 301 charges

ÇİÇEK TAHAOĞLU*

Journalist Haluk Kalafat and Media and Law Studies Association’s (MLSA) court reporter Elif Akgül will appear in court tomorrow on “publicly degrading the Turkish nation (Article 301/1 of Turkish Penal Code)” charges.

The journalists will be tried for the news articles published on bianet in 2015 and 2018. The news articles in question cover research books on the Armenian Genocide

Kalafat and Akgül, who spoke to MLSA, stated that a simple journalistic activity has been turned into the subject of a trial.

The first hearing of the trial will be held tomorrow (April 27) in the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. MLSA will represent Kalafat in the courtroom.

Akgül: We will keep telling the truth as it is

Akgül, who was sued for the blurb of the book titled Ermeni Soykırımı Dünya Basını Manşetleri [International headlines regarding the Armenian Genocide] said: 

“The investigation was initiated years after the blurb was published in 2015. We provided our statements to a prosecutor, and after several years without any further action, it now turned into a lawsuit. So, they have been threatening us with ‘prosecution’ for  years because of a news article published eight years ago. I believe this is just the judiciary’s version of those who mention the General Directorate of Security (EGM) through social media because they don’t like what you say.”

Emphasizing that in the indictment, the prosecutor failed to provide any explanation on how they had committed the offense stipulated in Article 301, Akgül continued:

“It is needless to say how serious Article 301 charges are, but considering that the trial will be held three days after April 24, which is recognized as the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, it is also necessary to add the following. It does not change the fact that genocidal policies towards Armenians did happen just because the prosecutor considers it an ‘insult.’ Therefore, we will not give up telling the truth as it is, just because we are being accused of ‘degrading.’”

Kalafat: The book is still being sold 

Explaining that he is facing these charges because of an interview he conducted on a newly published book, Kalafat states that there is still no court order for the book to be pulled off the shelves:

“This investigation file has been open for a long time. The prosecution claims that there is an element of crime in the sentences I wrote in the preface of an interview I conducted in 2018. I thought the investigation file would end with a decision of non-prosecution because the offense stipulated in Article 301 requires obviousness. There is no obvious insult in my sentences, it is an introductory text providing information about a newly published book. Then, I ask questions to the author of the book about the content of the book. In short, it is a journalistic activity. The book is still being sold, and there is no investigation about it. The questions I asked, my preface, and the answers I received should have been evaluated within the boundaries of freedom of thought and should not have turned into a case.”

The investigation was initiated after a CIMER complaint

Following a complaint made by a citizen to the Presidential Communication Center (CIMER) claiming that “propaganda for the Armenian Genocide is being made”,  the criminal investigation was launched.

The indictment filed by Prosecutor Murat Mert on December 9, 2022 includes six different news articles on the Armenian Genocide published on bianet in 2015, 2018, and 2019, as well as some quotations from these articles.

During the investigation, journalists’ lawyers presented the Constitutional Court’s İlker Deniz Yücel judgment, and the European Court of Human Rights’s judgments in the cases of Hrant Dink and Altuğ Taner Akçam and the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office’s decision from May 2018, all of which established that the use of the term “Armenian Genocide” does not constitute a crime.

In defiance of these judgments, journalists have been charged with “publicly degrading the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish Grand National Assembly, the government of the Republic of Turkey, and the state’s judiciary.”

*This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. The work may be used and redistributed for non-commercial purposes with proper attribution to the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).