Press Freedom

Prosecutor decided not to file a lawsuit against journalist Canan Kaya over ‘disinformation’: Disinformation requires specific intent


In the criminal investigation which has been launched against journalist Canan Kaya over the suspicion of “openly disseminating information misleading the public” on the grounds of her earthquake-related broadcast, the prosecutor decided not to prosecute the journalist. The prosecutor underlined that specific intent is required for the offense of “openly disseminating information misleading the public.”

On 18 March 2023, the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau of the Istanbul Anatolian Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated an investigation against Canan Kaya, the owner of Medya Koridoru and the Chief Editor, over the suspicion of “openly disseminating information misleading the public” (Turkish Penal Code Article 217/A)” on the grounds of the journalist’s earthquake-related broadcast on 13 February 2023.

MLSA lawyers revealed that the investigation against Kaya was initiated after the broadcast was “detected” during a “virtual patrol” which the police carried out unlawfully in defiance of the Constitutional Court’s decision dated 19 February 2020. Kaya’s lawyers also revealed that the police tried to access the journalist’s social media accounts in an unlawful manner.

The prosecutor issued a decision of non-prosecution, stating that ‘specific intent’ is required for ‘disinformation’

Prosecutor Selman Bacaksız, who conducted the investigation, issued his decision on 10 May 2023. Emphasizing that Kaya, who was under investigation for “openly disseminating information misleading the public”, is a journalist, prosecutor Bacaksız stated that the offense regulated under Article 217/A of the Turkish Penal Code can only be committed with specific intent.

In his decision, the prosecutor stated: “In the specific case, the video containing the words expressed by another person, shared on the suspect’s social media account and which was found during an open source investigation, does not pose a clear and imminent danger to disrupt public peace. Moreover, it does not inherently contain an effective incitement to violence or hate speech. Additionally, there is no evidence contradicting the suspect’s defense and to prove that the suspect acted solely with the intention of creating concern, fear, or panic among the public. There is also an insufficient amount of evidence and signs indicating that the act disrupted public peace. The actions of the suspect, who is a journalist, fall within the limits of press freedom.”

Emphasizing that an investigation is being carried out against journalist Abdullah Aslan on the same suspicion, the prosecutor decided not to prosecute journalist Canan Kaya on the grounds that the elements of the offense did not occur in her case.

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