Second ‘insulting the president’ case against journalist Sedef Kabaş in a year

Second ‘insulting the president’ case against journalist Sedef Kabaş in a year
Another “insulting the president” lawsuit has been brought against journalist Sedef Kabaş who was held in pre-trial detention for 49 days last year over the same charge. The prosecutor who cited 25 tweets as evidence against Kabaş claimed that there is an “intention to dishonor” the president and requested the journalist to be sentenced. The court set a date for the first hearing only in seven days. In her statement she provided to the prosecutor, Kabaş drew attention to the legal harassment she has been subjected to and stated that “Criticism is one of the fundamental principles of journalistic duty.”

The indictments are just a year apart

After citing a proverb on a television show aired on Tele 1, journalist Sedef Kabaş was arrested on 22 January 2022. Prosecutor Türkşad Kunthan Uçuk indicted the journalist on 11 February 202. After being held in pre-trial detention for 49 days, an Istanbul court sentenced journalist Kabaş to 2 years and 4 months in prison for “insulting the president.” Exactly one year, the Istanbul Anatolian Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted Kabaş with “insulting the president.” Prosecutor Burhan Ergar filed the indictment on 10 February 2023.

Evidence cited against Kabaş: Remarks of Meral Akşener and an NBC reporter

Among 25 tweets the prosecutor cited against Kabaş, two tweets stand out. The prosecutor presented a tweet Kabaş had shared on her personal account on 7 January 2021 as evidence against the journalist despite the fact the remarks in the tweet do not belong to Kabaş. In the cited tweet, Kabaş simply translated the remarks of an NBC reporter who called President Erdoğan “a dictator” while commenting on the statement issued by Mustafa Şentop, the National Assembly speaker, following the January 6 United States Capitol attack.  Another tweet, the prosecutor cites as evidence against the journalist is the tweet which Kabaş had shared on her personal account on 17 February 2021 and in which she simply relayed the words of IYI Party leader Meral Akşener who called Erdoğan “unsensible” because of his comments about the captured soldiers. 

Tweets criticizing the vaccination policy are also cited as evidence

25 tweets which are included in the “investigation report” prepared by the police on 2 March 2021 are all cited as evidence to support the charge of “insulting the president.” Among the tweets shared by Kabaş between 2016 and 2021 are also tweets containing the journalist’s criticism of the vaccination policy during the pandemic and then-popular question “Where is the 128 billion dollars?” which referred to allegations directed by opposition parties in 2021 that 128 billion dollars was missing in the reserves of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey. Despite the fact that the majority of tweets cited against Kabaş are from 2021, the prosecutor wrote 23 November 2016 as “the date of the offense.”

The court set a hearing date in seven days

The Istanbul Anatolian 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance which accepted the indictment, held the preliminary proceedings on 17 February 2023. Contrary to the indictment, in the minutes of the preliminary proceedings, the court wrote “2021” as “the date of the offense” and decided to inquire if the prison sentences imposed upon Kabaş in 2019 and 2022 for the same charge, are finalized. The court also asked for the copies of the 2019 and 2022 case files. The court will begin the trial of journalist Sedef Kabaş on 22 June 2023.

Kabaş: It is the duty of a journalist to hold those in power accountable

In her statement she gave to the prosecutor, Kabaş pointed out that none of the cited tweets contain insults. Arguing that the prosecutor should decide for non-prosecution, Kabaş stated: “The majority of the tweets I post are based on facts. They are not about imagined things. They are my comments and criticisms about events which are already known by the public. I am a journalist of 30 years. “Criticism and holding those in power are the fundamental principles of journalistic duty…” “Therefore these tweets should be evaluated in the context of journalistic activity. I exercised my freedom of expression and my freedom as a journalist by posting these tweets. None of these tweets contain insults, curses which would harm the persons of others. Quite the contrary, these investigations launched against me, the demands for my acquittals to be overturned show that the judiciary is utilized to put pressure on me, to silence and to hurt me.”  *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).

Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.