On 13 December, the Beşiktaş (Istanbul) 10th High Criminal Court sentenced Birgün newspaper reporter İlkem Ezgi Aşam to imprisonment of one year on the grounds of supportive information added to a news item. The verdict was based on Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) on "identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets".
The trial was launched upon the complaint of Brigadier General Korkmaz Tağma about the news entitled "The community general at the Mutki excavations" published in the Birgün newspaper on 24 January. The main news item was not signed by anybody.
Birgün editor-in-chief İbrahim Çeşmecioğlu was also tried in the scope of the same case.
Çeşmecioğlu passed away during the trial period. Procedures were expected to be dropped. However, the prosecution of Aşam was continued on the grounds of her signature under the part of the news that was quoting Hasan Ceylan's opinion about Brigadier General Tağma. Ceylan is the Bitlis Representative of the Human Rights Association (İHD).
The part of the news signed by Aşam quoted İHD representative Çeylan as saying that in his opinion Korkmaz Tağma was connected with the massacres in Bitlis and Mutki.
Journalist Aşam appealed the decision. If the Court of Appeal upholds the sentence, she will go to jail since prison sentences decided under the TMK cannot be converted into alternative fines.
"We were hoping for an acquittal"
Lawyer Tolga Güvercin told bianet that they had actually expected Aşam's acquittal. Güvercin emphasized that the section signed by Aşam exclusively contained the opinion voiced by the İHD representative without having added any further comment by the journalist.
"The court assessed the whole news as completely made by Ezgi Aşam. We plead that the other news did not intend to identify anybody as a target either and that it was to be seen within the scope of the right of the press to make news and the duty to inform the public".
"We are experiencing a concrete example of the situation that 'a journalist is facing a prison threat because of first hand news', a topic that has been discussed ever since the TMK was enforced", Güvercin criticized.
Aşam was surprised about the one-year sentence for an opinion included in the supportive frame around the main news.
"We were hoping for an acquittal because I was not penalized for the news but for an opinion. The news is a collection of news items and my signature was under one box only".
"As it was my required journalistic duty I called Hasan Ceylan and I also tried to reach Korkmaz Ceylan. Yet, I was not able to reach the latter. The situation is rather grave if a trial is being opened on the grounds of a box with additional information". (EG/HK)