The undersigned media freedom, freedom of expression, human rights, and journalists’ organisations strongly condemn the latest incident of judicial harassment against journalist Barış Pehlivan and reiterate calls to the Turkish authorities to respect media freedom.
On 2 August, journalist Barış Pehlivan was informed via an SMS from the Ministry of Justice that he was expected to turn himself over to the Marmara Low Security Correctional Institution (formerly Silivri) between 1-15 August 2023. Pehlivan has already been incarcerated four times due to his journalism, two of those being one day behind bars in February and May 2023 for the same sentence. This order would mark his fifth time behind bars.
We are concerned by the repeated judicial harassment of Pehlivan, who is exercising his fundamental right to free speech as a journalist in Turkey.
Due to his coverage of the funeral of an MIT (Turkish National Intelligence Organization) officer in Libya, Pehlivan was arrested on 6 March 2020 and taken to court, alongside journalists Aydın Keser, Barış Terkoğlu, Eren Ekinci, Hülya Kılınç, Ferhat Çelik and Murat Ağırel, and was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison on charges of exposing classified intelligence documents.
On 12 May 2020, Turkish authorities postponed the sentences of thousands of inmates due to Covid-19, but a last-minute clause excluded primarily the charges that journalists face, keeping all journalists, including Pehlivan, in prison.
After spending 6 months behind bars, journalist Barış Pehlivan was released on 9 September 2020 on parole on the condition that he not be subject to another court case. After his release, Pehlivan commented on the court’s decision by saying: ‘There is no crime in this case. This case aims to punish our journalism.’
On 15 July this year, the Turkish Parliament enacted a measure drafted by the governing coalition regulating parole and probation rules. According to this regulation, Pehlivan also gains the right to benefit from parole, his lawyer reports. When Pehlivan’s lawyer filed a request for information on the decision that Pehlivan submits himself to the correctional institution, the response indicated that the prison administration had disregarded the relevant clauses of the legislation from July 2023.
Shortly after he co-authored a book titled “SS” (referring to the initials of former Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu) in April 2023, Pehlivan was targeted by then-advisor of the Minister of Interior on the grounds of having ties to organised crime, and another one of his articles became the subject of an insult case. While the trial process has not begun for the latest court case that was opened in April 2023, it has been seen as an attempt to end Pehlivan’s parole.
In mid-July, 15 journalists were released from prison, while as of 7 August, 20 journalists still remain behind bars in Turkey. In the past year 232 alerts regarding Turkey were reported on the Mapping Media Freedom database, impacting 329 journalists, media workers or outlets, which shows the dire conditions independent journalism operate under in the country. All together, these alerts make up a quarter of all the reported alerts in Europe.
Acts of judicial harassment targeting journalists hinder media freedom and people’s right to access information.
We call upon the Turkish authorities to reverse the decision to reimprison Pehlivan and end the systematic judicial harassment against him and other journalists.
We reiterate our solidarity with the imprisoned journalists. Journalism is not a crime and every minute a journalist spends behind bars is a violation of freedom of expression and media freedom.
ARTICLE 19 Europe
Association of Journalists (GC)
Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Freedom of Expression Association (İFÖD)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA)
Media Research Association (MEDAR)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Roma Memory Studies Association (Romani Godi)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)