July 2, 2024

02.07.2024 – Journalist Elif Akgül Acquitted of Terror Propaganda Charges

Journalist Elif Akgül, who was working as editor in charge for bianet (https://bianet.org/english) from 2012 to 2018, as also as a reporter at IMC TV, a pro-Kurdish broadcaster that had to be closed after the failed military coup in 2016, and is active in the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA – https://www.mlsaturkey.com/en/home/), has been acquitted of charges related to “continuous terror organization propaganda” stemming from her social media posts in 2018 and 2022. The trial was held at 13th Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul, Türkiye / Turkey. Despite the prosecutor’s insistence on a sentence, the court ruled in Akgül’s favor, concluding that her actions did not constitute a crime.

The case against Akgül originated from a “virtual patrol report” by the Provincial Police Department in Samsun, Türkiye / Turkey, in November 2022. This report highlighted two of Akgül’s tweets (posts on X, former Twitter), one criticizing the Turkish military’s relationship with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) during the Afrin operation, which was a military operation launched by the Turkish Armed Forces and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army against the Syrian Democratic Forces in Afrin District in northwestern Syria, and re-sharing a post alleging the use of chemical weapons by the Turkish Armed Forces. The prosecution sought a prison sentence of up to 13.5 years for these posts.

During the second hearing, Akgül and her lawyers argued that her posts were within her rights to freedom of expression. Lawyer Emine Özhasar emphasized that Akgül’s posts, which criticized images showing ISIS members greeting Turkish soldiers and used the term “guerrilla,” did not meet the criteria for a crime.

In her final statement, Akgül emphasized that living in peace and opposing war is her constitutional right, urging the court to uphold the constitutional rights of Turkish citizens. The court ultimately acquitted her, ruling that the legal elements of the crime were not present.

Akgül’s trial underscores the ongoing debates in Türkiye / Turkey regarding freedom of expression and the boundaries of journalistic work. Her acquittal marks a significant moment for media freedom in the country, highlighting the importance of upholding constitutional rights amid increasing pressures on journalists.

Akgül published also the book on “Gender Based Journalism” together with her colleague Çiçek Tahaoğlu. For her reporting on the murder of the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007 and the subsequent court case, Akgül was awarded the Special Prize of the Metin Göktepe Journalism Award together with her colleague Canan Coşkun. She reports also for the Clooney Foundation.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) praises the acquittal of journalist Elif Akgül, recognizing it as a victory for freedom of expression and journalistic integrity. However, SEEMO remains critical of the charges and the lengthy legal process that Akgül endured, which highlights ongoing concerns about press freedom in Türkiye / Turkey. SEEMO will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that journalists can work without fear of unjust persecution.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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