May 17, 2024

17.05.2024 – Türkiye / Turkey Supreme Court Overturns Sinan Aygül’s Disinformation Conviction

Türkiye / Turkey Supreme Court- the VIII Criminal Chamber – has overturned journalist Sinan Aygül’s (@sinanaygul) 10-month prison sentence, marking the first reversal under the disinformation law enacted in October 2022. This law has faced criticism for curbing press freedom.

In December 2022, Aygül, editor-in-chief of Bitlis News ( and head of the Bitlis Journalists Association (Bitlis Gazeteciler Cemiyeti – BİGACEM –, was sentenced for sharing incorrect allegations of child abuse by a military officer on social media. Despite retracting the post and apologizing, he was convicted in March 2023 by the 1st Penal Court in Tatvan, Türkiye / Turkey.

The Supreme Court’s 8th Penal Chamber ruled that Aygül’s immediate correction and apology showed no intent to incite panic. The court recognized his actions as responsible journalism, not criminal behavior.

Aygül criticized the disinformation law as unjust, recounting his experience of being detained while his children were sick. His lawyer, Diyar Orak, welcomed the decision but highlighted ongoing concerns about the law’s broad interpretation.

The case returns to the Regional Court of Justice in Van, Türkiye / Turkey. If the appellate court finds no need for further investigation, Aygül will be acquitted. If not, it may return to the original court or escalate further.

The disinformation law, intended to combat false information, has led to numerous investigations and arrests of journalists. Critics argue it stifles free speech and targets media professionals. Aygül’s case, while a positive development, does not eliminate concerns over press freedom in Türkiye / Turkey.

This ruling highlights the tension between government control and journalistic independence, with the future application of the disinformation law remaining uncertain.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomes the decision by Türkiye / Turkey Supreme Court to overturn the 10-month prison sentence of journalist Sinan Aygül, marking a significant step in protecting press freedom. While this ruling is a positive development, SEEMO remains deeply concerned about the broader implications of the disinformation law, which continues to threaten journalists and stifle free expression in Türkiye / Turkey. We urge Turkish authorities to reconsider the application of this law to ensure that it does not serve as a tool for censorship and suppression of independent journalism.

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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