January 31, 2024

31.01.2024 – Turkish Journalist Sinan Aygül Convicted for ‘Insulting’ His Attackers

Journalist Sinan Aygülwho is editor-in-chief of Bitlis News (https://www.bitlisnews.com.tr/) and head of the Bitlis Journalists Association (Bitlis Gazeteciler Cemiyeti – BİGACEM – https://www.bigacem.org.tr/) has been sentenced by court in Tatvan, Türkiye / Turkey on 24 January 2023, to two months and five days in prison for allegedly insulting his attackers. This verdict comes after an incident on 17 June 2023, in Tatvan, Bitlis, Türkiye / Turkey where Aygül was assaulted allegedly by relatives of a local politician.

The attack, captured on camera, involved municipal employee and police officer, who were both found guilty of intentional injury and sentenced to one year, five months, and fifteen days in prison. Additionally, police officer faced additional charges for threatening someone with a gun, resulting in a 20-month sentence for each count. However, all sentences were suspended, pending good behavior for the next five years. You can see the link of the video of the attack here: https://www.ntv.com.tr/video/turkiye/gazeteci-sinan-aygule-saldiri-ani-kamerada,kSsqOtw6LEeLO_Mgd9jEjw

Following the assault, Aygül was discharged from the hospital and referred to his assailants as ‘two street dogs’ and expressed ‘may God damn them.’ This statement led to Aygül’s prosecution for insult, with the court opting not to categorize it as a reaction to an unjust action. Despite objections from Aygül’s lawyer, the penalty was not converted into a fine due to the defendant’s criminal personality.

In response to his sentencing, Aygül expressed frustration at the perceived injustice. This attack occurred just two days after Aygül had raised allegations of irregularities in a public tender involving the Tatvan Municipality and Mayor, who denies any involvement in the assault.

Aygül’s case highlights ongoing concerns regarding press freedom and journalist safety in Türkiye / Turkey, with Aygül being targeted for his investigative work. Despite the assault being captured on camera and the assailants’ association with local authorities, concerns remain over the lack of accountability for attacks against journalists.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the sentencing of journalist Sinan Aygül. SEEMO calls for the immediate overturning of Aygül’s sentence.

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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