Ayşegül Doğan has become the latest journalist in Turkey who was sentenced to prison by a court in a controversial case condemned by human rights groups.
The 9th Penal Court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır convicted Doğan on Dec. 7 for “establishing and managing an armed organization,” sentencing her to six years and three months in prison. The prosecutor had initially requested the court to sentence Doğan to 22.5 years.
“This decision shows that the courts still see journalism as terrorism,” European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) executive board member Mustafa Kuleli said.
The court ruled that Doğan would remain free on probationary status until the appeal process is finalized.
‘Penalized for her journalistic activities’
“There is no evidence against Doğan. She was just penalized for her journalistic activities. The appeals court must overturn the ruling,” Kuleli added.
Doğan was a program coordinator at IMC TV. This television station broadcasted in Turkey from 2011 to 2016 when it was shut down by a government decree, citing “national security,” weeks after the failed coup attempt.
According to TGS’ count of arrested journalists in Turkey, there were 70 reporters, editors and other media employees in prisons as of Dec. 1.
In an interview with Voice of America, Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) representative Erol Önderoğlu stressed that “calamitous rights violations are seen particularly in the courts in Istanbul in Ankara.”
News reports labeled as criminal activity
“Journalist Ayşegül Doğan was issued a heavy prison sentence for doing news interviews and for her professional curiosity about DTK’s [Democratic Society Congress] activities to report about them,” Önderoğlu added.
The DTK is a Kurdish rights-focused platform founded in 2007. It announced its support for “democratic autonomy” in 2011 and issued a proposal for a political solution to Turkey’s Kurdish question in 2015.
In recent years, Turkish authorities continuously prosecuted DTK’s members, including dozens of Kurdish politicians, as well as several journalists who attended the organization’s events to report about them.