Kurdish journalist faces up to three years in jail

Kurdish journalist faces up to three years in jail
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Mir Ali Kocer, a Kurdish journalist from Diyarbakir, is being prosecuted under the new disinformation law for his coverage of the earthquake in Turkey. Advocacy group CPJ says at least three other journalists have been charged.

A Kurdish freelance journalist who works for independent media in Turkey and shared stories of survivors and rescuers about the earthquake on Twitter is now under investigation on suspicion of spreading "fake news" and could face up to three years in jail, BBC News reported.

Freelance journalist Mir Ali Kocer is among dozens more who have been detained, harassed or prevented from reporting, press freedom groups say.


On the night of the earthquake, Kocer was in his flat in the city of Diyarbakir, 200 miles away from the epicenter. But he quickly grabbed his camera and microphone and drove to the city of Gaziantep to the affected region to interview survivors.

He was shocked by scenes of destruction and victims enduing freezing temperatures in towns near the very epicentre of the quake.

"When holding the microphone, behind the camera or in front of the camera, I could not hold back my tears," Mr Koçer recalls.

He shared on Twitter the stories of survivors who told him they received no aid for days.

While he was reporting from the region hit by the earthquake, Diyarbakir police left a note at his apartment, instructing him to visit the police station and give a statement.


At the station, he was told that he was being investigated under a recently introduced disinformation law. He said the police questioned him about his reporting from the earthquake epicentre and accused him of spreading false information.

The new Turkish law was passed in October. It criminalizes the public dissemination of disinformation and gives the state broader powers to control news sites and social media.

The Venice Commission, a Council of Europe rights watchdog, said the law would interfere with freedom of expression.

Opposition parties call it a "censorship law."


Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called the investigation against Kocer "absurd" and called on the authorities to stop it.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an advocacy group, at least three other journalists are facing criminal charges.

One of them is Mehmet Gules, another journalist from Diyarbakir.

He was detained on suspicion of "incitement to hatred" for interviewing a volunteer who had criticized the government's rescue measures, and was later released.

Two prominent political commentators in Istanbul with a large following on social media are also under investigation after criticizing the government's rescue efforts.


The number of other journalists under investigation is unclear. On Tuesday, police said they had detained 134 people for "provocative posts" and arrested 25 of them, but their identities were not disclosed.

Critics say the crackdown goes far beyond spreading harmful disinformation.

"The government is trying to suppress information coming from the quake zone," says cyber rights expert Yaman Akdeniz who teaches at the Istanbul Bilgi University.