Turkey: Journalist sentenced to prison under "disinformation" law

Turkey: Journalist sentenced to prison under "disinformation" law
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In the first lawsuit launched under a controversial new legislation, journalist Aygul has been sentenced to a prison term for posting on Twitter a report about alleged sexual abuse of a girl.

A Turkish court handed down on Tuesday the first prison term under the new and highly controversial "disinformation law," and sentenced a journalist to 10 months in prison for sharing on social media a news report about the alleged sexual abuse of a girl.

Opposition parties and critics in Turkey had strongly objected to the enactment of the legislation, saying it will likely be abused by authorities to silence dissident voices, and called it a "censorship law."

Sinan Aygul, the chair of the local branch of Journalists' Association in Turkey's Kurdish-majority province of Bitlis, was detained in early December after he wrote on Twitter that a 14-year-old girl had allegedly been sexually abused by men including police officers and soldiers.

He retracted the posts and apologized for writing them without confirming the story with authorities, but was later arrested. He was released from pretrial arrest 10 days later.

Aygul said after the court's ruling:

"I received a prison term of 10 months in the first and only lawsuit launched under the much debated Censorship Law. I told the panel that the law is antidemocratic and that I will not contribute to its legitimization by defending myself, and I remained silent in the court room."

He added:

"We will better understand what this law signifies when the last dissident is arrested and the last journalist is silenced."

The representatives of several human rights groups and professional organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Turkey's Union of Journalists (TGS) and Bitlis Bar Association were among the spectators in the court room.

Turkey is among the top jailers of journalists, according to a report by the CPJ released in December. The number of journalists behind bars in Turkey rose from 18 in 2021 to 40 in 2022, and this number is the highest in the world after Iran, China and Myanmar, the CPJ said.