Turkish court sentences journalist over news images, says they are propaganda

Turkish court sentences journalist over news images, says they are propaganda
Update: 01 July 2022 21:27
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Kurdish journalist Abdurrahman Gök says he has been sentenced to a prison term essentially because he'd taken photos of the murder of a young man by the police five years ago.

A journalist was sentenced to a prison term by a Turkish court over a charge of 'terror propaganda' for his posts on social media, Mezopotamya News Agency reported on Thursday.

Kurdish journalist Abdurrahman Gök was sentenced to one year six months and 22 days in prison by a court in the city of Diyarbakır. While Gök had previously been accused also of 'being a member of a terrorist group', the prosecutor more recently asked for his acquittal on this charge and called for a punishment only over propaganda.

In his final defense statement, Gök said that he was unable to understand on which grounds he was accused by the prosecutor for the posts he made. 

"Three posts are concerned," he noted. "In the first one, I shared an article titled 'Wound' by artist Yeşim Şahin; an article on Kemal Kurkut who was killed by the police in Diyarbakır on 21 March 2017, an incident of murder that I recorded frame by frame in still images right from the beginning. The second one is a picture frame from a 50-second photo video, entirely consisting of my news stories, which shows the people of Kobane; the children, the civilians who fought in Kobane, and a scene of the destruction of war. The third one is the picture of a married, middle-aged man with children in Kobane, Osman Hemed, holding a handful of soil and saying, 'This is Kobane, and it's sacred soil for us. We won't abandon it.' It was taken while I was speaking with a group of armed civilians in Kobane that was under the attack of ISIS [Islamic State] at the time."

Gök asked the prosecutor:

"How do you know that any of the individuals in these pictures is associated with an illegal organisation? Are there any amongst them who have faced court or was convicted of an offense? What are the names and family names of these people? Is it an evidence of any offense that these pictures were taken in Kobane?"

Gök then went on to say that the actual reason he was punished was because he had recorded the instants of Kemal Kurkut's murder by the police.

He said:

"The reason I'm being accused over my activities of journalism is essentially the images I took at the instant of the murder of Kemal Kurkut by the police on 21 March 2017 in Diyarbakır during Newroz demonstrations."

The incident

Kemal Kurkut, a fine arts student at university, was killed by the police near a checkpoint during the Newroz celebrations on 21 March 2017. The city governors's office immediately released a statement, saying: “The police intervened, having assessed that there was a probability that he was a suicide bomber, because he was running towards the demonstration area knife in hand, crying, ‘I’ve got a bomb in my bag, I’m going to kill you all’.”

However, on the following day, photographs taken of the incident by journalist Abdurrahman Gök emerged which showed clearly that the governor’s claims were unfounded, that not only was the young man carrying no more than a bottle of water in his hands, but also that he was fully naked on top and there was obviously nothing fastened to his body.

The police officers faced court, but were acquitted in a Diyarbakır court due to lack of evidence in January 2020.

Kurkut’s family lodged a claim for compensation against the Turkish Interior Ministry. Although a Diyarbakır court ruled that compensation should be paid to the family by the ministry, this decision was revoked by an appeals court in January 2022, on grounds that Kurkut was classified as an ‘aggressor’, and that the police had used justified lethal force against him in the incident.