Turkish court sentences journo Levent Gültekin to prison for ‘insulting president’

A Turkish court has sentenced journalist Levent Gültekin to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the Turkish President” during a 2022 program on the opposition channel Halk TV. The court has deferred the verdict.

Duvar English

A Turkish court on March 19 sentenced journalist Levent Gültekin to 11 months and 20 days in prison and deferred the verdict for “insulting" Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a 2022 TV program. 

Erdoğan’s lawyers did not attend the hearing, according to reporting by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA). 

During the hearing, Gültekin requested his acquittal. In his defense, he held that he harshly criticized a speech President Erdoğan made following a terror attack in Turkey’s southern Mersin district. The journalist added that criticism was his responsibility as a journalist, and his remarks did not constitute an insult. 

The prosecutor argued that Gültekin’s remark “seemed to criticize Erdoğan’s political stance, but really constituted a personal insult because it involved his name.” 

Gültekin said during a September 27 program on the opposition channel Halk TV that Erdoğan’s behavior was like a “hysterical school kid.”

The prosecution held that criticism was possible without using these specific words. 

Gültekin had criticized Erdoğan’s remarks for trying to hold onto power by polarizing society and provoking hostility. 

In November 2023, Gültekin was fined 25,000 Turkish Liras for “insulting” Erdoğan’s son-in-law and defense contractor Selçuk Bayraktar. 

Gültekin became the 75th journalist Turkish courts have sentenced for “insulting the president,” told  Erol Önderoğlu, media freedom reporter for online news outlet Bianet, and Reporters without Borders representative. 

The expert criticized Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code for extinguishing the environment for democratic deliberation and silencing journalists.