An Istanbul court has sentenced Doğan Ergün, the editor-in-chief of the news website İleri Haber, to 11 months and 20 days in prison over a news report giving coverage to a 2014 leaked audio recording of the then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Ergün was found guilty of “insulting” the President with the relevant news report, ANKA news agency reported on Oct. 14. The court deferred the announcement of the verdict, meaning that if the journalist is not found guilty of similar charges within the next five years, the conviction will not appear on his criminal record.
The phone conversation that was leaked onto YouTube in 2014 purportedly features Erdoğan berating the late media magnate Erdoğan Demirören for coverage in his daily Milliyet of a 2013 peace talk with jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan.
In the alleged conversation, Demirören is heard apologizing to Erdoğan for the article in Milliyet newspaper, asking “Did I upset you, boss?” Afterwards, he weeps and promises the then prime minister that he would find the source of the article in question.
In its decision on Oct. 14, the Istanbul Anatolian 45th Criminal Court of First Instance said that Ergün had responsibility in the publication of the relevant online news report which included the alleged telephone conversation.
“It has been understood that a video was published under the title of 'Recordings featuring Demirören cry,' remarks such as 'Başçalan RT Erdoğan' [Prime Thief Recep Tayyip Erdoğan], 'Başçalan RTE' were used in the writings in the video, the content of the news report constitute a crime of insulting the President, and the director in charge Doğan Ergün had a criminal liability,” said the court in its decision.
In 2018, the holding of the late Demirören bought Hürriyet newspaper, broadcaster CNN Türk and other assets from Doğan Holding. The deal shifted the mainstream media overwhelmingly behind President Erdoğan.