Turkish prosecutor demands jail term for journalist over filming quake demolition

A Turkish prosecutor has demanded up to three years in prison for Hasan Sivri, one of the first journalists to inform the public about the destruction in Hatay after the Feb. 6 earthquakes, on the charge of "publicly disseminating misleading information."

Duvar English

A Turkish prosecutor has lodged a lawsuit against journalist Hasan Sivri for sharing images he captured in Hatay province on his social media account shortly after the Feb. 6 earthquakes, charging him with the controversial offense of "publicly disseminating misleading information" established in 2022.

Sivri faces up to three years in prison under the "censorship law" that was prepared by the government in order to combat “disinformation.” Amendments to Press Law and other legislation have been widely criticized as they designed to restrict social media and digital media outlets.

Sivri became one of the first journalists to inform the public about the devastation in Hatay province after he posted several footage he took during the two days following the earthquakes on his social media account on Feb. 25. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 14 said "For now, we are taking note of those who exhibit all kinds of ugliness, including slander and disinformation, in order to devalue the work being carried out (in the quake region).”

After this statement, Sivri shared his observations in 13 interconnected posts, "I am listing some of the videos I took in the first two days showing the loneliness and helplessness of the people. Let them note it down; these are the ones we have noted down with evidence!"

Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office prepared the indictment against Sivri and stated that the evidence was "collected as part of the 'virtual patrol' activities conducted by the Ankara Provincial Security Directorate.” 

The prosecutor stated, "As it is understood from the entire file that the suspect committed the crime of publicly disseminating misleading information by writing comments and sharing misleading information on his social media account in a way that an indefinite number of people can see.”

A judge accepted the indictment and the first hearing of the trial against the journalist will be held on Dec. 12 at the Ankara Criminal Court of First Instance. 

Hatay was one of the provinces most affected by the Feb. 6 earthquakes that killed at least 50,000 people. In the province where thousands of people died, rubble removal efforts continue even months later.