Turkish prosecutors seek jail term for journalists for ‘insulting’ President’s son in news reports

Turkish prosecutors are demanding up to four years in jail for four journalists on charges of "insulting" President Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan. The charges concern news reports describing those receiving tenders as “lucky friends of Bilal Erdoğan.” One of the journalists, Hazal Ocak, is the environment and urbanization reporter for Gazete Duvar.

The four journalists and their lawyers on trial.

Duvar English

Four journalists formerly working with the daily Cumhuriyet are facing up to four years in prison on accusations of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan. 

Bilal Erdoğan lodged a complaint against the four journalists for ‘insult’ after they used the expression “friend” in reference to those receiving tenders from the government. The accusations concern two news reports published in the daily Cumhuriyet. 

The reports were penned by Hazal Ocak, who currently works as the environment and urbanization reporter of Gazete Duvar.

In recent months, it has been revealed by many newspapers that those close to the President’s son have received millions in government tenders for construction and development projects. 

The case was filed against Ocak, former Cumhuriyet Newspaper editorial coordinator Serkan Ozan, former Cumhuriyet Newspaper editor-in-chief Olcay Büyüktaş Akça and former Cumhuriyet Newspaper internet news manager Ozan Yurtoğlu.

Ocak described those receiving tenders as “lucky friends of Bilal Erdoğan.”

In a suit filed with the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Bilal Erdoğan claimed that “the statements, headlines, and accusations in the news are of such a nature that they may offend the honor, honor, and dignity of the complainant.”

Initially, Bilal Erdoğan and his lawyers sought sentences of three months to two years, but the indictment said the sentences could be increased. 

In the second hearing of the case at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on Feb. 8, the defendants were accused of committing the crime of “public insult” and were charged with articles 125/2, 125/4, and 43/1 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The prosecutors asked for a prison sentence between six months and four years for the alleged crimes. 

Speaking after the hearing, Gazete Duvar reporter Ocak said she does not accept the decision. “I do not accept this decision,” she said. “I think that with this opinion, consciences have been wounded.”

Former Cumhuriyet reporter Serkan Ozan concurred. “I still do not understand where the insult is in the content of this article,” he said.

The court adjourned the trial until June 7, 2022, giving the defendants time to appeal the decision.