A court in Turkey has sentenced ICIJ member Pelin Ünker to imprisonment for 13 months. Photograph: Twitter A court in Turkey has sentenced ICIJ member Pelin Ünker to imprisonment for 13 months. Photograph: Twitter

Turkish court jails journalist for telling the truth

... about a politician's offshore tax shelter

from the there-is-no-defense-against-defamation-in-Turkey dept

Truth is no defense against allegations of defamation -- not in Turkey where criminal defamation law is just one of the government's many weapons deployed against critics. Journalist Pelin Ünker has been sentenced to more than a year in jail by a Turkish court for publishing undeniable facts.

An Istanbul court sentenced the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ member to imprisonment for 13 months for “defamation and insult.”

Ünker, who reported that former prime minister Binali Yildirim and his sons owned companies in Malta in the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, was also fined $US1615.

Ünker's reports were drawn from the Paradise Papers, which exposed the secret bank accounts of politicians and world leaders -- tax dodging efforts deployed by people whose salaries are paid with tax dollars collected from others. The accusations involving Binali Yildirim were true, and yet, the court somehow found telling the truth about a high-ranking Turkish government figure was defamatory.

Ünker said what made the “world first” ruling so remarkable was that the complainants acknowledged that her articles were true.

“This decision is not a surprise for us. Because the result was certain from the beginning. There is no criminal offense or defamation in my articles,” she said.

“The fact is Binali Yıldırım’s sons have Maltese companies. Binali Yıldırım had already accepted that they have these companies. In the indictment, it is also accepted.

In Turkey, it's illegal to expose shady dealings and wrongdoing if it involves government officials. The courts serve the Turkish government, rather than act as a check against its overreach. This is all headed up by one of the world's thinnest-skinned autocrats, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made made a cottage industry of worldwide censorship.

It's a garbage ruling by a garbage court in a country run by a collective of garbage people who wield an unholy amount of power. Ünker plans to appeal the ruling -- not necessarily because it will change things, but because that's what you do when you're faced with a clearly unfair ruling from a wholly-subservient court.

If anything is going to change the situation in Turkey, it's not going to be some magical reawakening of basic respect for human rights from deep inside the government. It's the rest of the world applying pressure by refusing to pretend President Erdogan has anything worthwhile to contribute to the world. American tech companies need to blow off the country's demands for user info and content removal, and governments of other countries need to stop following up on criminal complaints filed by Turkey against foreign citizens. The status quo is being maintained by world inaction and Turkey's citizens paying the price over and over again.


By Tim Cushing
(Source: techdirt.com; January 16, 2019; http://tinyurl.com/ydy9u2vb)
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