The Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) strongly condemns the life sentences imposed by Turkish authorities on six journalists – including three prominent journalists – through one of its courts, which is believed to be an unprecedented attack on the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as press freedom in Turkey.
Ahmet Altan (74 years) and his brother, Mehmet Altan (67 years), Fazzi Yazisi (65 years), Yacoub Semsik and Sokru Tugrol Osnagul, were sentenced to life in prison by a Turkish court on last Friday over allegations for supporting the failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ruled in June 2016. They also received additional sentences of 15 years for allegedly committing crimes in the name of Gulen, which Turkey classifies as a terrorist organization.
AFHR reiterates that the court’s verdict imposing aggravated sentences to journalists for their work, especially without presenting substantial evidence of their involvement in the coup attempt or ensuring a fair trial, significantly threatens journalism and the right to freedom of expression and media freedom as enshrined in several international human rights treaties such as the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCP), the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Turkey is has ratified and is state party to all these international standards on freedom of expression but has failed to recognized its responsibility vis-a-vis the norms. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), since the June 2016 failed coup, Turkish authorities have arbitrarily detained at least 73 journalists, which positions Turkey as the worst jailer of journalists in the world, ahead of China and Egypt.
The Arab Federation for Human Rights believes that these sentences against the six Turkish journalists are harsh and unacceptable. The Federation urgently calls for the immediate and unconditional release of these journalists or try them in line with international standards. AFHR further calls on the Turkish government to respect its obligations under international laws and human rights instruments and guarantee the freedom of speech of journalists as well as protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Turkey.
Arab Federation for Human Rights
Geneva – February 18th 2018