December 27, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8439

Turkey's Government Sentences Six Turkish Journalists From Leading Opposition Daily 'Sözcü' To Prison

December 27, 2019
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8439

On December 27, 2019, Turkey's state-run news agency Anadolu Ajansı reported that Istanbul's 37th criminal court had sentenced six journalists and one other staff member from the leading Turkish opposition daily Sözcü, known for its secular stance, to prison for their alleged connections to the "Fetullah Gülen Terror Organization." Writers Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru were both sentenced to three years, six months, and 15 days in prison. Metin Yılmaz, the paper's editor in chief, and Mustafa Çetin, editor of the newspaper's website, were both sentenced to three years and four months in prison. Yücel Arı, a news coordinator, Bekir Gökmen Ulu, an Izmir-based reporter, and Yonca Yücekaleli, the daily's financial affairs manager, were each sentenced to two years and one month in prison.[1]

From top left: Emin Çölaşan, Necati Doğru, Metin Yılmaz, Mustafa Çetin, Yücel Arı, and Bekir Gökmen Ulu.

Sözcü Writer Emin Çölaşan Criticized President Erdoğan In Two Recent Articles (See MEMRI Translation)

Sözcü is one of the few remaining Turkish dailies that objectively criticizes AKP government policy while many other Turkish news outlets, which are controlled either by the government directly or by large holding companies whose other subsidiaries depend on government contracts, generally echo the government position on events. Others have been shut down: 45 news outlets were shut down following the July 15, 2016 attempted coup.[2]

MEMRI recently translated two articles by Emin Çölaşan in which he mocked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and expressed his view that the Turkish government should not send troops to support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8364 Ahead Of Trump-Erdoğan Meeting In Washington, Referring To Him As 'Mr. Recep,' Turkish Journalist Satirizes Erdoğan: 'When He Roars "Oh America, Oh EU, Oh Assad," The World Starts To Quake And Tremble', November 13, 2019; and MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8419 Turkish Journalist On President Erdoğan's Statements Regarding Sending Troops To Libya: 'How Can He Speak So Irresponsibly?' 'By Now The Whole World Knows That This Government Uses Our Army For Other Purposes', December 17, 2019). Necati Doğru's recent articles include "The People Love The One Who Works Honestly!" in which he wrote about allegations of corruption by the AKP government in Istanbul, and "Barons of Ankara!" in which he wrote about corruption in Ankara.[3]

After he was indicted in December 2018, Çölaşan wrote: "Dear readers, being a journalist in Turkey is getting more and more difficult. And if you are not a pro-government journalist, anything can happen at any time. Whoever you are, in this period you are going to be a 'partisan.' It does not matter if you are a journalist, a businessman, a bureaucrat, etc. You are going to support the government with your entire material and spiritual being, you will be a bootlicker, you will never bring to the agenda its errors, corruptions, and profiteering!... I am a soldier of Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk], my path is that path, my line is that line."[4]

TRT World Broadcasts AKP Government Message While Turkish Journalists Are Imprisoned

Turkey's AKP government suppresses free speech in Turkey even as that same government uses its English-language television channel TRT World, which has offices in Washington, D.C., as one of its main vehicles by which it spreads its message in the U.S. and abroad (see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1490 Turkish President Erdoğan Continues To Crush Free Media In Turkey As He Expands Messaging Efforts In Washington, D.C. Through His English-Language TV Channel TRT World, Which Was Recently Given Media Award By Al-Qaeda Affiliate, November 26, 2019).


[1], December 27, 2019;, January 18, 2019;, May 23, 2017;, November 8, 2017.

[2], July 30, 2016.

[3], August 29, 2019;, December 25, 2019.

[4], December 12, 2018.

Share this Report: