On Sunday, January 23, a court in Turkey sent journalist Sedef Kadaf to prison pending trial for “insulting” president Recep Tayyib Erdogan. She was detained in a midnight raid at her residence on Saturday following an outcry by the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) leadership over one of her social media posts.
Sedef Kadaf, 53, is a senior journalist in Turkey. During a TV show, she used a Turkish idiom while talking about the Erdogan government which translates as “when an ox climbs into a palace he does not become a king, but the palace becomes a barn”. She also tweeted the same from her official Twitter handle. Following her tweet, several senior ministers in the Erdogan government targeted her on social media demanding that she be punished for insulting the president.
The security forces raided her house around 2 am and detained her. She was later presented in a court in Istanbul which sent her to prison pending trial.
Her arrest has led to widespread criticism of the Erdogan government. Her lawyer, Ugur Poyraz, criticized the court’s decision to send her to prison as “unlawful” and a violation of the rule of law in the country, Reuters reported.
Reporters without Borders (RSF) also denounced the arrest, calling it a blatant violation of last year’s verdict given by the European Court of Human Rights.
[1/2] #Turkey: @RSF_inter outraged by the imprisonment in Istanbul of the prominent journalist #SedefKabaş for “insulting the President Erdogan” after she criticized him in a TV program on Jan 21. This is a blatant violation of @ECHR_CEDH’s Vedat Şorli ruling sentencing Turkey. pic.twitter.com/jqviEmw1TX
— RSF in English (@RSF_en) January 22, 2022
In October last year, the ECHR had asked Turkey to amend the law dealing with alleged “insults” of public servants. The court had observed that in its current form, the law violates the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression under article 10 of the European convention of human rights.
Sedef’s arrest has drawn attention to the wider problem of political persecution in Turkey under the AKP’s rule. According to a Bia media monitoring report, the persecution of journalists in Turkey has increased manifold since Erdogan was elected president.
Since Erdogan came to power in 2014, at least 70 journalists have been convicted for “insulting” him. According to RSF, at least 200 journalists have faced investigation under article 299 of the Turkish penal code. A total of over 160,000 cases have been investigated for insulting the president since 2014.
Turkey is ranked 153 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index maintained by the RSF.
The controversial law under which a person can face a jail sentence of anywhere between one to four years has been opposed by journalists and civil society groups in Turkey as an instrument of persecution of dissent.
Thousands of people, mostly opposition activists, have been arrested and persecuted using state institutions and laws in Turkey, particularly since the failed coup attempt in 2016.