Journalist Yasin Kobulan is sentenced to 1 year 6 months 22 days in prison

8 March 2019

Cansu Pişkin, İstanbul - Mesopotamia News Agency (MA) reporter Yasin Kobulan is sentenced to 1 year 6 months and 22 days in prison for “repeatedly making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The sentence is deferred.

The second hearing of the trial where MA reporter Yasin Kobulan faced “repeatedly making propaganda for a terrorist organization” charges took place at the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court today. While Kobulan did not attend the hearing, his lawyers Özcan Kılıç and Sercan Korkmaz were present in the courtroom. Among the observers who monitored the trial were Sarah Mehta, TrialWatch Legal Fellow at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute Clinic, International Press Institute’s (IPI) Turkey Advocacy Coordinator Carolina Stockford, and representatives from the Academics for Peace initiative.

The prosecutor repeated the opinion as to the accusations presented in the previous hearing and requested Kobulan to be sentenced. Lawyer Özcan Kılıç noted that Kobulan is not an ordinary social media user but a journalist, and that he shared the concerned news stories from his social media account as part of his profession: “Kobulan is not someone who makes propaganda about anyone, that’s not part of his lifestyle. The indictment only mentions the titles of the news stories shared by Kobulan and does not even include the content of the stories. Besides, the news stories that he shared are not even the ones that he himself wrote but from the news agency that he works for. Kobulan was working as a reporter in that region at the time. None of these news stories caused a propaganda lawsuit, an Article 301 lawsuit was filed against them. If he had the intention to make propaganda, he wouldn't have done it as a journalist. He would instead take up a different role and write articles that are centered around a specific organization with a different tone. News stories cannot constitute propaganda; moreover, whether a news article is propaganda or not cannot be determined from its title. Journalists do not use a bureaucratic or legal language, they use a different terminology. European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) had stated in many of its rulings that language in a journalistic article alone cannot constitute grounds for a propaganda charge. If we accept the fact that these news stories are indeed propaganda, then how will we define journalism and its purpose?” Adding that the elements of the crime have not been constituted, Kılıç demanded Kobulan’s acquittal.

Lawyer Sercan Korkmaz further stated hat this case should be considered within the framework of freedom of thought and expression while keeping in mind that Kobulan is a journalist. Korkmaz noted that Kobulan shared reports prepared by the United Nations as a journalist and demanded his acquittal.

Following a short break for deliberation, the court sentenced Kobulan to 1 year 6 months and 22 days in prison for “repeatedly making terrorist propaganda.” The court decided to defer the sentence.