Hearing of journalists İdris Yılmaz and Erhan Akbaş in which they are accused of 'insult' was held at Erciş 2. Court of First Instance.
Erciş Municipality was one of the many municipalities in dominantly Kurdish populated cities, where the elected mayor was dismissed by a government decree and replaced by an appointee.
Erhan Akbaş attended the hearing in person whereas İdris Yılmaz who is in detention at Elazığ Prison from a separate case, joined the hearing via the judicial conferencing system (SEGBİS).
Yılmaz and Akbaş submitted their defence statements against the offences they are charged with, regarding their news stories titled "Municipally owned lands on sale by the appointee", "New logo of Erciş Municipality turns out to be stolen", "Appointee's intolerance towards Kurdish signs ", "Appointee tries to abolish visibility of women in Erciş" and "Erciş Municipality dismisses a wide range of its workers".
'We are journalists, not criminals'
Journalist İdris Yılmaz submitted his defence after identity checks. He stated: “The press must be free and journalism is not a crime. Article 3 of the constitution says so. Journalist's duty is to criticise the irregularities that create negative public reaction. We published these stories because they were newsworthy. We have never insulted the appointee Mehmet Şirin Yaşar personally. We even called him to get a response, however he never returned our calls. He did not inform the public about any of his policies therefore we articulated the public response against them. We are not criminals, we are journalists. I request my acquittal.”
'We stand by our news stories'
After Yılmaz's defence statement, Erhan Akbaş took the floor and said: “We are journalists. When you take a look at our news stories, they are all made for public interest. After we published our news story regarding the stolen logo of Erciş Municipality, they started searching for a new logo. They organized a competition for a new logo, with a 5 thousand TL prize for the winner. Afterward, they made many changes on various signs and spent thousands of liras from the budget, which meant that former appointee Mehmet Şirin Yaşar damaged the public institution that he represented. He is the one that should account before the public, not us."
Court adjourned the hearing until 14 November to get the testimony of Mehmet Şirin Yaşar who did not attend the hearing.