Turkey: Magazine Editors Behind Erdogan Selfie Cover Face 12 Years in Prison

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends the opening session of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

The editors of the Turkish magazine Nokta are facing up to 12 years in prison for two magazine covers the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has deemed to be “spreading terrorist propaganda” and insulting the president, both federal crimes.

According to the Zaman newspaper, editors Murat Çapan and Cevheri Güven are facing between 2 years and 12 years in prison. The more serious charges are related to a magazine cover that depicted President Erdogan appearing to take a selfie in front of the coffin of a dead soldier, implying that he was using the lives of soldiers for personal publicity.

The two editors are also facing time in prison over the headline “Monday Nov. 2: The beginning of a civil war in Turkey,” used for a story regarding the November parliamentary elections, in which Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) cemented its hold over the national legislature. “Prison terms of 15 to 20 years are being sought for each of the editors in that case,” Zaman notes.

While the magazine cover in question has surfaced online, the government did everything in its power to prevent it from going to print. In September, police obtained permission to raid the offices of Nokta and prevent any distribution of this magazine because it violated the law against insulting the president. They also temporarily locked down the magazine’s Twitter account. The Nokta editors were unapologetic: “Our cover that prompted the police raid may be harsh, disturbing or even cruel, but these are not crimes for a media institution, this is our form of speech.” The issue featuring the “civil war” headline was also confiscated, and triggered the editors’ immediate arrest.

Nokta is far from the first Turkish publication to face similar censorship. Zaman, which covered the sentences potentially facing the Nokta editors this week, was raided in November over a similar alleged offense against Erdogan. Bugün and Millet, two newspapers owned by the Kozi-Ipek media group, were forcibly shut down by police in late October, along with their corresponding television outlets. Police interrupted live broadcasts, bursting into the control rooms to shut the channels down. Protesters that gathered outside the media group’s headquarters were met with tear gas and water cannons.

While those outlets faced raids and shutdowns, the newspaper Cumhuriyet has received a similar response to Nokta: the arrest and trial of their editors. Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Istanbul office editor Erdem Gul are both facing life sentences for a report they published with evidence that Turkey’s intelligence agency, the MIT, had been shipping arms to anti-Assad militias in Syria. Police had previously raided the offices of Cumhuriyet in January 2015 after the magazine agreed to publish Turkish-language inset edition of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in solidarity with the publication following a jihadist massacre at their offices in Paris.

Cumhuriyet reported this week that it has evidence of Turkish border security cooperating with high-level jihadists in the Islamic State, aiding them in smuggling into the Syrian war theater more jihadists to fight against Assad, Kurdish militias, and forces allied with the United States. It cites a wiretap made public through a criminal investigation in which a border patrol agent tells an Islamic State leader that their group may now pass through a specific part of the border safely, with nothing to fear from police. The Turkish government has yet to comment on this report.


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