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IRIS 2016-6:1/23

Turkey

Prison sentences for the publication of a cartoon of Mohammed

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Gianna Iacino

Institute of European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brussels

On 28 April 2016, an Istanbul court sentenced two journalists of the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, which is regarded as critical of the government, to two years’ imprisonment for publishing a cartoon of Mohammed and thereby inciting public hatred and insulting religious values.

On the front page of its first issue after the attacks on its editors in Paris on 7 January 2015, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo showed a cartoon of a crying Prophet Mohammed holding up a sign stating “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”). Following the attacks, the phrase “Je suis Charlie” became a sign of solidarity with the victims and support for freedom of expression.

An issue of Cumhuriyet carried a four-page extract from the first issue of Charlie Hebdo, translated into Turkish. However, it did not contain the aforementioned cartoon, which most Turkish media did not print after the Prime Minister had described its publication as an “open provocation”. Cumhuriyet did, however, print a smaller version of the drawing in the same issue. The two convicted journalists are columnists for the newspaper and used the cartoon to illustration their columns.

This publication led to the indictment and conviction of the journalists. Their defence counsel has announced their intention to appeal against the judgment.

References
Further information on the Istanbul court’s judgment of 28 April 2016 EN
 http://merlin.obs.coe.int/redirect.php?id=18026