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Turkish Journalist on Trial for ‘Disinformation’ Released From Custody

Tolga Sardan, a veteran investigative journalist who is on trial for allegedly spreading disinformation after he reported on judicial corruption, was released from custody on Monday but banned from travelling abroad.

“I only did journalism. I stand behind what I wrote,” Sardan told reporters in Istanbul after he was released.

An Istanbul court ordered Sardan’s arrest on November 1. He is accused of “overt propagation of misleading information” in his reporting on corruption in the Turkish judiciary. His trial is still ongoing.

Sardan’s article for the T24 online magazine on October 31 outlined the content of an intelligence report prepared for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about corruption in the judiciary in Istanbul. Access to the article was also blocked by a court decision on November 2.

Sardan rejected the allegation that he spread disinformation. “I would like to underline that I only worked as a journalist to inform the public. I absolutely do not accept the accusation made regarding the alleged crime,” he said in his testimony to police.

After Sardan’s arrest, two other journalists, Dincer Gokce and Cengiz Erdinc, were also detained by police under the so-called disinformation law, but later released.

Journalists’ unions condemned the use of the law, which came into force last year, to target journalists.

“Journalist Tolga Sardan was released today after six days of unjust imprisonment, with an international travel ban. It was a law that should never have been passed, an arrest that should never have happened,” the Journalists’ Union of Turkey, TGS said in a statement on Monday.

The TGS and other journalists’ organisations will stage a protest for the revocation of the law in front of the Constitutional Court.

The silent protest will be held on November 8 while the court discusses the legality of the disinformation law, after the main opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP appealed to the court.

The Media and Law Studies Association, MLSA wrote in a letter to the Constitutional Court on Monday that at least 13 journalists have been detained so far because of the so-called disinformation law.

“This law contradicts the principles of freedom of expression, as well as press freedom, enshrined in the constitution,” the letter said.

Media organisations and rights groups say that under President Erdogan, Turkey has become one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, as well as exerting pressure on the media through court cases, fines and prison sentences.

Turkey ranked 165th out of 180 countries worldwide in 2023 in the latest global press freedom index issued by the watchdog organisation Reporters Without Borders.

Source : Balkan Insight