Okatan is on trial for news reports shared on the social media accounts of Etkin News Agency, where she worked as responsible managing editor
ALTAN SANCAR, ANKARA
The first hearing of a trial in which journalist Derya Okatan is charged with “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on 13 October 2021. Okatan is on trial for news reports shared on Etkin News Agency’s (ETHA) Facebook and Twitter accounts during the time when she was the responsible managing editor of the news agency.
Okatan was taken into custody in a police raid on her home in 2019 as part of the investigation launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and was subsequently released following procedures at the Police Department. The indictment, based on that investigation, accuses Okatan of “terror propaganda” pursuant to Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK), which carries a prison sentence between 1 year and 7.5 years.
P24 monitored the hearing, which began five hours later than scheduled. Okatan and her lawyer Nuray Özdoğan were in attendance.
The prosecutor summarized the indictment, in which they claimed that the posts shared on ETHA’s social media accounts in 2018 aimed to depict a negative image of the Turkish Armed Forces’ (TSK) “Operation Olive Branch” in the Syrian city of Afrin. The posts in question were about the operation jointly undertaken by the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army in Afrin. They also featured news and statements from the conflict zones in the region.
Addressing the court for her defense statement, Okatan said journalists were expected to “become a party in the conflict” and that this was the motive behind this case. Noting that throughout her career, she has always strived for ethical journalism and the right to information, Okatan said: “Under journalism ethics, journalists cannot be a party or take sides in a conflict. Journalism is a public duty. It cannot be used as a tool for the policies, purposes and interests of any person, party, group or institution. Journalists only serve the public interest.”
Okatan explained to the court that the content cited as evidence in the indictment did not glorify or praise violence and asserted that a reference made to Prof. Ersan Şen in the indictment “also points out that statements of opinion or articles that do not justify, praise or encourage the method of a terrorist or criminal organization that contain force, violence or threats cannot be deemed propaganda.”
Okatan’s lawyer then addressed the court. Stating that her client cannot be held responsible for the social media posts shared by the news agency as its responsible managing editor, Özdoğan said the indictment accused her client as though she was the staff member who shared the posts in question without first determining who shared the posts. Özdoğan added: “Clearly, my client was not the person who shared the posts. An examination of her own social media accounts found no criminal elements. Considering publications and news reports as criminal elements is objectionable in terms of freedom of the press. Social media posts and news articles that do not call for violence cannot be considered crime. This is also laid out in judgments by the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Constitutional Court. The posts in question do not call for violence.” Özdoğan requested her client’s immediate acquittal.
After hearing Okatan and her lawyer’s statements, the court panel held a brief deliberation, after which issued its interim ruling. The court decided to ask the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court whether the present case should be merged with the “RedHack trial,” in which Okatan is one of six journalists on trial, and adjourned the case until 26 January 2022.