Alphan is charged with “terrorism propaganda” for sharing a photo taken during 2015 Newroz festivities in Diyarbakır on Instagram
CANSU PİŞKİN, ISTANBUL
The first hearing of journalist Melis Alphan’s trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) was held on 6 April 2021 at the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court. Alphan is on trial for sharing a photo taken during the 2015 Newroz festivities in Diyarbakır on her Instagram account.
P24 monitored the hearing, where Alphan and her lawyers were in attendance. Fellow journalists, HDP lawmaker Hüda Kaya and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu were also among spectators.
In her defense statement, Alphan stressed that the photo on which the accusation is based was taken during the 2015 Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır, an event organized under permission from relevant authorities. Noting that the event was not an illegal gathering, Alphan added: “Normally, no one, including myself, thought at the time that someday we would be facing criminal charges for sharing a photo from this event. If I am standing trial today before this court, then half the media, from [pro-government] Yeni Şafak to [mainstream] Hürriyet, Milliyet and CNNTürk should also be here [standing trial]. The photo for which I am being accused is not a recent photo; it was taken in 2015, when the ‘peace process,’ which was then supported by the government and security institutions of the state, was still ongoing.
Asserting that neither news channels nor newspapers that extensively covered the same Newroz festivities at the time have faced charges for their coverage, Alphan said her social media post from six years ago was being evaluated outside its context. She demanded to be acquitted.
Alphan’s lawyers then addressed the court. Referring to Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights case-law, lawyer Sevgi Kalan asserted that Alphan’s act was within the scope of freedom of expression. Lawyer Tolgay Güvercin told the court that the prosecution was against the principle of predictability.
Presenting their final opinion following the completion of the defense statements, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Alphan as charged. Granting Alphan and her lawyers time to prepare their final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 21 May.
The investigation against Melis Alphan was launched in Eskişehir after the Eskişehir Police Department received an email featuring several social media posts by the journalist. The Eskişehir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation but later sent the file to Istanbul, where Alphan resides. Taking over the investigation, the Press Offences Investigation Bureau under the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against Alphan on 5 January 2021, accusing the journalist of “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the TMK.
The 1.5-page indictment said that Alphan’s Instagram post, dated 21 March 2015 and featuring a photo from the Diyarbakır Newroz celebrations, featured the words “Newroz Piroz Be” and claimed that through her post, Alphan had “committed the alleged offense by sharing social media posts in a manner that is supportive of the PKK/KCK/YPG/YPJ armed terrorist organization and that legitimizes the violent methods of the terrorist organization or that encourages resorting to such methods.”