Gaziantep-based journalists standing trial for “breaching confidentiality of investigation” in news story about local businessman
Gaziantep-based journalist Murat Güreş and two other local journalists, Furkan Gökşen and Metin Aybey, appeared before a local court on April 19 on the charge of “breaching the confidentiality of an investigation” by reporting about the contents of the statement an influential local businessperson gave to a prosecutor.
The April 19 hearing, monitored in the courtroom by P24 and representatives from the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), was the first hearing in the trial, overseen by the 9th Criminal Court of First Instance of Gaziantep.
During his statement before the court, Güreş rejected the accusations, underlining that it was a journalist’s responsibility to inform the public.
The case was opened after the journalists published a news story based on the testimony a local contractor named Ahmet Selim Ener gave to a prosecutor on July 2, 2017, in which he named local business people purported to have links with the Fethullah Gülen network. Ener, who was detained as part of an investigation into the Gülen network, disclosed the names in order to benefit from the “effective remorse provision,” which could possibly provide a reduction in his sentence.
Also standing trial in the case are Gökşen, the editor in chief of the news website Detailhaber.com, and Aybey, the responsible managing editor of another local newspaper, both of whom later relayed the article originally published by Güreş on July 29, 2017.
All three journalists were arrested over the publication of the news story and Güreş and Gökşen were jailed pending trial on August 2, 2017. Both were released on August 15, 2017. Güreş and Aybey were imposed judicial control measures, which included a travel ban. The court lifted the measures in its interim ruling at the end of Thursday’s hearing.
‘List represents 70 percent of Gaziantep’s capital’
Güreş told the court in his defense statement that he was unaware that a “confidentiality order” was issued on Ener’s case file. He said that additionally there was no gag order on the case file preventing him from reporting about the case. “We didn’t take this information from the prosecutor’s drawer,” he added.
The names mentioned by Ener “made up around 70 percent of Gaziantep’s capital,” Güreş added. “The information had a public interest value.”
Güreş also pointed out that while people whose names were yet to be subject to an investigation, journalists who published the reports had been detained and charged. “I have worked as a journalist for 25 years. I am a socialist. [Due to the investigation] my reputation has been smeared as a member of the [Fethullah Gülen network],” he said.
Güreş’s lawyer Önder Alkurt also rejected the charges, telling the court the only people who would be able to “breach the confidentiality” of the files were Ener, his lawyer, the prosecutor himself, or the court clerks. Referring to a decision by the Constitutional Court in 2015, Alkurt said journalists should not appear as defendants but only as witnesses in such cases.
Gökşen said documents that included the information provided by Ener in his testimony were already being widely circulated in WhatsApp prior to their publication. “I am a young journalist. I didn’t want to skip the report of an experienced journalist like Murat Güreş,” he told the court.
Aybey, a veteran journalist and former head of the Gaziantep Journalists’ Association (GCC), said he was arrested only because his name was listed as the responsible managing editor of the Gaziantep Doğuş daily as a mere formality. “I had no information about the report, nor any interest in it,” he told the court.
Ener also testified as a witness during the hearing.Following the statements, the court ruled to lift all judicial control measures on the journalists and adjourned the trial until September 27, 2018.