Journalist Özgür Mumcu faces five years in prison for defaming Erdoğan
ISTANBULÖzgür Mumcu, a journalist for Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, faces up to four years eight months in prison for “defaming” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an opinion piece published on March 18.
The op-ed penned by Mumcu had the title “Tyrant and a coward,” and criticized Erdoğan’s complaint against Hatice Cömert, the mother of Gezi protest victim Abdullah Cömert.
The indictment against Mumcu argues that the right to disseminate and interpret information applies “only when there is public interest and concern involved.”
In his piece, Mumcu cited the cases of Metin Lokumcu, a teacher who died of a heart attack during a police crackdown in the Black Sea town of Hopa in 2011, and Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old Gezi victim who died in a coma 269 days after being shot in the head by a gas canister while he was out to buy a loaf of bread. In both instances, he denounced the alleged cold-heartedness of the president.
President Erdoğan was widely criticized for inciting supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to boo the Elvan family at a rally following Berkin’s death. Reminding readers of these cases, Mumcu wrote that tyrants are “fearful by definition.”
“It is a well-known rule that tyrants are always fearful. So fearful that they would file a complaint against Abdullah Cömert’s mother,” the piece read.
Press freedoms are a rising concern in Turkey, which currently ranks 149 out of 180 on the 2015 World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders. Turkey is also categorized as “not free” by Freedom House’s annual Freedom of the Press report.