European Federation of Journalists

Turkey: we demand the release of journalist Diren Keser

Credits: DİSK Basın-İş.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) join their Turkish affiliate DİSK Basın-İş in demanding the immediate release of journalist Diren Keser, who has just been jailed for posting news on social networks in 2015.

On 27 February, police officers arrested Diren Keser, a reporter for the Pir News Agency (PİRHA), at his home after the Court of Cassation upheld his prison sentence. Keser was transferred to Tarsus Prison.

The journalist was charged in 2017 with ‘propaganda for an illegal organisation’ on account of having shared five news articles on social media back in 2015. At the time, Keser hosted the “Hak Yolu” and “Akdeniz’in Güncesi” programmes on TV 10, a channel that was later closed by a state of emergency decree. The Mersin 9th High Criminal Court convicted the reporter on 26 December 2017 and sentenced him to 21 months in prison.

Keser appealed the verdict in 2018, claiming that his posts fell within the scope of his professional activities. The Regional Court of Appeals rejected the claim and upheld the sentence. Keser was arrested in 2019 but released after four months following an application to the Court of Cassation that resulted in a stay in execution of the appealed sentence.

The Court of Cassation upheld the sentence on 2 February 2024.

Keser’s lawyer, Mehdi Zana Akkaya, and the EFJ-IFJ affiliate DİSK Basın İş denounced both the judgment and the arrest. Akkaya termed the judgment of the Court of Cassation “an attack on the journalism profession and the public’s right to receive information”, as the existence of a concrete danger required under the charge of ‘propaganda’ had not been established. He also denounced that the police conducted the arrest without prior notice, which was contrary to the legal requirement for sentences of less than five years in prison and to due process in criminal matters.

The DİSK Basın-İş Mersin branch said in a statement that the sentence given to their member was “essentially a punishment given to the free press, true news, the voice of the opposition, and the journalistic identity”.

“This arrest, almost ten years after the alleged offences, is pure intimidation,” said the EFJ and IFJ. “This punishment is totally disproportionate and completely unjustified. We demand that Diren Keser be released and that the charges be dropped”. The EFJ and IFJ have submitted an alert to the Council of Europe Platform to denounce this abusive imprisonment.