The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, today sent a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, expressing his concern over the sentencing of investigative journalist Pelin Ünker.
On 8 January 2019, Ünker was convicted by the Second Criminal Court of First Instance to one year, one month and 15 days in prison, and fined 8,660 Turkish lira (approx. 1,380 euros) for “insulting” and “slandering a public official”. The lawsuit was filed by former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his two sons, in response to her publications in 2017 on the “Paradise Papers” related to their alleged offshore companies.
“While I fully support the right of any individual to protect their reputation, this should not lead to imprisonment of journalists for their investigative work,” said Désir, emphasizing that public officials, due to their public role, should endure a higher level of scrutiny.
In his letter the Representative recalled the Decision on Safety of Journalists adopted at the OSCE Ministerial Council in Milan, which calls on participating States to“ensure that defamation laws do not carry excessive sanctions or penalties that could undermine the safety of journalists and/or effectively censor journalists and interfere with their mission of informing the public and, where necessary, to revise and repeal such laws, in compliance with participating States’ obligations under international human rights law.”
“I hope that Pelin Ünker will be acquitted on appeal,” concluded Désir.