Investigation Highlights Spike in Cases of Insulting Turkish President

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN

Turkish courts sentenced 9,556 of those charged. The investigation prepared by journalist Eren Topuz draws on Turkish Justice Ministry data and reveals that offenders included journalists, authors, politicians and even schoolchildren. Some 903 minors aged between 12 and 17 went to court for insulting the Turkish strongman.

Experts said the huge number of cases and probes show Erdogan's crackdown on his critics has continued and even worsened, and violates the right to freedom of speech.

They also said it has led people to self-censor their posts on social media and journalists to do the same when they write or talk about President Erdogan.

"We are journalists. We should be able to make some fun of politicians. There is no rule that says we will be always serious. We can criticize by making fun of them," Engin Korkmaz, a journalist who has faced charges of insulting the President, told Gazete Duvar.

Korkmaz added that he now consults a lawyer about his posts before he shares on social media to avoid facing another insult-related law case.

"Think about where the freedom of expression of a journalist currently stands. I am no longer able to share anything with my free will," Korkmaz complained.

According to the investigation, a 14-year-old child was prosecuted in 2018 over an Instagram post and faced charges of insulting Erdogan.

The teen was later sentenced to five months and 25 days in prison, although this was turned later into an administrative fine of 3,500 Turkish liras (400 euros). The court also deferred announcement of the verdict.

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