Prosecutor seeks 52 years for journalist over a leaked story

An İstanbul prosecutor is seeking 52 years in prison for a journalist who published classified documents of a 2004 National Security Council (MGK) meeting that brought together the president, the prime minister, Cabinet ministers and top commanders to discuss an action plan against faith-based social movements.

A prompt investigation launched against journalist Mehmet Baransu for reporting on a confidential MGK document that mentioned a planned crackdown on faith-based groups in the country drew bitter condemnation and stern criticism.

The indictment, completed by the Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, pointed out that Baransu’s report published on Nov. 28, 2013 in the Taraf daily exposed state secrets and thus requires severe punishment.

Since November of last year, Taraf has published several confidential documents suggesting that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had been profiling individuals linked to various religious and faith-based groups, mainly the Hizmet (or Gülen) movement inspired and led by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The party confirmed the authenticity of the documents but argued that no action was taken to implement the policy prescriptions indicated therein.

In the indictment, the prosecutor’s office said although all content of the Aug. 25, 2004 MGK meeting were required to be kept secret, Baransu covered it on front page of the newspaper, thus openly violating laws that provide a shield of secrecy to MGK meetings and documents. The indictment also implicates Murat Şevki Çoban, who was the managing editor at the time the story was published, for his role in allowing Baransu’s story to be published.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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