Publishing Charlie Hebdo Cover Lands Turkish Journalists in Prison

Just yesterday, Turkey's PM had promised to include the "principle of secularism" in new constitution.


Prison in Turkey for Charlie Hebdo covers
Neydtstock | Dreamstime.com

Two journalists have been sentenced by a Turkish court to two years in prison after being convicted of blasphemy and "insulting religious values" for publishing several cartoons from France's satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine, including a caricature of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad.

Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya of Turkey's Cumhuriyet daily had faced up to four and a half years each for re-printing the cartoons in solidarity with the cartoonists who were massacred in Paris by Islamic radicals in January 2015.

Karan tweeted, "We will appeal (the ruling). We will not leave this country to fascists in Islam sauce," according to Reuters

The sentencing comes at a time when journalists are increasingly under siege in Turkey, which was ranked 151 out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders recently released World Press Freedom Index. Last year, the group called Turkey "the world's biggest prison for journalists," and last month's government takeover of the country's largest newspaper has many wondering whether the NATO ally seeking to join the EU can be reasonably referred to as a democracy.

Ever more troublesome, just yesterday, Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu — who was among the world leaders who marched in Paris in solidarity with the Charlie Hebdo victims in 2015 — tried to downplay comments made by the Parliamentary Speaker Ismail Kahraman, who had said that the nation needed a religious constitution.

Davutoglu later said that the country's new in-the-works constitution will include "the principle of secularism…as one guaranteeing individuals' freedom of religion and faith, and the state's equal distance to all faith groups," Reuters reports.

The modern nation of Turkey was founded on secularism in the 1920s, but the tenure of President Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party have led to an increased role Islam in public life, as well as an authoritarian posture that extends beyond Turkey's borders. 

Earlier this month, Germany said it would allow the prosecution of one of its citizens for the crime of writing a ribald poem insulting Erdogan. In a recently published article at The Atlantic titled, "The Thinnest-Skinned President in the World," Uri Friedman noted that the prosecution of German comedian Jan Böhmermann is the height of irony, considering Erdogan himself had served time in prison for reciting a poem.