[JURIST] A Turkish court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Monday acquitted a Dutch journalist accused of producing propaganda materials on behalf of a Kurdish rebel group. Freelance journalist Frederike Geerdink was charged [Reuters report] with disseminating “terrorist propaganda” after she made a series of social media posts allegedly in support of the government-banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) [BBC profile]. Geerdink’s arrest and prosecution drew heavy criticism from rights groups and the Dutch government. A panel of three judges acquitted Geerdink inline with a recommendation from the prosecutor that the charges be dropped due to lack of evidence.
The Turkish government in recent years has been accused of censoring free speech in both print media and social media. Last week a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced [JURIST report] that a state prosecutor had ordered Internet providers to block social networking sites including Twitter and YouTube. In January a Turkish court ordered [JURIST report] a ban on Facebook pages that contain materials insulting the Prophet Muhammad. In September Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish], is taking steps to weaken the rule of law, control Internet and media, and suppress critics and protesters. Last April the Turkish government lifted a ban [JURIST report] on Twitter following a Constitutional Court ruling, which stated that the ban violated both individual rights as well as the freedom of expression.