A Turkish court Saturday ordered the release of Sinan Aygül, a journalist detained under Turkey’s recent anti-disinformation law. Aygül posted a video announcing his release after his lawyer filed an objection to his detention order. He said in the video, “I am free again after 10 days of captivity. I hope neither I nor any of my journalist colleagues have to experience such a situation.”
Aygül was arrested on December 14 after publishing a story on December 13 alleging the sexual assault of a 14-year-old child by police in the Bitlis province of eastern Turkey. Later that same day, Aygül tweeted that he received information from the local governor about some inaccuracies in his story. Aygül duly corrected the misleading information and apologized, explaining that he tried his best to confirm the story but that it was difficult considering the circumstances. Despite this acknowledgement, he was arrested the next day for publishing “misleading information” under the newly introduced anti-disinformation law.
The International Press Institute (IPI) condemned the arrest in a statement:
We are greatly concerned by the arrest of Sinan Aygül over a report that contained alleged errors for which he already apologized and issued a correction. The arrest and charges in this case are arbitrary and disproportionate. We call on authorities to immediately release Aygül and stop the misuse of law enforcement power to harass journalists.
Aygül‘s arrest marks the first detention under the new anti-disinformation law introduced by the parliament in October. The law makes it a crime to publish “distributing deceptive information publicly”, with a penalty of imprisonment for up to three years. Critics of the law contend that it can be used to target journalists critical of the government. A statement signed by 22 international press freedom organizations expressed concern that the law could lead to “blanket censorship and self-censorship in the run-up to the 2023 elections.”
Since the 2022 reelection of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, curbs on political dissent have increased. According to the international NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) database, there are over 23 journalists in Turkish prisons today.