Turkey arrests journalist for ‘insulting’ Turkish sultan on Twitter

Desert Talks
3 min readSep 22, 2020
Turkish journalist Otkay Candemir.

Turkish authorities arrested a journalist on Monday for “insulting” a medieval Turkish sultan on Twitter.

Freelance Turkish journalist Oktay Candemir was arrested, and his house raided due to “a tweet that satirized Ottoman history.”

Candemir now faces the charge of “insulting the memory of a dead person,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), for his September 3 tweet about a historical drama series produced by Turkey’s state news agency TRT. “Authorities allege that the tweet insulted Ertugrul Ghazi, a sultan who died around 1280,” according to CPJ citing Turkish reports.

Ghazi was the father of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) passes next to a Turkish soldier wearing an Ottoman uniform during a third anniversary commemoration rally in Istanbul on July 15, 2019. (AFP)

Candemir said the tweet intended to make fun of the television series — not to insult historical figures, according to the Media and Legal Studies Association. He could face up to two years in prison if convicted.

Candemir said he does not expect a fair trial in Turkey.“A fair trial is not possible because the jurisdiction is controlled in Turkey,” Candemir said in an interview.

Turkish journalist Oktay Candemir, second from left, outside a courthouse in Turkey.

Candemir said his charge is an attempt to “make journalists feel under pressure,” according to the Media and Legal Studies Association.

His computer has been confiscated by the Turkish government and he is subject to a foreign travel ban.

Consequences of insulting the current Turkish leader

Other journalists have been imprisoned for “insulting” the current Turkish leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including former editor of Turkey’s leading English language daily newspaper Bulent Kenes.

Article 299 of Turkey’s penal code “criminalizes insulting the President of the Republic.”

Kenes, who is now living in exile in Europe, told Al Arabiya English that the detention of Candemir is “not surprising.”

“Arbitrary arrests are new norms” of the Turkish government under Erdogan, who “tries to control not only the words, but also the thoughts of the people,” Kenes said.

Bulent Kenes, then-editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman, shows his newspaper minutes before police detain him in his office in Istanbul on Oct. 9, 2015. (AP)

“Journalist Candemir’s weird detention is just a new caricature of the current despicable state of freedom of expression in Erdogan’s Turkey,” said Kenes.

Candemir’s arrest follows a clampdown on media freedoms in Turkey.

On July 29, the Turkish parliament approved a law that makes it possible for authorities to cut websites’ internet traffic bandwidth by 90 percent if they fail to abide by government requests to remove content.

It was announced on July 1 that at least 11 people were detained for social media posts that mocked Erdogan’s daughter and son-in-law.

“Do you see why we oppose social media like YouTube, Twitter, Netflix?” Erdogan told members of his party in a televised address at the time.

“These platforms do not suit this nation. We want to shut down, control [them] by bringing [a bill] to parliament as soon as possible,” he added.



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