First hearing held for 18 journalists who published photograph of hostage crisis

The journalists, including Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar, are accused of “spreading terrorist propaganda” by publishing the photo of the prosecutor, Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who was killed during a shootout between the police and the kidnappers hours after being taken hostage.

Prosecutor Kiraz was taken hostage in his office at the İstanbul Courthouse in March by two militants from the terrorist group the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C). Both the prosecutor and his captors were killed after the police stormed his office to rescue him.

When they took Kiraz hostage, the DHKP/C militants claimed the act was in the name of honoring Berkin Elvan, a teenager who died of injuries sustained from being hit in the head by a tear gas canister shot by police during a protest in İstanbul in 2013.

Among the suspects being tried by the İstanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court are Ozgur Gundem Managing Editor Reyhan Capan, Sok Managing Editor Kaan Ozbek, Cumhuriyet daily’s Abbas Yalcın, the former managing editor of the Millet daily, Sedat Gulmez, and the managing editor of the Birgun daily, Berkan Gultekin.

Cumhuriyet published the photo in question on the front page of its April 1 issue, with the headline “The day we entered darkness.”

In his defense statement, Managing Editor Yalcın said: “We published the photo in its entirety. Our editorial line is to present an incident in its entirety. This does not equate to publishing propaganda for a terrorist organization, it reflects the severity of the terrorist organization and exhibit the horrors, as is important to do in the field of journalism.”

“To be charged on the grounds of spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization for publishing an image of the prosecutor is quite absurd,” Birgun’s Aydın told the press, adding: “There is no reasoning behind our being tried here today. No crime has taken place.”

Bulent Utku, the lawyer representing veteran journalist Dundar, said his client was unable to attend Tuesday’s hearing because he was receiving an award from Reporters without Borders and was therefore out of the country. The next hearing is scheduled to be held on Jan. 14.