ISTANBUL, Turkey (AFP) — Two Bloomberg reporters went on trial in a Turkish court Friday, facing up to five years in prison over claims they tried to sabotage the economy with an article about last year’s currency crisis.
They were among dozens of defendants, including some who had simply written jokes about the currency crisis on Twitter.
The Bloomberg article was published in August 2018 on a dramatic day when the lira lost around a fifth of its value against the dollar. It said Turkey’s banking regulator agency, known as the BDDK, would hold an emergency meeting.
“For the BDDK to call a meeting was normal. … I hardly understand why our story has received such a reaction,” Kerim Karakaya, who faces trial along with his colleague Fercan Yalinkilic, told the court.
Others in court appeared shocked to be on trial over throwaway comments on Twitter.
“If me and the others in this room can ruin the economy with tweets, then we are all toast,” said one of the defendants, Halit Tokkus.
A 22-year-old student, Bilalcan Sagir, was also in court over a tweet that said: “I doubt the brain of anyone who says there is no crisis. Come to your senses.”
He told the court: “I am a student. I posted tweets but I don’t know how I can influence the capital markets.”
After opening statements, the court said another hearing would be held on Jan. 17.
Conspiracy theories are widely believed in Turkey, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has often stoked suspicions of foreign media, saying they are trying to undermine the country.
Erol Onderoglu, of Reporters Without Borders, who was attending the trial, said it “illustrates a new and worrying tendency that targets the coverage of economic affairs.”
He cited other recent cases, including Turkish journalist Cengiz Erdinc, who was convicted of “damaging the reputation” of public bank Ziraat.
In July, the government-linked SETA think tank in Istanbul published a report listing certain Turkish journalists working foreign media, accusing them of using “anti-government language.”
Reporters Without Borders described the report as an “intimidation attempt” that “brings the harassment of foreign media correspondents to a new level.”
© Agence France-Presse