A pair of journalists in Turkey have been sentenced to two years in jail for illustrating their columns with a Charlie Hebdo cartoon. Hikmet Çetinkaya and Ceyda Karan‘s columns appeared in Turkey’s Cumhuriyet newspaper on January 17, 20015, as part of a special section in support of the French satirical magazine that had suffered a terrorist attack 10 days prior. The cartoon in question shows a weeping Muhammad holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign under the words “Tout Est Pardonné” (“All is forgiven”).
Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan was among those who filed complaints following the cartoon’s publication. Çetinkaya and Karan were subsiquently charged with “insulting religious values” and “encouraging hate and enmity.” They were found guilty on April 28, 2016 and transferred to prison, where they may soon be joined by Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar and the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül, who are currently facing espionage charges over a story linking Turkey’s intelligence agency with the arming of Islamist factions in Syria.
Reporters Without Borders awarded Cumhuriyet its Press Freedom Prize in 2015 for that newspaper’s integrity in journalism and courage in the face of increasing suppression of free speech under the government of President Erdogan.
A lawyer for imprisoned Cumhuriyet columnists Hikmet Çetinkaya and Ceyda Karan has said their conviction will be appealed.
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