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Turkey charges journalist who disclosed government data breach

Turkey has filed charges against Ibrahim Haskologlu, a journalist who previously disclosed a breach of a government portal. The authorities don’t seemingly plan to investigate the leak itself.

The journalist announced on social media that the prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of 12 years. Haskologlu, an independent journalist, was already briefly detained back in April when he said – and proved – that hackers had stolen the personal information of high-profile figures from government websites.

In April, he said that a group of hackers had contacted him two months earlier and told him they had obtained personal data.

Haskologlu then tweeted edited photos of the ID cards of several Turkish political figures, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization.

Leaked photo of the ID card of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Most of the information on the cards was concealed. But it didn’t stop the Interior ministry from filing a complaint and the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office from launching an investigation and arresting the journalist. He was released a week later, pending trial.

Haskologlu’s lawyer, Emrah Karatay, said at the time that his client was arrested on a charge of illegally obtaining and disseminating personal information in his social media posts.

“The reason for his formal arrest was that he did not notify prosecutors,” Karatay said and added that Haskologlu only tweeted the leaked photos when the government took no action after he had contacted the authorities.

The journalist has now criticized the Turkish prosecutors’ filing of an indictment, saying, “No investigation was launched for people who were not able to protect personal information.”

Turkey is one of the world’s top jailers of journalists. Most mainstream media organizations are controlled by people close to Erdogan’s government.

The cabinet denies accusations by human rights groups, including the Stockholm Center for Freedom, a non-profit with a special focus on Turkey, that it muzzles the media, but, according to activists, has been repressing free speech after the failed coup attempt in 2016.

The Turkish General Directorate of Security recently blacklisted 20 journalists, including Mustafa Kuleli, General Secretary of the Journalists Union of Turkey, for writing in the online magazine Journalist Post. The government says the magazine is related to Fethullah Gülen, an exiled cleric whom Erdogan blames for organizing the coup.

In October, Turkey’s Parliament also ratified a law introducing jail terms for journalists and social media users who spread “fake news” or disinformation. However, it’s the government that decides what is and isn’t “fake news,” while clear legal definitions are lacking.

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