PRESSURE: Journalists in the Judiciary’s Crosshairs

This investigation is part of the Justice for Journalists Foundation Investigative Grant Programme and was originally published by MLSA (Media and Law Studies Association).

All over the world, there are attempts to discourage journalists from doing their work. Journalists have long faced lawsuits and investigations, pressure and threats. They got used to them to a certain degree. Yet, in recent years, a new kind of legal threat against journalists has emerged. Journalists are being dragged into seemingly endless lawsuits with often high requests for compensations, aimed at rendering them incapable of reporting at all. These lawsuits, so-called SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) are increasingly used in different parts of the world against authors, activists, and journalists to punish and discourage them from criticizing those in power.

In this documentary, prepared by journalist Gökçer Tahincioğlu and videographer İsmail Özgür Zeren, in cooperation with the Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ) and the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), five journalists report on their personal experience with SLAPPs they have been exposed to for having defended the public’s rights against those who hold power. Çiğdem Toker, who was targeted with many suits for damages amounting to millions of lira because she questioned the use of public resources; Abdurrahman Gök, who stands trial in a case facing up to 20 years in prison for documenting how university student Kemal Kurkut was killed by law enforcement during Newroz 2017 in Diyarbakır; Ruşen Takva, who was targeted by the Ministry of Interior after reporting the migration from Afghanistan and who was tried for “membership in a terrorist organization” for covering a march planned in Van; Ergün Demir, a local journalist in Kocaeli who was detained for reporting a tragic suicide; and Sinan Aygül, who was sentenced to prison for reporting on child abuse, talk about their experiences with SLAPP lawsuits.