Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to ensure journalist Sedef Kabas is punished for allegedly insulting him.
Ms Kabas was arrested on 22 January in Istanbul, after she used a proverb on live television that Mr Erdogan’s spokesperson described as “blatantly insulting”.
“There is a very famous proverb that says that a crowned head becomes wiser. But we see it is not true…” she had said on 14 January on the opposition-linked Tele1 channel, reported BBC. “A bull does not become king just by entering the palace, but the palace becomes a barn.”
Ms Kabas also posted the quote on Twitter to her 900,000 followers days later.
Since then, the 52-year-old journalist has been at the receiving end of government officials’ barbs.
Justice minister Abdulhamit Gul claimed that she will “get what she deserves for her unlawful words”, according to DW.
On 22 January, an Istanbul court charged her with insulting the president, an offence that carries a jail term of one to four years.
In her court statement, the journalist denied intending to insult the president.
But Mr Erdogan said during an interview that the “offence will not go unpunished”.
“It is our duty to protect the respect of my function, of the presidency,” he said, according to AFP. “It has nothing to do with freedom of expression.”
Without naming Ms Kabas, Mr Erdogan’s chief spokesperson Fahrettin Altun wrote on Twitter on 22 January that a “so-called journalist” was “blatantly insulting our president on a television channel that has no goal other than spreading hatred”.
Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists criticised the arrest and urged Turkish authorities to “immediately release” her and drop the charge of “insulting the president”.
It also demanded the cancellation of fine and ban imposed on Tele1 channel by the telecommunications watchdog RTUK.
“Sedef Kabas’s arrest for her comments on live TV is as unacceptable as the fine and ban issued to Tele1,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York.
“Turkish authorities should pay more respect to the freedom of speech and try to be more open to criticism. Kabas should immediately be released, and the authorities should drop the charge against her, alongside canceling the fine and ban issued to Tele1 TV.”
According to Reuters, since Mr Erdogan became the president in 2014, tens of thousands have been charged and convicted for insulting him.
Between 2014 and the end of 2020, as many as 160,169 such investigations were launched, and 35,507 cases were filed. Official data showed that here were 12,881 convictions.