Two Turkish journalist face lengthy jail terms over Afrin offensive criticism
Two Turkish journalists are facing lengthy jail terms over their vehement opposition to the Ankara government’s military operation in Syria’s northwestern region of Afrin against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militant group.
Judicial sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has drafted an indictment for Sibel Hürtaş, a correspondent for Turkish-language Artı TV television network, and Hayri Demir, a journalist for Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency, demanding a total of 10 years and six months in prison for them.
Hürtaş has described the prosecutor’s move as a serious blow to the freedom of press and expression.
“I will continue to perform my job as a journalist within the framework of media ethics,” she said.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly said that Afrin should be cleared of “terrorists,” and demanded the deployment of Turkish troops there during a speech back in November 2016.
This is while US officials regard the YPG as the most effective fighting force against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in northern Syria, and have substantially increased their weaponry and technology support to the group.
The controversy over a possible Syria border force first started on January 14 when a report emerged on Reuters saying that the military coalition led by the United States in Syria was planning to set up a large border force of up to 30,000 personnel with the aid of its militia allies.
The Syrian government has already condemned the Turkish offensive against Afrin, rejecting Ankara’s claim about having informed Damascus of the operation.
Damascus “strongly condemns the brutal Turkish aggression on Afrin, which is an inseparable part of Syrian territory,” Syria’s official news agency SANA cited a Syrian Foreign Ministry source as saying on January 20.
“Syria completely denies claims by the Turkish regime that it was informed of this military operation,” the source added.