A lawsuit has been filed against Ceren Sözeri, a journalist at the Evrensel newspaper, for her article titled, “AKP’ye kim oy kaybettirdi” (“Who made AKP lose votes”) published on April 7, 2019. Serhat Albayrak, vice chairman of the pro-government Turkuvaz Media Group claimed a total of 200,000 TL in compensation for damages, from Sözeri and the company publishing the newspaper. Serhat Albayrak is the brother of Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of President Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkuvaz Media Group counts among its subsidiaries the pro-government newspapers and TV channels Sabah, Takvim, ATV and A Haber.
In her article, Sözeri discussed how in the local elections held on March 31, 2019, the Anadolu News Agency’s broadcast was interrupted for 14 hours as the votes were being counted. She also questioned how the Anadolu News Agency could collect data from ballot boxes all over Turkey.
The petition for the complaint presented the following phrase in Sözeri’s article as ground for accusation:
“The pro-government media does not refrain from disseminating fabricated news and hate speech, especially Sabah-ATV, known to be close to the Pelican group (…)”
“Sabah-ATV group (…) engaged in a reckless production of lies.”
It was claimed that Sözeri targeted Albayrak with these expressions, “incriminating Albayrak with dark and baseless insinuations” and “blemishing his prestige.”
It was alleged that Sözeri’s article inflicted damaged on Albayrak’s rights and commercial prestige.
Albayrak’s petition was accepted by the Istanbul Second Commercial Court of First Instance. The first hearing of the trial had been scheduled for March 4th, 2020.
The hearing has been postponed as the president of the panel of judges is on “maternity leave.”
The second hearing of the trial was held on October 7th, 2020. The sued journalist Ceren Sözeri attended the hearing with his lawyer Devrim Avcı Özkurt. The complainant Turkuvaz Media Group was represented by lawyer Kübra Alemdar.
Lawyer Özkurt indicated that the other defendant facing a demand for moral compensation, Evrensel Newspaper’s concessionaire and accountant Cemal Dursun had died.
The judge stated that due to the death of Dursun, the parties of the claim for moral compensation could not be clarified. As such, the judge ruled that the heirs of Cemal Dursun be identified for the moral compensation demand.
The trial will resume with the third hearing on February 3rd, 2021.
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