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Turkey arrests TV journalist for insulting Erdogan

Sedef Kabas faces up to four years in prison for comments made on opposition channel and Twitter; journalists’ union calls detention ‘serious attack on freedom of expression’

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony at the presidential palace, in Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2021. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony at the presidential palace, in Ankara, Turkey, Nov. 24, 2021. (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)

Turkey has detained a well-known television journalist for comments she made on-air about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, her lawyer said Saturday.

Sedef Kabas was arrested in Istanbul on Saturday following a live interview on the opposition TV channel Tele1 last Friday, according to Turkey’s state broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television, TRT Haber.

Kabas used traditional Turkish proverbs to make references to Erdogan without actually giving the president’s name.

“A crowned head gets wiser, but we see that it is not true,” she said in reference to Erdogan’s nearly 20 years in power since becoming prime minister and then president.

She then said: “When a cattle enters a palace, he will not be a king, but that palace becomes a barn.” Kabas later posted her comments on Twitter to her 900,000 followers.

She was formally arrested after appearing in court.

The crime of insulting the president carries a jail sentence of one to four years in Turkey.

“A so-called journalist is blatantly insulting our president on a television channel that has no goal other than spreading hatred,” Erdogan’s chief spokesman Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter.

“I condemn this arrogance, this immorality in the strongest possible terms. This is not only immoral, it is also irresponsible,” Altun said.

But the Turkish journalists’ union called Kabas’ arrest a “serious attack on freedom of expression.”

Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since Erdogan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 153rd out of 180 in its 2021 press freedom index.

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