Eighteen journalists in Turkey have been indicted for publishing a photo of an Istanbul prosecutor being held at gunpoint last March. Istanbul's Chief Prosecutor's Office would like to see the journalists jailed for at least seven and a half years on charges of "spreading terrorist propaganda," Turkish media outlets reported.
Among those being charged are well-known journalists, including Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the popular Cumhuriyet newspaper. The indictments come as Turkey faces rising criticism from rights organizations over restrictions and pressures on the country's media.
The photo showed Mehmet Selim Kiraz, an Istanbul prosecutor, being held at gunpoint last March by two militants from the banned Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), a Marxist organization that Turkey has labeled a terrorist organization. Kiraz was killed during a shootout between the militants and Turkish police as they staged a failed attempt to rescue him. The militants -- both of whom were also killed during the shootout -- said they took the prosecutor hostage in revenge for a teenager's death at the hands of police during a 2013 protest.
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Following the killing, Turkey temporarily banned social media outlets in a stated attempt to prevent the spread of the image, likely in an effort to prevent other copycat attacks. Government critics accused politicians of exploiting the incident to restrict opposition and free speech in the country.
Dundar said his newspaper published the photo "to portray the dark and ugly face of terrorism, not to legitimize it." In the past, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been criticized for his aggression toward his opposition, has personally filed a criminal complaint against Dundar for a critical news report in June, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Freedom House, a press watchdog group, has labeled Turkey as "not free" for media, and reported the country has seen a decline in press freedoms over the last five years. The government continues to block hundreds of websites and has periodically shut down Twitter. About 60 journalists were believed to be jailed in the country as of December last year.