A Turkish court has accepted an indictment requesting a jail sentence for two Bloomberg reporters and 36 other people after a complaint about the reporters filed by the country’s banking watchdog (BDDK).
The indictment, seen by Reuters, was in relation to a Bloomberg story published in August 2018. The article was about the effects of a sharp decline in the Turkish lira and how authorities and banks were responding.
Worries about the Turkish central bank’s independence and Turkey’s tense ties with Washington sparked a currency crisis last year in which the lira shed nearly 30%.
Bloomberg reporters Kerim Karakaya and Fercan Yalinkilic are accused of trying to undermine Turkey’s economic stability, charges that carry a jail sentence of between two and five years.
The other 36 defendants are accused in connection with social media comments on the story, or comments deemed critical of Turkey’s economy, the indictment said.
The BDDK, Turkey’s banking regulator, issued a statement on Friday evening saying that it had filed a criminal complaint to the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office on Aug. 14 last year regarding the story and three Bloomberg journalists.
“The necessary legal avenues will be resorted to in the future concerning similar publications that could damage the prestige of our banks and our economy or harm our sector,” it added.
In a separate statement, Turkey’s securities markets regulator, the Capital Markets Board, said it had filed a criminal complaint to Istanbul prosecutors regarding the social media posts of some individuals.
The board did not name the individuals or specify how many it was complaining about.
It said they had sought to create tension in markets and cause harm to investors.
The first session of the trial will be held on Sept. 20, according to Bloomberg.
“We condemn the indictment issued against our reporters, who have reported fairly and accurately on newsworthy events,” Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said. “We fully stand by them and will support them throughout this ordeal.”
Last year, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said it had identified 346 social media accounts carrying posts about the exchange rate that it said created a negative perception of the economy. It said it would take legal measures against them but did not specify what these would be.
Dozens of critical journalists who used to work for media organizations affiliated with the movement were arrested following the coup attempt on terrorism charges, and some of them were given lengthy sentences including aggravated life on terrorism or coup charges. Some of the journalists are still in pre-trial detention.
Turkey’s ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2018 World Press Freedom Index, released in April 2019, remained at 157th out of 180 countries as the country continued its witch-hunt against journalists.
Turkey has been the largest jailer of journalists in the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), for three years in a row, incarcerating nearly 200 reporters, media workers and columnists after the failed coup in 2016.