23:17 GMT +323 January 2020
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    Ankara should ensure that its government bodies are not used to weaken the country’s democracy, US State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in a press briefing on Thursday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — In January 2015, Cumhuriyet published four pages of images taken from the special issue of Charlie Hebdo that appeared after the terrorist attack on the magazine but decided not to reproduce the cover page, which contained cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. However, Cetinkaya and Karan put small images of the cartoons in their articles.

    An investigation into the case was initiated after 1,280 individuals filed complaints. The Prosecutor's Office in Istanbul asked for a sentence between 1.5 and 4.5 years in jail for both journalists for "insulting religious values" and "inciting people to hatred and enmity."

    “As Turkey’s friend and NATO ally, we urge the Turkish government to ensure that official bodies, law enforcement and judicial authorities are not used to undermine the Turkish democracy,” Kirby stated. “Media organizations should have the freedom to use their independent professional judgement when determining what they publish.”

    On Thursday, an Istanbul court sentenced two columnists of the Turkish opposition Cumhuriyet daily, Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Cetinkaya, to two-year imprisonment for reproducing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad first published by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

    “We continue to defend freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Turkey and around the world. We also understand the respect that some have strong feelings about depictions of religious figures.”

    Turkey's crackdown on journalists and restrictions on freedom of speech have previously been criticized by the international community, including the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the organization Reporters Without Borders.


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