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Ankara government tries to suppress media coverage of arms scandal

Ankara government has hushed press coverage of its alleged supply of armaments to Syria by sentencing a Turkish journalist who leaked state secrets to 20 months in jail and stripping her of parental rights.

Yildiz was found guilty of breaching the confidentiality of a court case by publishing footage in May 2015 from a court hearing at which four prosecutors were on trial for ordering a search of trucks belonging to Turkey's top spy agency as they travelled to Syria in 2014.

The prosecutors issued search warrants for specific trucks travelling into Syria to inspect them for armaments. President Erdogan has since said the trucks were carrying humanitarian aid. The prosecutors’ findings were declared classified and a court sentenced Yildiz to 20 months in jail for the publications of state secrets.

If the ruling is upheld Yildiz, who has two young daughters, would be barred from registering her children in school, opening bank accounts for them or taking them abroad without her husband’s express permission.

Yildiz told The Times that she will seek to overturn the court judgment.

Despite her sentence the journalist, Arzu Yildiz, has vowed to continue reporting on the alleged arms shipments. Yildiz has ignored the court’s ruling that she has been banned from journalism, publishing a critical report about the court proceedings for website Haberdar.

“Arms kill people, so naturally we’re asking who they are meant to be used to kill. That’s journalism. But the government doesn’t want that story to be reported; I’m probably the only journalist following this case now, so they’re trying to put me off,” Yildiz said yesterday.

“But I don’t care . . . I’m sad but I will carry on reporting. As a mother I have to also think about other children’s stories — those who couldn’t see their parents because they are imprisoned unfairly just because they wrote the truth.”

The case is another example of the suppression of press that shows the Erdogan government in a negative light. Can Dündar, editor of Cumhuriyet, an opposition newspaper, and Erdem Gül, its Ankara bureau chief, have also been jailed for investigating the arms incident.

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