Two reporters employed by Bloomberg appeared in an Istanbul court on Friday accused of undermining Turkey’s economic stability by writing an article about the country’s currency crisis last year.
The charges against Fercan Yalinkilic and Kerim Karakaya, who wrote about the response of Turkish banks and regulators to the plunge in the lira in August 2018, highlight the difficulties faced by media reporting sensitive topics in Turkey.
Another three dozen people, including at least two other journalists and an economist, who posted on social media about the financial turmoil, have also been charged under Turkey’s capital markets law in the case that opened on Friday.
The defendants all deny any wrongdoing.
The Bloomberg journalists, who have not been remanded in custody during the trial, gave evidence on Friday. In his testimony Mr Yalinkilic said: “I follow the principles of ethical journalism, which is to write current and accurate news.” Mr Karakaya described the case against him as “tragicomic”.
The two men, Turkish journalists employed by the US news organisation, are accused of sharing “false, wrong or deceptive information” to affect financial markets as they reported on government efforts to halt the plunge in the lira, caused by investors’ worries about Ankara’s foreign and economic policies.
The sell-off erased almost a third of the value of the lira and plunged the economy into a brief recession.
Bloomberg said it stood behind its two journalists and their reporting. “They’ve been indicted for accurately and objectively reporting on highly newsworthy events,” said Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait in a statement.
Long prison terms, closure of critical news outlets and “unprecedented” levels of censorship have placed Turkey 157th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index of the group Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Rights groups say prosecution of journalists and social media users reflects political influence over Turkey’s judiciary and stifles dissent among the critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erol Onderoglu, RSF’s Turkey representative, said in an interview that prosecutors were increasingly using commercial law to prosecute journalists to expand a crackdown on the media. “Cases seeking jail terms against economy correspondents is aimed at intimidating those who are doing critical reporting,” said Mr Onderolgu.
The judge in the Bloomberg case rejected all requests for acquittal and set the next hearing for January next year.
Mr Erdogan has accused foreign powers of creating the currency crisis in a plot to weaken him and the nation, and has warned that investors will pay a “heavy price” for speculating on the Turkish lira.
In a separate case, Turkey’s Banking and Regulation Supervision Agency in March opened an investigation into JPMorgan for advising clients to sell the lira because the US investment bank expected the currency to decline in value.