Ozer Aydogan and Bahadir Baruter have to pay 7,000 lira each over a caricature of the Turkish president.
A Turkish court has fined two leading cartoonists after convicting them of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a caricature referring to the increasingly tough environment for journalists in the country.
Ozer Aydogan and Bahadir Baruter from the weekly satirical magazine Penguen were each initially sentenced to 11 months in prison by a criminal court in Istanbul on Tuesday. However, the judges converted the jail terms to a fine of 7,000 lira each, and the two men have not been detained, the Hurriyet newspaper reported Wednesday. The two were not present at the hearing.
The controversial caricature in the August 2014 issue of Penguen (Penguin) featured two civil servants at the gate of the new presidential palace, welcoming Erdogan after he was elected president that month. One of the men is depicted making a vulgar hand gesture while shaking Erdogan’s hand.
Erdogan replies: “There could have been a warmer welcome, you could have at least sacrificed a journalist!”
This was a reference to an Islamic tradition of sacrificing animals to mark major events. Erdogan has come under repeated fire for eroding the rights of journalists during his rule. The government has recently stepped up arrests of people accused of personally insulting Erdogan, opening criminal investigations against a number of Turks.
Students, journalists and even a former Miss Turkey beauty queen are currently facing legal proceedings for insulting Erdogan on social media.
The next hearing in the trial of a 16-year-old boy charged with insulting Erdogan will take place in April.
Erdogan, who ruled Turkey from 2003-2014 as premier and since last year as president, has long been accused by his opponents of being increasingly authoritarian and intolerant of criticism. Said by critics to be especially thin-skinned about caricatures, Erdogan has had clashes with Penguen in the past.
While still prime minister in 2005, Erdogan sued Penguen after it caricatured him as an elephant, a giraffe, a monkey and several other animals under the title “The World of Tayyips.” That case was thrown out by an Ankara court in 2006.