Turkey: Cartoonist on trial over a caricature of a religious figure

6 April 2021


Image: Cartoonist Öznur Kalender awaiting the hearing on 25 February / Öznur Kalender on Instagram


25 February 2021: Turkish cartoonist Öznur Kalender had been tried on the grounds of “offending the religious beliefs of the society by insulting religious leaders” for drawing a caricature satirizing Cübbeli Ahmet Hodja, a religious figure in Turkey, reported Susma24.

The trial was adjourned to 8 July 2021.

According to Sözcü, the Presidential Communication Center (CİMER) filed a criminal complaint with the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The prosecutor’s office then filed a lawsuit against the artist for allegedly “insulting religious leaders and insulting the religious beliefs of the society”.

During the hearing on 25 February, Kalender highlighted that he drew cartoons satirizing several leaders in Turkey.

According to Susma24, Kalender replied to the judge’s question on whether the artist was sued for his previous cartoons, “No court case was filed against them. They were all tolerant and respectful about freedom of thought and expression.”

Freemuse’s report on the State of Artistic Freedom 2021 highlights that authorities are a significant obstacle for the exercise of artistic freedoms in Turkey, being responsible for 90% of all cases of violations Freemuse documented in 2020. What is more, in 2020, in 27% of acts of freedom of artistic expression violations, visual artists, mainly cartoonists and illustrators, were censored.

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