ISTANBUL — Two reporters for the U.S.-based Bloomberg news agency appeared in court on Friday accused of trying to undermine Turkey’s economic stability with a story they wrote on last year’s currency crisis.

Istanbul-based reporters Kerim Karakaya and Fercan Yalinkilic face up to five years in prison if convicted over the August 2018 article.

Thirty-six other defendants, including prominent economist Mustafa Sonmez and journalist Sedef Kabas are also on trial over their social media comments on Turkey’s economy and banks.

The trial opened Friday and was adjourned until Jan. 17.

All were charged following a complaint by Turkey’s banking watchdog. Their case is seen as part of a crackdown on journalists and media outlets critical of the government. At least 126 journalists or media workers are currently in prison, according to Turkey’s Journalists’ Syndicate.

Sonmez, the economist said: “The trial has been labeled as an ‘economic crime’ but it has nothing to do with that, it’s a political trial.”

“The aim is to completely intimidate and scare people, journalists, opinion leaders, artists, who use their freedom of expression to criticize economics and politics,” he told The Associated Press.

Bloomberg has condemned the prosecution and defended the reporters.

Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait said Friday: “We continue to fully support our two journalists, at today’s hearing and in any future proceedings.”

“They’ve been indicted for accurately and objectively reporting on highly newsworthy events,” he said. “We are committed to them and to press freedom, and hope that the judiciary will do right by acquitting them.”