Expression Interrupted

Journalists and academics bear the brunt of the massive crackdown on freedom of expression in Turkey. Scores of them are currently subject to criminal investigations or behind bars. This website is dedicated to tracking the legal process against them.

Freedom of Expression and the Press Agenda: Journalism in the grip of trials and attacks

Freedom of Expression and the Press Agenda: Journalism in the grip of trials and attacks

In the third quarter of 2022, which included the judicial recess, 73 journalists appeared before courts in 51 cases. In the 10 cases finalized, 11 journalists were sentenced to a total of 30 years, 11 months and 11 days in prison and only five journalists on trial were acquitted. At least 23 journalists were subjected to physical violence or threats by the police while reporting

The seventh Freedom of Expression and the Press Agenda prepared by the Expression Interrupted platform has been published. The report prepared in line with case follow-up and open-source data collection covers July, August and September 2022.

 

 

According to the newly published report, in the third quarter of 2022, which included the judicial recess between 20 July and 1 September, hearings were held for 51 cases in which journalists are on trial as defendants. 73 journalists were tried in the cases. Of the 15 finalized cases, 10 resulted in sentencing. 11 journalists in these 10 cases were sentenced to a total of 30 years, 11 months and 11 days in prison. The imprisonment sentence for one journalist was converted to a fine of TL 10,110. In the three-month reporting period in which five journalists were acquitted, nine new cases were filed against 14 others. 11 journalists and media workers were detained.

The full report is available here

 

The number of journalists under arrest or in pre-trial detention that was 67 at the end of the second quarter of 2022 rose to 68.

 

The most frequent charges brought against journalists at trials were terrorism charges, including “terrorism propaganda,” “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization” and “membership in a terrorist organization.” Following these as the most frequent brought charges were “opposition to Law 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations,” “insulting a public official” and “insulting the president.”

 

Attacks and obstruction continue unabated

 

According to data collected from open sources, at least 23 journalists were subjected to physical violence and threats by the police while reporting during the third quarter of 2022. One journalist was deported while another was denied entry into Turkey. One journalist and one media employee were killed in a traffic accident that occurred while they were reporting. It was revealed that at least 20 journalists were blacklisted during the same period.

 

RTÜK penalties target Halk TV, Tele 1 and HaberTürk TV

 

In the third quarter reporting period the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) continued to issue fines to television channels for broadcasting content critical of the government. During this period, RTÜK most frequently targeted Halk TV, HaberTürk TV and Tele 1 with program broadcast bans and fines.

 

The figures announced by RTÜK member İlhan Taşcı from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have once more revealed the imbalance in RTÜK’s penalty decisions. According to the report prepared by Taşçı that covers the period from 1 January - 15 September 2022, RTÜK issued 38 penalties worth TL 11.5 million to television channels that are known for their critical broadcasting, while it issued three penalties worth TL 1.5 million to TV channels that are close to the government during this period of eight and a half months.

 

Evrensel newspaper’s right to publish public ads annulled

 

In the third quarter of 2022 subject to the report, the Press Advertising Agency (BİK) fully annulled the Evrenselnewspaper’s right to publish official announcements and advertisement. Due to a decision to suspend official announcements and advertisement issued in September 2019, Evrensel had not been publishing announcements for the last three years. The suspension of official announcements for the Yeni Asya newspaper that was issued on 28 January 2020 continued as of the time of writing of the report.

During the reporting period, the Constitutional Court took up the 14 individual applications concerning BİK’s “public ads ban” on Cumhuriyet, Sözcü, BirGün and Evrensel newspapers as a single file and issued a decision. In its decision taken on 10 March 2022, the Constitutional Court ruled that the bans constituted a violation of the freedom of the press and expression and awarded TL 10,000 compensation each to the newspapers.

 

Identifying a “structural problem” underlying the bans, the Constitutional Court decided to convey its decision to Parliament for amendments to article 49 of the Law 195, which the BİK has based its penalties on. Ruling that the “pilot decision” procedure should apply due to the violations having arisen from a structural problem, the Constitutional Court deferred the examination of applications on the same subject filed after its decision for one year. Releasing an announcement upon the decision, the BİK said “Our Board of Directors has decided not to admit applications based on the Press Ethics Code until the Parliament makes an amendment to article 49 of the Law 195.”

 

The Kavala case: Infringement procedure progresses 

 

The judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that established violations in the Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş cases were not implemented in the last reporting period. The infringement procedure initiated by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe against Turkey due to the failure to implement the ECtHR judgment on the case of businessperson Osman Kavala who has been held in pre-trial detention since 1 November 2017 has entered a new phase. On 11 July 2022, the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber announced its judgment regarding the infringement procedure initiated by the Committee of Ministers on 2 February 2022 and ruled that by not implementing its Kavala judgment, Turkey had violated its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

In its judgment, the Grand Chamber stated that the “espionage” charge that led to Kavala’s arrest for the second time was based on “similar and indeed the same” facts as those examined by the Court before. The judgment further stated that Turkey had submitted action plans and steps for the implementation of the ECtHR’s Kavala judgment dated 10 December 2019, but these were not sufficient for the Court to consider Turkey to be acting in “good faith” and “in keeping with the spirit and consequences of the Kavala judgment.”

 

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