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.
The sixth Freedom of Expression and the Press Agenda report compiled by the Expression Interrupted platform has been published. The report, which is informed by data obtained from the monitoring of trials and open sources, covers April-June 2022.
The report refers to concerns that censorship in Turkey could reach unprecedented dimensions with the presentation to Parliament in May of the 40-article proposed law known as the “Disinformation Law”. It also recalls that access to the news sites of Deutsche Welle (DW) and Voice of America (VOA) has been blocked in Turkey after they did not apply for licenses as required by the High Board of Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). In this way, the report notes, the system of pressure and control that targets media organizations in Turkey has been broadened to include the Turkish-language services of international media organizations.
The full report can be viewed here.
Separately, the report emphasizes that the detention of 16 journalists and media workers as part of an investigation in Diyarbakır has reversed the long-running decline in the number of journalists in prison. According to the data obtained by Expression Interrupted, the number of journalists in prison fell from 87 at the beginning of 2021 to 56 at the start of the second quarter of 2022. By the end of this quarter, however, the number had risen to 67, notwithstanding the release of four journalists who had spent long periods in jail.
The second quarter of 2022 also witnessed a deepening of the crisis in Turkey’s relations with Europe related to its non-implementation of the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the violation in the case of businessperson Osman Kavala. The infringement procedure initiated against Turkey for not implementing the ECHR’s judgement has reached an advanced stage. Meanwhile, the European Parliament held a session on the Kavala case and adopted a resolution which argued that Turkey had brought its EU accession process, which began in 1999, to a standstill.
168 journalists tried in 116 cases
According to the report, hearings were held in the second quarter of 2022 in 116 cases in which journalists were on trial. A total of 168 journalists were tried in these cases, including eight foreign nationals. In those cases in which verdicts were issued, nine journalists were imprisoned for a total of 17 years 6 months and 12 days in prison and ordered to pay TRY 210,000 in compensation and TRY 57,980 in fines. While 16 journalists were acquitted in the three months covered by the report, a compensation case against one journalist was rejected and the case opened against one journalist lapsed due to the expiry of the time limit.
As in the past, the most common charges laid against journalists on trial were those of being members of an organization or conducting propaganda on behalf of an organization. These charges were followed by accusations of defamation and insulting the President.
Over the same three-month period, 11 new trials were opened against 12 journalists. A total of 38 journalists were detained, including 14 detained while tracking news events. Investigations were opened against nine journalists.
According to data from open sources, there were at least nine incidents in which journalists were subjected to assaults, violent police interventions and threats. At least six journalists were physically attacked by civilians. Many journalists were also either obstructed by the use of physical force by the police or detained during demonstrations organized for May 1st, the anniversary of the Gezi protests, and Pride Week.
RTÜK and BİK penalties
In the three-month reporting period, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) continued to penalize television channels for broadcasting critical content.
The figures announced by RTÜK member İlhan Taşcı once again revealed the disproportionate nature of the penalties ordered by RTÜK in the first half of 2022. According to a statement by Taşcı, a total of 30 penalties were meted out to television channels known for their critical broadcasting policies in the first six months. Channels close to the government received only three penalties.
No new public announcement and advertising bans were issued by the Press Announcement Institution (BİK) in the reporting period. However, the ban on formal public announcements in the newspaper Evrensel, which has been in force since September 2019, reached its 1,000th day on June 13th 2022.
Another newspaper in the same situation is Yeni Asya. The BİK halted Yeni Asya’s right to publish public announcements for various technical reasons on January 28th, 2000.