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 in Turkey - 153

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 153

Former DİHA reporter Uğur Akgül jailed; Hülya Emeç, her news source given suspended prison terms for “denigrating security forces” in news story


Uğur Akgül, a former reporter for a the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) was arrested on 8 August in the southeastern city of Mardin.

Akgül was arrested by the police at his father’s workplace after a court upheld a 2.5 year-conviction for Akgül. Akgül was sentenced for his coverage of the curfews imposed in Nusaybin. 

Akgül was sent to the Mardin E Type Prison.

Mehmet Baransu refuses to continue defense, trial adjourned till November

Former Taraf correspondent Mehmet Baransu on 7 August appeared at the ninth hearing of a court case against former journalists of the shuttered daily on the alleged publication of documents called “Egemen War Plan.” 

P24 monitored the hearing at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. The hearing could only begin in the afternoon because one of the judges on the panel was assigned to two different panels. The hearing was originally planned to last for three days and Baransu was expected to continue with his defense statement, but he refused to go on with it without the court’s original panel.

His lawyer Yahya Engin also said they requested to continue with their defense statement before the original panel overseeing the case.

Engin also requested for Baransu to be released from pretrial detention in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and case law by the European Court of Human Rights.

Baransu then requested for this file to be merged with an ongoing trial against him in Mersin.

Issuing an interim ruling after a brief recess, the court ruled for the continuation of Baransu’s detention. The panel also decided to examine the indictment for the case in Mersin, and adjourned the trial until 1-2 November 2018.

Berzan Güneş released from pretrial detention in first hearing 

Berzan Güneş, a reporter for Mezopotamya news agency, who was jailed pending trial in June, was released from pretrial detention at the end of the first hearing of his case.

Güneş is indicted for “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” via social media.

Addressing the High Criminal Court of Iğdır via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS from the Şırnak Prison, Güneş rejected the accusations and said all his social media posts featured news content. He said his posts had not included his personal comments, only the facts and had not aimed at propaganda of any organization.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Güneş in line with the prosecutor’s opinion. The court imposed judicial control measures and an overseas travel ban on Güneş and adjourned the trial until 4 September.

Ziya Ataman remains behind bars in 3rd hearing

Jailed DİHA reporter Ziya Ataman, in pretrial detention since April 2016, appeared before a Şırnak court on 7 August for the third hearing of his trial.

Although Ataman was arrested on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group,” he is charged in the indictment with eight different offences, including “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state,” “attempting to intentionally kill a civil servant because of the public service he performs with premeditation,” “intentionally killing a civil a servant because of the public service he performs with premeditation,” and “attempting to premeditated murder.” Ataman stands trial alongside 18 other defendants.

Addressing the court via SEGBİS from the Van Maximum Security Prison, Ataman said the indictment had been prepared without taking his deposition and the accusations were not based on concrete evidence. Adding that he was already in prison at the time of the incident in the indictment, Ataman requested for his release and his acquittal.

Lawyers representing Ataman’s co-defendants also told the court that a witness who testified against the defendants for he case file had actually testified under torture and that this person was made to sign a deposition he did not give.

Issuing its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the First High Criminal Court of Şırnak ordered the continuation of Ataman and the rest of the jailed defendants’ pretrial detention, and adjourned the trial until 26 October.

MA reporter Ruken Demir taken into custody, released 

Ruken Demir, an İzmir based reported for the Mezopotamya news agency, was taken into custody on 7 August in Diyarbakır. After being held in detention for three days at the Diyarbakır Police Department, Demir was referred to the courthouse on 10 August, and released from custody under judicial control measures.

Demir was detained as part of an investigation launched by the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, as part of which the journalist’s home in Izmir was also raided on 7 August. Demir is accused in the investigation with the terrorism-related charges of “membership in a terrorist group” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group.”

Hülya Emeç, news source given suspended prison terms 

Hülya Emeç, a former reporter for DİHA, and her source were each given 6 months in prison for a news report.

Emeç had written about a 48-year-old man named Şefik Tunuç, who died of a heart attack after police, in 2014, raided his house in Gevaş, a district of Van, three times in a row.

Emeç’s coverage prompted a court case, in which the dead man’s widow Hafize Tunuç, DİHA Executive Board Chair Zeleriya Güzüpek, DİHA responsible managing editor Dicle Müftüoğlu, and DİHA Van bureau chief Ferhat Çelik were indicted alongside Emeç for “publicly denigrating the security organization” as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.

Announcing its verdict at the end of the final hearing of the case, the Gevaş Criminal Court of First Instance found Emeç and Tunuç guilty, giving both suspended 6-month prison sentences. Güzüpek, Müftüoğlu and Çelik were acquitted.

Tele 1 TV fined for comment about “imam-hatip” students

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), fined the TV station Tele 1 for remarks on a news programme called “18 Dakika” (18 Minutes). RTÜK imposed the highest administrative fine on Tele 1 TV for comments about state-run Islamic schools called “imam-hatip schools” during the said programme. RTÜK said the fine was imposed because “imam-hatip students were billed during the comments as militants and Atatürk haters.” 

Other free expression cases of the past week 

  • Four individuals in Kayseri were taken into custody on allegations that they conducted propaganda for PKK/KCK on social media. Kenan Maraşlı, who ran for the Parliament as a People’s Democratic Party (HDP) candidate in the 24 June elections, was among those in custody, news reports said.

  • Mehmet Ali Başkale, a security guard for Şişli Mayor Hayri İnönü, was jailed pending trial on 9 August on the charge of “insulting the president” via Twitter. Başkale was arrested as part of an investigation launched by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office. He was referred to a court the same day, which jailed Başkale.

  • Four students from Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) who were jailed pending trial in July on the charge of “insulting the president” in a banner they held during the school’s graduation ceremony, were released from pretrial detention on 10 August when the court accepted the objection to their detention. The banner featured a well-known political cartoon titled “Tayyipler Alemi” (“the Tayyip kingdom” — an allusion to “animal kingdom”). The students are facing up to 4 years in prison.

Journalists and media workers in prison 

P24 has updated its list of Journalists and Media Workers in Jail, compiled using information available in open sources. 

Following Berzan Güneş’s release from pretrial detention and Uğur Akgül’s imprisonment during the week, and two recent inclusions in the list -- ETHA intern reporter Ferhat Haldun Pehlivan and Atılım newspaper’s chief editor Demir Bakır, both of whom are in pretrial detention in Silivri Prison -- there are now at least 183 journalists and media workers either in pretrial detention or serving a sentence in Turkey’s prisons.

The full list can be accessed here.