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 - 188

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 188

Ahmet Altan acquitted in case filed by former chief of General Staff; 6 former Cumhuriyet staffers return to prison to serve remainder of sentences upheld by appellate court

Two separate lawsuits where imprisoned journalist-novelist Ahmet Altan is accused of “insult,” “attempting to influence trial process,” and “violation of confidentiality” were heard on 26 April 2019 at the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The court first heard the lawsuit where Altan is accused of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation”and “attempting to influence courtroom proceedings” for his article titled “Mafyanın dışında kim kaldı” (Who is left other than the mafia), published in 2009 in the now defunct Taraf daily.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the judge said the case would be dismissed on the condition that a judicial fine worth a total of TL 1,061 is paid within 10 days. The court postponed the trial until 25 June.

The court later heard the second lawsuit, which was filed by İlker Başbuğ, the former chief of General Staff. Altan was charged with “insult” in the case, which concerned an article he wrote in 2010 in the shuttered Taraf daily. The court acquitted Altan of the charge, ruling that the legal elements of the crime were not present.

A report about both hearings can be found here.

Former Cumhuriyet staff members sent back to prison

Six former staff members of the Cumhuriyet daily returned to prison on 25 April to serve the remainder of the sentences they were given last year in the “Cumhuriyet trial.”

The 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had convicted former columnists and executives of the newspaper of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” last year at the end of the trial. In February 2019, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice rejected the appeals against the verdict, thus finalizing the sentences imposed on eight of the defendants.

The trial court issued an order for the execution of the eight sentences on Thursday, issuing arrest warrants for Güray Öz, Önder Çelik, Musa Kart, Hakan Kara, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Bülent Utku and Emre İper. The prosecution issued a summons for Kadri Gürsel. Öz, Çelik, Kart, Kara, Güngör and İper reported to the Kocaeli Courthouse on Thursday afternoon, from where they were sent to the Kandıra Prison.

A detailed report can be found here.

İlave TV reporter to stand trial for “insulting Erdoğan”

Arif Kocabıyık, a reporter for the online broadcaster İlave TV, will be standing trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” over a social media post he shared during the time when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was Turkey’s Prime Minister.

Kocabıyık told BirGün daily on 26 April that the initial allegation in the investigation was “insulting the president” although Erdoğan was prime minister at the time. He said the allegation was later changed to “insulting a public official.”

Kocabıyık’s trial will begin on 26 September 2019.

Journalist Erk Acarer faces investigation, pro-gov’t paper claims

A pro-government newspaper claimed last week that an investigation was under way against journalist Erk Acarer on the allegation that he “incited the public to hatred and animosity on social media.”

The Sabah daily reported on 25 April that a police report concerning Acarer’s social media accounts was drafted after the investigation, which was based on a tip. The report claimed that the police report was sent to the prosecutor’s office, who decided to launch an investigation into Acarer.

Çiğdem Toker faces lawsuit filed by PTT

A lawsuit filed against journalist Çiğdem Toker by Turkey’s postal service PTT resumed on 25 April in an Ankara court. The PTT is seeking TL 50,000 in non-pecuniary damages in the lawsuit, based on a column Toker wrote in April 2018 for the Cumhuriyet daily. The Ankara 20th Civil Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 11 June 2019.

Cem Şimşek’s trial adjourned until September

A trial in which Cem Şimşek, the former responsible managing editor of the Evrensel daily, stands accused of “defaming” and “insulting” Minister Berat Albayrak, resumed on 25 April in Istanbul.

Şimşek and his lawyers were in attendance at the third hearing in the case, overseen by the Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The accusations stem from a news story published in Evrensel on 14 July 2018.

Addressing the court for his defense statement, Şimşek said that the newspaper ran a proper rebuttal as requested by the plaintiff. He added that the news article consisted of remarks by an expert in economics and did not include any insulting expressions. Şimşek asked the court to consider the new article a part of the public’s right to information and requested to be acquitted.

The court adjourned the trial until 12 September, granting additional time to Şimşek’s lawyers to produce a hard copy of the newspaper in which the said rebuttal was published.

Court keeps journalist İsminaz Temel’s travel ban in place

A trial where 23 defendants, including Etkin news agency (ETHA) editor İsminaz Temel and reporter Havva Cuştan, face terrorism-related charges resumed on 24 April in an Istanbul court.

P24 monitored the fourth hearing of the case, which is overseen by the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Journalists Temel and Cuştan and several of their co-defendants as well as defense lawyers were in attendance. Cuştan had remained in pre-trial detention for nine months and Temel for 16 months as part of the case before being released by the court.

The court first heard the statements of the two jailed defendants in the case, who complained over their lengthy pre-trial detention and asked the court to be released.

Temel’s lawyer Ömer Çakırgöz later addressed the court, asking the court to lift the international travel ban imposed on the journalist. “My client is a journalist. Her travel ban hinders her journalistic work. There is nothing at this point in the trial necessitating judicial control measures to be imposed on my client,” Çakırgöz said.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Coşkun Yiğit and Erkan Kakça from pre-trial detention. The court rejected the requests to lift the judicial control measures imposed on Temel and her co-defendants and adjourned the trial until 3 September 2019.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

The return of six former Cumhuriyet staff members to prison on 25 April 2019 has brought the number of imprisoned journalists and media workers in Turkey to at least 146.

The full list can be accessed here.