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 - 194

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 194

Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp released under house arrest; Yavuz Selim Demirağ released on probation; compensation case filed against Çiğdem Toker dismissed

ETHA offices raided by police, 7 taken into custody

Police raided the Istanbul office of the Etkin news agency (ETHA) on 15 June 2019 on the grounds of a court decision ordering that a recent supplement issued by the weekly newspaper Atılım be pulled off newsstands. Five ETHA employees and two others were taken into custody during the raid.

A report about the raid can be accessed here.

Sözcü trial adjourned until September

The trial of nine employees of the Sözcü newspaper on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding an armed terrorist organization without being its member” resumed on 14 June 2019 at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

This was the eighth hearing in the case.

P24 monitored the hearing, where defendants Gökmen Ulu, Mediha Olgun, Yonca Yücekaleli, Metin Yılmaz, Mustafa Çetin, Necati Doğru, Yücel Arı and defense lawyers were in attendance. Columnist Emin Çölaşan addressed the court from Ankara via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS.

Yücekaleli and Çetin requested additional time for their final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, submitted before the previous courtroom hearing. The rest of the defendants made their final defense statements, rejecting the accusations and requesting to be acquitted.

Lawyers representing the defendants also requested a continuance for the final defense statements. In its interim ruling, the court granted additional time for the defense statements and adjourned the trial until 4 September 2019.

Yavuz Selim Demirağ imprisoned, released on probation

Yeniçağ columnist Yavuz Selim Demirağ was admitted to a prison in Ankara on 13 June 2019 to serve an 11 month and 20-day sentence he had been given on the charge of “insulting a public official” in a case filed upon a complaint by President Erdoğan. Demirağ’s sentence had been upheld by an appellate court in April. Demirağ, who surrendered to the Ayaş Prison, was released on probation the same day around midnight.

Semiha Şahin, Pınar Gayıp released under house arrest

The fifth hearing in the trial of Etkin News Agency (ETHA) journalists Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp, who have been in pre-trial detention in the Bakırköy Women’s Prison since April 2018, took place on 13 June 2019 in Istanbul.

The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled at the end of the hearing to release both Şahin and Gayıp under house arrest after 14 months in detention on remand.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Çağdaş Erdoğan’s trial adjourned until September

Photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan’s trial on terrorism-related charges resumed on 13 June 2019 at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul. This was the sixth hearing in the case. Erdoğan’s lawyers requested additional time. Accepting the lawyers’ request, the court adjourned the trial until 5 September 2019.

Hrant Dink murder trial resumes in Istanbul

The trial of intelligence officers, gendarmerie and law enforcement officials allegedly involved in the murder of Hrant Dink, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Armenian-Turkish bilingual weekly Agos, resumed on 11 June 2019 at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Dink was assassinated on 19 January 2007 outside Agos weekly’s offices in Istanbul.

Eighty-five people are on trial in the case, which has been going on since 2007. Five witnesses, including former Istanbul Governor Muammer Güler, testified during the three-day hearing.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Murdered editor-in-chief of Azadiya Welat faces investigation

An investigation was launched into 27 employees of the shuttered Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, including Rohat Aktaş, who was the former editor-in-chief of the paper before he was murdered in Cizre in 2016.

Other than Aktaş, the investigation also targets publisher Ramazan Ölçen, managing editor İsmail Çoban and journalists Bişar Durgut, Emrah Kelekçiler, Mehmet Çetin Altun, Melek Bozan, Rojhat Bilmez, Zafer Tüzün and Zeynel Abidin Bulut.

Six journalists and 3 former employees gave their statements at the Diyarbakır Counter-Terrorism Bureau (TEM) on the charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “terrorist organization membership.”

The lawyer representing the journalists, Resul Temur, said the police told him that they are aware Aktaş was deceased. After the death of Aktaş, ongoing trials against the journalist have been dropped.

Lawsuit against Çiğdem Toker filed by PTT rejected

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

At the hearing monitored by P24, the court rejected the defamation case, in which the PTT claimed that Toker’s column “tarnished the company’s reputation.” The court ruled that the conditions requiring a lawsuit were not formed.

Journalist Ayşe Düzkan released on probation

Journalist Ayşe Düzkan, who was handed down an 18-month prison sentence and jailed in January for participating in the “substitute editor-in-chief” campaign to show solidarity with the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Özgür Gündem newspaper, was released from the Eskişehir Women’s Prison on 11 June.

Düzkan was released on probation after serving 130 days in jail. Düzkan’s daughter Haziran announced her mother’s release via her Twitter account.

Writer İhsan Eliaçık’s travel ban partially lifted

An appellate court has lifted part of the judicial control measures imposed on writer and theologian İhsan Eliaçık.

The 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul had given Eliaçık a prison sentence of 6 years and 3 months over a speech he delivered during a seminar and an interview with him, posted on a website. The court had imposed on Eliaçık several judicial control measures.

Reviewing that verdict, the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice lifted the judicial control measures in the form of reporting to the nearest police station twice weekly to give his signature and traveling outside Istanbul. The appellate court ruled to keep Eliaçık’s international travel ban in place. The appellate court rendered its decision on 27 May 2019.

Prosecutor objects to appellate court decision in Seda Taşkın case

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has objected to the verdict rendered by the appellate court in the case of journalist Seda Taşkın.

At the end of the appeal hearing of Taşkın’s trial on 15 May, the 6th Criminal Chamber of the Erzurum Regional Court of Justice had acquitted the journalist of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” while giving her a deferred prison sentence of 1 year, 11 months and 10 days on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

On 30 May, the chief public prosecutor’s office objected to the appellate court’s ruling, saying the acquittal was "in violation of the law and procedural code."

Nurcan Baysal briefly detained

Journalist and columnist Nurcan Baysal was taken into custody on 3 June in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. Baysal, who was taken to the anti-terror branch of the Diyarbakır Police Department, was released the same day after giving her statement. Baysal later announced via her Twitter account that she was detained as part of an investigation into the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) on the allegation of “terrorist group membership.”

Journalist Hayri Demir faces another criminal case

Journalist Hayri Demir will be standing trial in a newly opened case where he is facing between 7.5 and 18 years of imprisonment if convicted.

Demir announced the news of the new trial on 1 June via his Twitter account. He said that the accusations in the new file stemmed from his journalistic work from the years 2015 and 2016 and his social media posts -- particularly one where he shared an old news piece for which he stood trial and was convicted.

Demir is currently on trial on charges of “propaganda” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” over his social media posts in a separate case overseen by the 15th High Criminal Court of Ankara, where journalist Sibel Hürtaş is among his co-defendants.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 14 June 2019, at least 144 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.