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 - 210

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 210

Actor Ersin Umut Güler handed down 21-month sentence for “insulting the president”; prosecutor asks court to convict 7 journalists for sharing 2016 news story on social media


Retrial of Cumhuriyet case set for November

The 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul will start hearing the retrial of the Cumhuriyet case on 21 November 2019. The court announced the date of the retrial on 3 October 2019.

The retrial follows on the heels of a recent ruling by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which overturned the convictions rendered in 2018 in the Cumhuriyet case.

The trial court had convicted 14 former staffers of Cumhuriyet daily of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.” The Supreme Court ruled on 12 September 2019 that all but two (Ahmet Şık and Emre İper) defendants in the case should be acquitted.

Actor Ersin Umut Güler handed down prison sentence on “insult” charge

Ersin Umut Güler, an actor with the Yolcu theatre company, appeared in the second hearing of his trial on charges of “insulting the president” and “insulting a state official” on 2 October 2019.

Güler was on trial on account of his social media posts from between 2014 and 2017. Istanbul’s 6th Criminal Court of First Instance convicted Güler of “insulting the president” and sentenced the actor to 1 year and 9 months in prison.

Prosecutor seeks conviction for 7 journalists

A trial where seven journalists and one other defendant are charged with “making those involved in combating terrorism a target” resumed on 2 October 2019 at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.

The case was launched after a complaint from senior gendarmerie commander Maj. Gen. Musa Çitil, who was cited in a news report published in February 2016 by the shuttered DİHA news agency. The defendants are Ömer Çelik, who was the news editor at DİHA at the time, former DİHA reporters Çağdaş Kaplan, Hamza Gündüz and Selman Çiçek, journalist Abdulvahap Taş, the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s responsible editor İnan Kızılkaya and publisher Kemal Sancılı.

The prosecutor submitted his final opinion of the case during the fourth hearing, asking the court to convict Çelik, Kaplan, Gündüz, Taş, Kızılkaya, Çiçek and Sancılı of “making those involved in combating terrorism a target.” The prosecutor also sought an additional prison term for Çiçek on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

In its interim ruling, the court decided to separate the file against the eighth defendant in the case, Selim Günenç, who is still at large, and adjourned the trial until 18 December 2019, granting the rest of the defendants additional time to prepare their defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.

İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı’s trial adjourned until November

The trial of Kemal Sancılı, the former publisher of the shuttered newspaper Özgür Gündem, and İnan Kızılkaya, the newspaper’s former responsible managing editor, on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 2 October 2019 at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

This was the eighth hearing in the case, where Sancılı and Kızılkaya are accused because of three news articles published in Özgür Gündem in 2016.

The presiding judge informed those in attendance that a request to merge the case file with the ongoing Özgür Gündem main trial overseen by the 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul was rejected.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court decided to hand over the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 28 November 2019.

Journalist Rahmi Yıldırım appears in court on “insult” charge

Journalist Rahmi Yıldırım, who is also the head of the disciplinary committee of the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS), appeared before an Ankara court on 2 October 2019 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting a public official.”

The accusation stems from a blog entry dated 3 February 2017 Yıldırım posted on his personal blog site. Yıldırım is accused of “insulting” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

Addressing the Gölbaşı 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance for his defense statement, Yıldırım asserted that his blog entry did not include any insulting remarks. He also told the court that the case was filed after the expiry of the four-month statute of limitation in Turkey’s Press Law and asked the court to dismiss the case. Yıldırım’s lawyers asked the court to acquit their client. The court adjourned the trial until 25 December 2019.

Osman Akın appears before court on TCK 301 charge

Osman Akın, the former responsible managing editor of Yeni Yaşam daily, appeared before Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 1 October 2019 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “publicly degrading the military or security forces of the state” as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

P24 monitored the hearing, where Akın and his lawyer Özcan Kılıç were in attendance. Kılıç requested the court to wait until the Parliament passes the anticipated Judicial Reform Package, which is also expected to include amendments to TCK 301. Accepting Kılıç’s request, the court adjourned the trial until 9 January 2020.

Trial of filmmaker Kazım Öz gets under way

Award-winning filmmaker Kazım Öz appeared before the 2nd High Criminal Court of Tunceli on 1 October 2019 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist group.”

The court ruled to keep the judicial control measures imposed on Öz in place and adjourned the trial until 4 February 2020.

The filmmaker’s participation in the nationwide Gezi Park protests of 2013 and in the political academy organized by the now-defunct Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) are held as evidence against Öz in the indictment. Öz faces up to 15 years of imprisonment if convicted.

Compensation case against journalist Pelin Ünker adjourned until January

A compensation case against journalist Pelin Ünker, in which Çalık Holding is seeking TL 10,000 in damages for Ünker’s coverage of the Paradise Papers leaks for Cumhuriyet daily, resumed on 1 October 2019 at Istanbul’s 21st Civil Court of First Instance.

This was the third hearing in the lawsuit. Halil Kocabaş, the lawyer representing the defendants Ünker and Orhan Erinç, the former chairman of Cumhuriyet Foundation’s executive board, told the court that a previous case filed against Ünker over the same article series was dismissed by the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul and is currently being reviewed by an appellate court.

The court decided to review the case file that was dismissed by Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance and adjourned the lawsuit until 30 January 2020.

Tolga Kubilay Çelik acquitted

Tolga Kubilay Çelik, the responsible managing editor of a periodical titled Antropolog, was acquitted of the charges against him at the final hearing of his trial on 1 October 2019. Çelik was on trial on account of his social media posts. He was arrested in March 2018 on charges stemming from his social media posts and remained in detention on remand for around a month before being released in April.

More than 300 academics acquitted after Constitutional Court ruling

Academics Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy, Muzaffer Kaya and Meral Camcı, who were on trial for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition, were acquitted of the “propaganda” charge against them. The 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to acquit all four academics on 30 September 2019, without holding a public courtroom hearing. The verdict follows on the heels of July’s Constitutional Court ruling, which held that the trials violated the signatories rights to freedom of expression.

As of 1 October 2019, a total of 319 academics whose trials for signing the 2016 petition were still ongoing have been acquitted.

List of journalists and media workers in prison updated

P24 has updated the list of journalists and media workers in prison, compiled using information available in open sources. As of 4 October 2019, at least 127 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.