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 - 215

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 215

At least 8 journalists and media workers sentenced or fined in one week;  Gazete Fersude reporter Soner Karabulut jailed pending trial; Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak freed after more than three years in prison


Journalist Adnan Bilen fined for “insulting president” 

Journalist Adnan Bilen, who was accused of “insulting the president” over two posts he made on social media back in 2015 and 2017, was ordered to pay TL 7,000 at the end of the second hearing of his trial that took place on 8 November 2019.

The 4th Criminal Court of First Instance of Van ruled to sentence Bilen to 11 months 20 days in prison for using the expression “ disgraceful” in one of his posts, while he was acquitted over the other post. The sentence was commuted to a fine worth TL 7,000.

In the indictment, which sought Bilen to be sentenced from 1 year and 2 months to 4 years and 8 months in prison for “insulting the president,” President Erdoğan was registered as the injured party.

Mehmet Çakmakçı’s trial adjourned until March

Journalist Mehmet Çakmakçı’s trial resumed at 10th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır on 8 November 2019 for the sixth hearing in his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Çakmakçı who did not attend the hearing, was represented by his lawyer Resul Tamur. Ruling to ask after the report expected from the Diyarbakır Police Department, the court adjourned the trial until 11 March 2020. 

Journalist Soner Karabulut jailed

Gazete Fersude reporter Soner Karabulut was jailed pending trial on 7 November 2019 at the Istanbul Courthouse where he had gone to testify in relation to an investigation against him. KArabulut was jailed by a judgeship without being given the opportunity to speak to a prosecutor first. Karabulut’s house was recently raided in his absence.

Journalist Atakan Sönmez given 10-month jail term 

Atakan Sönmez, the former news director of Cumhuriyet daily’s online edition, appeared in court on 7 November 2019 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul for the final hearing of his trial. Sönmez was accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” over Cumhuriyet website’s coverage of Turkey’s 2018 military operation in Syria’s Afrin.

Announcing its ruling at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Sönmez to 10 months in prison on the charge of “printing or publishing declarations or announcements that legitimize or praise the methods of a terrorist organization.” The sentence was suspended.

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

Zeynep Altıok appears in court for “insulting the president”

Former CHP lawmaker Zeynep Altıok appeared in court for the first hearing of her trial for allegedly “insulting the president” on social media, at the 1st Urla Criminal Court of First Instance on 7 November 2019.

Altıok is on trial for supporting students who were arrested for carrying a banner featuring a cartoon titled “Tayyipler Alemi” during a graduation ceremony of the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) at the time when she was the CHP General Deputy Chair responsible for Human Rights.

Accepting the request of Altıok’s lawyers for additional time, the court adjourned the trial until 19 December 2019.

Ferhat Parlak appears in court for second hearing

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Ferhat Parlak, the owner of the shuttered newspaper Silvan Mücadele, for alleged “terrorist organization membership” took place on 6 November 2019 at the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.

Parlak and his lawyer were in attendance at the courtroom where it was announced that the anticipated secret witness testimonies had not yet been received. While one of the three witnesses present claimed to not even know Parlak, the other two said that they knew Parlak only as a journalist and publisher in Silvan.

Reiterating its interim decision to hear the secret witnesses, the court ruled to continue the judicial control measures imposed on Parlak taking into consideration that the witness and secret witness testimonies were still expected and the minimum and maximum of the sought punishment. The trial was adjourned until 17 February 2020.

Selman Keleş’s trial adjourned

The trial of Selman Keleş, a former reporter for Dicle News Agency (DİHA) for allegedly “disrupting the unity and sovereignty of the state” over a news report that was published in 2016, resumed at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul on 5 November 2019.

Keleş, who resides abroad, was not in attendance and was represented by his lawyer Özcan Kılıç.

Deciding to wait for the arrest warrant issued against Keleş to be executed, the court adjourned the trial until 28 November 2019.

Trial of journalists arrested in Özgür Gündem raid adjourned 

The trial of 22 journalists who were arrested in 2016 during a raid conducted at the offices of the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper resumed on 5 November 2019 at the 5th Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul. The journalists are charged in the trial with “preventing police officers from performing their duties.”

Defense lawyers Özcan Kılıç, Sercan Korkmaz and Hazal Pekşen Demirhan were in attendance at the courtroom. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants issued against defendants Amine Demirkıran, Günay Aksoy, Bayram Balcı and Ersin Çaksu, the court adjourned the trial until 25 February 2020.

Journalists Berzan Güneş, Uğur Yılmaz sentenced on terrorism charges

Two journalists standing trial in separate courts in Istanbul and Bitlis were convicted of terrorism-related charges on 5 November 2019.

Journalist Berzan Güneş was sentenced to 3 years, 5 months and 15 days in prison on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” and acquitted of the “membership in a terrorist group” charge against him at the 18th hearing of his trial overseen by the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court.

Uğur Yılmaz, who is jailed at the Elazığ No 2 High Security Prison, was convicted of “membership in a terrorist organization” and sentenced to 6 years, 10 months and 15 days in prison and acquitted of “disseminating propaganda” at the end of 16th hearing hearing of his trial at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Bitlis. 

Five defendants sentenced over terrorism charges in retrial of Altans case 

The second hearing in the Altans retrial, after the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned their previous convictions, took place on 4 November 2019 at the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Ahmet Altan to 10 years and 6 months in prison and Nazlı Ilıcak to 8 years and 9 months on the charge of “aiding a terrorist group without being its member” and ruled to release both, taking into account the time they spent in pretrial detention. The court imposed an international travel ban on both Altan and Ilıcak.

Ruling to acquit Mehmet Altan, the panel sentenced former employees of the shuttered Zaman newspaper Fevzi Yazıcı and Yakup Şimşek each to 11 years and 3 months in prison and gave former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül a prison sentence of 12 years on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The court ruled to keep all three behind bars.

Following the verdict, Ahmet Altan was released from Silivri Prison and Nazlı Ilıcak was freed from Bakırköy Women’s Prison later that night.

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

List of journalists and media workers in prison

With the release of Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, who both spent more than 3 years behind bars, and Soner Karabulut’s arrest, as of 8 November 2019 at least 117 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.