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 – 232

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 232

Eight journalists jailed pending trial in a week over their reporting or social media posts; journalist Aziz Oruç handed down 2-year sentence for “propaganda” 


Three Odatv journalists jailed pending trial; access to website blocked

Odatv News Director Barış Terkoğlu and reporter Hülya Kılınç were jailed pending trial in the early hours of 5 March 2020 over a news report published on 3 March, about the burial of an intelligence operative killed in Libya. Terkoğlu and Kılınç are accused of “obtaining documents and information concerning the MIT’s duties and operations,” “Facilitating the procurement of documents and information concerning MİT’s duties and operations” and “disclosing the contents of documents and information concerning MİT’s duties and operations” under Article 27 of the Law on the State Intelligence Services and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

Odatv Editor-in-Chief Barış Pehlivan, who was later included in the same investigation, was also jailed pending trial on 6 March by a Criminal Judgeship of Peace. In the meantime, access to Odatv has been blocked as of 5 March evening hours by the Information Technologies and Communication Authority (BTK).

Yeni Yaşam editors, Yeniçağ columnist jailed one day after being released

Along with Barış Pehlivan, four other journalists from two other news outlets were summoned by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on 6 March to give their statements as part of the investigation into Odatv’s report.

Yeni Yaşam daily’s Editor-in-Chief Ferhat Çelik, Responsible Editor Aydın Keser, editor Semiha Alankuş and Murat Ağırel, a columnist for Yeniçağ daily, gave statements to a prosecutor as suspects on 6 March as part of separate investigation files. The prosecution referred Çelik, Keser and Ağırel to a criminal judgeship of peace, requesting their imprisonment pending trial. Alankuş was released following her statement.

After hearing their statements, the 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to release Çelik, Keser and Ağırel under judicial control measures. However, the prosecution objected to their release pending trial and all three journalists were summoned back to the Istanbul Courthouse on Sunday, where the 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled to jail all three pending trial.

Reporter arrested while covering refugee crisis jailed pending trial on “propaganda” charge

Rudaw TV reporter Rawin Sterk Yıldız, who was among journalists taken into custody on 29 February 2020 in Edirne while covering the refugee crisis on the Turkish-Greek border, was jailed pending trial by a court in Ankara on 6 March. Yıldız was questioned about his social media posts about the attack on Turkish Armed Forces in Syria’s Idlib. His Twitter and Facebook posts were cited among grounds for his imprisonment pending trial. Yıldız was sent to the Sincan Prison in Ankara.

Rudaw TV cameraman Mehmet Şirin Akgün, who was taken into custody along with Yıldız, was released on 4 March.

İdris Sayılğan and Naci Kaya, two reporters for Mezopotamya news agency, were also arrested on 29 February near the border. On 2 March, Sayılğan was sent to prison for “intentionally violating judicial control measures.” He was released on 3 March after his lawyers objected to his imprisonment. Kaya, whose detention period was extended by an order of the Chief Public Prosecutor, was released from custody on 4 March.

Journalist Ruken Demir freed in her first courtroom hearing

Ruken Demir, an Izmir-based reporter for Mezopotamya news agency, who was jailed pending trial on 26 November 2019, appeared before the 19th High Criminal Court of Izmir on 5 March 2020 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.” 

Addressing the court for her defense statement, Demir and her lawyers asserted that the phone conversations held as evidence in the indictment were all made with Demir’s sources. Demir asked to be released pending trial. Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Demir and adjourned the trial until 28 April.

Columnist Işıl Özgentürk acquitted

Cumhuriyet columnist Işıl Özgentürk’s trial on the charge of “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda” over her social media posts resumed on 5 March 2020 at Istanbul’s 28th High Criminal Court. 

Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Özgentürk by a majority vote.

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

BirGün trial postponed until April

The second hearing in the trial of BirGün daily’s executives İbrahim Aydın, Barış İnce, Can Uğur and Bülent Yılmaz on the charge of “aiding a terrorist group without being its member,” over news coverage of posts by the Twitter account “Fuat Avni” was held on 5 March 2020 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

It turned out that a separate indictment had been prepared against Barış İnce on the charge of “terrorist group membership” concerning posts shared by a Twitter account called “kacsaatoldunet” and that the new indictment had been merged with this trial.

Granting additional time to the defense for the preparation of defense statements against the merged indictment, the court adjourned the trial until 14 April.

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

Journalist Kenan Kırkaya’s trial adjourned until June

Kenan Kırkaya, a columnist for Yeni Yaşam newspaper, appeared before the 32nd High Criminal Court of Ankara on 5 March 2020 for the third hearing of his trial on the charge of “disseminating terrorism propaganda.”

Kırkaya, who is facing imprisonment over posts he allegedly shared on social media, was in attendance with his lawyer. Delivering his defense statement, Kırkaya asserted that he did not post the messages he is being accused for and requested to be acquitted. Saying that the investigation was unlawful, Kırkaya’s lawyer Nuray Özdoğan requested her client’s acquittal. Examining the defense file submitted by Özdoğan to the court, the prosecution requested the court to inquire about whether the Constitutional Court had previously ruled to examine the law enforcement reports. The court adjourned the trial until 4 June.

Lawsuit against Hazal Ocak and Alev Coşkun adjourned until June

The third hearing in a lawsuit against Hazal Ocak, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, and Alev Coşkun, the newspaper’s publisher and chair of the board of Cumhuriyet Foundation, was held on 4 March 2020 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 14th Civil Court of First Instance.

The lawsuit was filed by pro-government businessman Mehmet Cengiz, the chairman of Cengiz Holding, who is seeking TL 1 million in non-pecuniary damages over a 6 October 2019 report in Cumhuriyet about the restoration of a historical Bosphorus villa situated on a property owned by Cengiz that burned down in 2014.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Ocak and her lawyer Buket Yazıcı were in attendance in the courtroom. The court heard witnesses of the defense, who told the court that Ocak’s report was based on accounts by residents in the area surrounding Üsküdar Fethi Paşa Grove and that the news report had nothing to do with Mehmet Cengiz himself.

Ahmet Mutlu, the complainant’s attorney, requested continuance to prepare their statement and Ocak’s lawyer Yazıcı asked the court to request the case files on Fethipaşa Grove. The panel adjourned the trial until 17 June.

Lawsuit against Ceren Sözeri to begin in October

A lawsuit against Evrensel daily columnist Ceren Sözeri that was planned to begin on 4 March 2020 at the Istanbul Commercial Court of First Instance, was postponed to 7 October since the judge was on leave.

The lawsuit was launched upon a complaint filed by Serhat Albayrak, the vice chairman of Turkuvaz Media Group, who is seeking TL 200,000 in non-pecuniary damages over an article Sözeri penned about the decline in AKP’s vote in the aftermath of the March 2019 municipal elections.

Top court rules Abdullah Kılıç’s re-arrest violated his right to liberty

The Constitutional Court has ruled that journalist Abdullah Kılıç’s arrest on a different charge following his release in the “FETÖ media trial” violated his right to liberty and security and ordered that he be paid TL 25,000 in compensation.

The Constitutional Court’s Second Section ruled on Kılıç’s application on 8 January 2020. The top court rejected the rest of the claims in Kılıç’s application.

A report about the judgment can be accessed here.

Yeni Yaşam distributor given prison sentence

Ferdi Sertkal, a distributor for Yeni Yaşam newspaper, was sentenced to 1 year, 6 months 22 days in prison at the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The hearing took place on 3 March at the 4th High Criminal Court of Van. The sentence was deferred.

Jailed journalist Aziz Oruç sentenced to 2 years on “propaganda” charge

The 10th hearing in the trial of jailed journalist Aziz Oruç on the charge of “disseminating terrorist group propaganda” over posts he had shared on social media took place on 2 March 2020 at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır.

Announcing its ruling after Oruç delivered his defense statement from Patnos Prison via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS, the court sentenced Oruç to 2 years and 1 month in prison for “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda.” The sentence was not suspended.

Journalist Alptekin Dursunoğlu placed in pre-trial detention

Alptekin Dursunoğlu, the editor-in-chief of the news portal Yakın Doğu Haber, was arrested on 29 February 2020 as part of an investigation launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office concerning social media posts about the attack on Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in Syria’s Idlib. Dursunoğlu was jailed pending trial on the charge of “incitement to hatred and animosity” by the court he was referred to on 1 March 2020.

An indictment against Dursunoğlu was issued only a few days after his arrest. Istanbul’s 49th Criminal Court of First Instance, which accepted the indictment, set 16 March 2020 as the date for the first hearing. 

List of journalists and media workers in prison

After the imprisonment of eight journalists during the past week, as of 9 March 2020 at least 105 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.