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 – 234

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 234

Court rules for Osman Kavala’s release on “coup” charge; journalist Alptekin Dursunoğlu sentenced at first hearing; Supreme Court overturns Ali Akkuş’s conviction; at least four journalists questioned in a week over news coverage


Court rules for Osman Kavala’s release on “coup” charge

An Istanbul court ruled on 20 March 2020 for jailed businessperson Osman Kavala’s release on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” as part of the ongoing coup investigation against him.

However, despite the release order by Istanbul’s 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace, Kavala will remain in detention on remand on the charge of “political and military espionage,” an additional charge for which he was rearrested on 9 March 2020 based on “new evidence” submitted by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office as part of the “coup” investigation.

The judgeship reportedly ruled for Kavala’s release because of the expiry of the two-year maximum pre-trial detention period for the initial charge against him. Kavala, who was acquitted of all charges in the Gezi Park trial on 18 February 2020, was rearrested on “coup” allegations one day after his release.

Enver Aysever faces investigation for sharing cartoon

Enver Aysever, a columnist for Cumhuriyet daily, is facing a criminal investigation on the allegation of “publicly insulting the religious values held by a segment of the society” over a cartoon he shared on social media. The Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched the investigation on 20 March 2020.

Comedian Pınar Fidan faces investigation over stand-up show

Stand-up comedian Pınar Fidan gave her statement at a police station on 19 March 2020 as part of an investigation launched by Istanbul’s Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office concerning her remarks about the Alevi community during her stand-up show called “Tuz-Biber” (Salt-Pepper). The prosecutor ordered Fidan’s release after her statement.

Journalist Aydın Atay faces investigation for posting a news report

Journalist Aydın Atay is facing an investigation over a report he recently shared on social media, titled “Diyarbakır Adliyesi kapandı” (Diyarbakır Courthouse closes), about the precautions against the spread of Covid-19. Atay, who is charged with “causing fear and panic among the public,” gave his statement on 18 March 2020 at Diyarbakır Police Department’s Cyber Crimes Unit.

Jailed journalist Ali Akkuş released by Supreme Court

Ali Akkuş, the former news director of the shuttered Zaman daily, who was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group” in 2018 in the trial publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” was released from the Silivri Prison based on a Supreme Court of Appeals ruling dated 13 March 2020.

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned Akkuş’s conviction and ordered the journalist’s release under an international travel ban.

For further information, see this report.

Journalist Alptekin Dursunoğlu sentenced at first hearing

Journalist Alptekin Dursunoğlu, who was jailed pending trial on 1 March 2020, appeared before Istanbul’s 49th Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 March 2020 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “incitement to hatred and animosity.”

Dursunoğlu, the editor-in-chief of the news portal Yakın Doğu Haber (Near East News), was sentenced to 50 days in prison on the charge of “praising an offense or an offender.” The court commuted Dursunoğlu’s sentence to a judicial fine of TL 1,000 and ordered his release.

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

Journalist Yaşar Anter detained over news report

Journalist Yaşar Anter was taken into custody for a news report published in the Sözcü newspaper about a yacht owned by a Dubai businessman that anchored in Bodrum the previous week. Anter was charged with “Threat with the intention of causing fear and panic among people” under Article 213 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and was referred to the Bodrum Criminal Judgeship of Peace after being questioned by a public prosecutor, who asked the court to imprison the journalist. The judgeship released Anter on the grounds that “a strong suspicion of guilt” was not present.

Two journalists in Antalya arrested for Coronavirus coverage 

İdris Özyol, the editor-in-chief of the Antalya-based news portal, and the portal’s news coordinator Ebru Küçükaydın were taken into custody on 14 March 2020 over a news report about the coronavirus outbreak. Özyol and Küçükaydın were released after giving their statements at the Antalya Police Department. 

Trials postponed as part of measures against spread of Covid-19

Trials and other legal procedures at numerous courthouses across Turkey — except for trials of persons in detention on remand — have been temporarily put on hold as of 16 March 2020 as part of measures against the spread of Covid-19 in Turkey. Courts will remain open for emergency procedures.

The trial of Rıfat Doğan, a reporter for the news portal Artı Gerçek, scheduled for 17 March at Çorlu 4th Criminal Court of First Instance, was postponed to 23 June 2020.

Journalist Ayşegül Doğan’s trial, scheduled for 18 March at the 9th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, was adjourned to 10 June 2020.

The retrial of Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, in the “MİT trucks case,” scheduled to be held on 19 March at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 9 July 2020.

The trial of journalist Onur Emre Yağan, scheduled to take place on 20 March 2020 at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 19 June 2020.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 20 March 2020, at least 103 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.