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 - 237

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 237

Prosecutor appeals acquittal verdicts in Gezi Park trial, asks regional court to re-arrest Osman Kavala; journalist Fatih Portakal faces complaint from President Erdoğan and banking watchdog; comedian jailed over remarks in stand-up show

Prosecutor appeals acquittals in Gezi Park trial


The prosecutor has appealed the acquittal verdicts rendered on 18 February at the Gezi Park trial. Filing his appeal with the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, the prosecutor asked the appellate court to convict all defendants acquitted by the trial court and to rule for Osman Kavala’s re-arrest, citing “flight risk.” Kavala is already in pre-trial detention in the Silivri Prison in Istanbul after being re-arrested as part of the “coup” investigation against him one day after being acquitted and released in the Gezi Park trial.


Comedian Emre Günsal jailed over remarks in stand-up show


Stand-up comedian Emre Günsal was arrested on 10 April 2020 in Istanbul as part of an investigation launched by the Konya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office over his remarks during a stand-up performance. Günsal had come under fire after a short video segment from his show was recently shared on social media.


The comedian is facing allegations of “violating The Law on Crimes Committed against Atatürk” and “inciting the public to hatred and animosity or insulting the public.” Günsal appeared before the Konya 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace via the judicial video-conferencing system SEGBİS on Friday. The judgeship jailed Günsal pending trial and sent him to the Maltepe Prison in Istanbul.


Local chamber of medicine chair faces investigation for sharing report


Ömer Melik, the chairman of the Şanlıurfa Chamber of Medicine, is facing a criminal investigation on the allegation of “causing fear and panic among the public” over a social media post in which he shared the findings of a recent report issued by the Chamber concerning the Covid-19 outbreak in the city. Melik was questioned by a public prosecutor on 8 April 2020 in relation to his post. The prosecutor reportedly asked Melik “the intention behind his post.”


Turkey ranks second in failure to execute ECtHR judgments


The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has published its annual report on the supervision of the execution of judgments and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. According to the report, out of 47 member states of the Council of Europe, Turkey ranks second after Russia in the number of cases pending with 689 ECtHR rulings waiting to be executed.


The 13th annual report, published on 1 April 2020, shows 184 new cases on Turkey were sent to the Committee of Ministers for supervision of execution in 2019.


For further information, see this report.


Parliament debating early release bill


The Parliament’s General Assembly on 7 April 2020 began debating a bill jointly drafted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), proposing early release for up to 90,000 prisoners through 70 amendments to the Law on the Execution of Penalties.


The bill excludes those in pre-trial detention and persons convicted of “terrorism-related crimes.”


If the bill is passed, up to 90,000 people are expected to be released from prison with the exclusion of journalists, politicians and others facing terrorism-related charges and people in pre-trial detention.


Journalist Mustafa Hoş called in for questioning over his reporting


Journalist Mustafa Hoş was called in for questioning over his reporting about the murder of Iranian dissident Mesut Mevlevi in Istanbul last year. Hoş gave his statement last week to a public prosecutor at the Istanbul Courthouse. Hoş wrote on Twitter on 7 April that he was called in for questioning based on a complaint filed by President Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar and Bayraktar’s father, who alleged in their complaint that Hoş’s coverage amounted to “libel” and “damaged the reputation” of their company.


President and BDDK file criminal complaints against journalist Fatih Portakal 


Lawyers representing President Erdoğan filed a criminal complaint against Fox TV news anchor Fatih Portakal on 7 April 2020, alleging that Portakal “made baseless statements aimed at manipulating public opinion” in a Twitter post. Erdoğan’s lawyers requested the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office to launch a public prosecution against Portakal on the charge of “insulting the president.”


Also on 7 April, Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) filed a second complaint against Portakal over the same Twitter post. The BDDK alleges that Portakal violated the provision about the “Protection of Reputation” in Article 74 of Turkey’s Banking Law (intentionally damage the reputation, prestige or assets of a bank or disseminate inaccurate news either using any means of communication defined in the Press Code No. 5187 or radio, television, video, internet, cable TV or electronic data communication devices and similar tools).


Two social media users jailed as part of FETÖ investigation


Mesut Aykın and Oktay Yaşar, who were taken into custody the previous week in Istanbul and Gebze as part of an investigation conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the alleged “social media leg of FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization),” were both jailed pending trial by a Criminal Judgeship of Peace in Ankara. Aykın, who was identified as the user behind the Twitter accounts “Mustafa Selanik” and “Türkiye Gerçekleri,” was jailed on 3 April on the charge of “disseminating terrorism propaganda.” Yaşar, who was identified as the user behind the Twitter account “Ankara Kuşu,” was jailed on 2 April.


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


Trials and other legal procedures at 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 remain open for emergency procedures.


The trial of former executives of the shuttered newspaper Taraf Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur and reporter Mehmet Baransu, scheduled for 8-9-10 April at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 3 June 2020.


Journalists Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar’s trial on the charge of “making those involved in the fight against terrorism a target,” scheduled to get under way on 9 April at the 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 17 September 2020.


List of journalists and media workers in prison


As of 11 April 2020, at least 101 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.