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 - 243

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 243

Journalist Rojhat Doğru jailed; Cumhuriyet, BirGün newspapers imposed public ad ban; radio host Nihat Sırdar given broadcast ban; at least 3 people jailed in a week over social media posts


Journalist Rojhat Doğru jailed 


Journalist Rojhat Doğru was taken into custody on 22 May in Diyarbakır as part of a 2019 investigation against him conducted in Istanbul. Doğru was sent to the Diyarbakır Courthouse on 23 May, where a prosecutor referred him to court for imprisonment. Doğru was subsequently jailed pending trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group.” Doğru is accused because he had sent money to his friend who is in prison.


Cumhuriyet daily imposed 35-day public ad ban


The Press Advertising Agency (BİK) imposed a 35-day public ad ban on Cumhuriyet daily over a report published on 14 April 2020 and titled “Boğaz’da kaçak var” (Unlicenced [construction] on the Bosporus). According to BİK’s decision, “the report did not reflect the truth,” “didn’t serve the public good” and the newspaper had “exceeded the limits of freedom of the press and freedom of expression.”


BirGün daily imposed 7-day public ad ban 


BirGün daily was also imposed a public ad ban for seven days by the Press Advertising Agency (BİK). BİK gave the paper a two-day ban over a 10 September 2019 report titled “Kızılay holdingleşti” (Turkish Red Crescent turns into a corporation) and another five-day ban over a report published on 16 September 2019, about a public tender organized by the Turkish Red Crescent, won by a businessperson claimed to have ties with a religious cult.


Former CHP provincial exec jailed over social media post 


Banu Özdemir, a former executive from main opposition CHP’s Izmir provincial branch, was jailed pending trial for sharing footage of the song “Bella Ciao” being broadcasted from several mosques in Izmir on 20 May.


The Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had announced the launch of an investigation against the unidentified perpetrators of the act. Özdemir, who was detained on the allegation of “insulting religious values,” was jailed by a court on 22 May.


510 arrested in 65 days over social media posts 


The Interior Ministry announced that a total of 510 individuals were arrested for “sharing unfounded and provocative coronavirus posts on social media” in the last 65 days. In its announcement on 21 May on Twitter, the ministry said that “10,111 social media accounts were investigated and 1,105 suspects were determined, out of whom 510 were caught.”


Twitter user Taylan Kulaçoğlu jailed, journalist Hakan Gülseven released


Taylan Kulaçoğlu was jailed pending trial on 20 May by the Bakırköy Criminal Judgeship of Peace for allegedly “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “being a member of a terrorist organization.” Kulaçoğlu had been arrested with journalist Hakan Gülseven on 17 May in Ayvalık, Balıkesir. Both were freed on 19 May but were called back to give their statements the next day, after the prosecution objected against their releases.


Gülseven, who was accused of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist group,” was released under judicial control measures. 


Osman Kavala’s lawyers apply for his release


The lawyers of jailed businessperson Osman Kavala applied for the release of their client after the European Court of Human Rights’ judgment concerning Kavala became final on 12 May. Kavala had been rearrested as part of the “15 July coup attempt investigation” hours after being acquitted in the Gezi Park trial, for which he was in pre-trial detention since November 2017.


The request was referred to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, to be submitted to the criminal judgeship of peace. Kavala’s lawyers asserted in their petition that the ECtHR’s judgment, which called for Kavala’s immediate release, also examined the “espionage” charge against Kavala. The petition said the continued pre-trial detention of Kavala as part of the investigation, carried out since 2017, has become arbitrary.


Radio host Nihat Sırdar given 3-day broadcast ban


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed a three-day broadcast ban on a program called “Nihat’la Sivrisinek” on the radio channel Radyo Kafa, after Nihat Sırdar, the program’s host, read a message sent by a listener, which said, “I made my own potato chips at home. Beer would go well with them.”


Photographer Fırat Erez jailed over social media post 


Photographer Fırat Erez was jailed pending trial on 18 May. Erez is accused of “insulting religious values” for a social media post. Erez was taken into custody in Antalya on 17 May. The photographer’s Twitter account was also temporarily put on hold.


Indictments issued against two jailed Twitter users


Mesut Aykın and Oktay Yaşar, the users behind the Twitter accounts “Türkiye Gerçekleri” and “Ankara Kuşu,” who were both jailed pending trial in April on the allegation that they were making “propaganda for FETÖ (the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization) on social media,” are facing up to 7 years and 6 months in prison in separate indictments.


The indictments, issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, accuse both Aykın and Yaşar of “systematically spreading terrorism propaganda.”


According to the indictment against Aykın, he is currently facing another trial in Istanbul over his posts concerning the 15 July coup attempt.


Trials postponed as part of Coronavirus containment measures


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 efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. Hearings are expected to resume on 15 June.


Journalist Durket Süren’s trial, scheduled for 18 May at the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır, was postponed to 28 September 2020.


The trial of musician Ferhat Tunç, scheduled for 21 May at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 10 September 2020.


Journalist Can Dündar’s trial, scheduled for 21 May at the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 24 December 2020.


Journalists Seyhan Avşar and Necdet Önemli’s trial, set for 21 May at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 9 October 2020.


List of journalists and media workers in prison


As of 23 May 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.