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 - 244

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 244

Selahattin Demirtaş faces new investigation for his defense statement; jailed journalist Mevlüt Öztaş’s conviction upheld by regional court; Supreme Court overturns convictions of six journalists in “FETÖ media trial”


Demirtaş faces new investigation over his written statement in court


Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is facing a new investigation over his remarks in a written statement he submitted to court during the 15 January 2020 hearing of his trial overseen by the 19th High Criminal Court of Ankara. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office also included posts shared on social media by the Twitter account named “Demirtaş Savunma” (Demirtaş’s defense) in the investigation file. Demirtaş’s lawyer Mahsuni Karaman announced the new investigation on social media.


Former CHP provincial exec jailed over social media post released


Banu Özdemir, a former executive from main opposition CHP’s Izmir provincial branch, who was jailed pending trial on 22 May, was ordered to be released on 29 May by Izmir’s 50th Criminal Court of First Instance, which accepted the indictment against her. 


Özdemir was jailed on the charge of “insulting religious values” for sharing footage of the song “Bella Ciao” being broadcasted on 20 May from several mosques in Izmir.


Jailed journalist Mevlüt Öztaş’s conviction upheld by regional court


The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Izmir Regional Court of Justice has upheld the conviction of former Cihan news agency reporter Mevlüt Öztaş. The journalist, who was jailed in February 2018, was sentenced to 9 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group” in February 2019. Öztaş was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Büşra Öztaş, the journalist’s daughter, announced the appellate court’s verdict concerning her father’s file on 28 May via Twitter.


Councilwoman taken into custody for allegedly “insulting Erdoğan”


Dila Koyurga, a town council member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in Izmir’s Karabağlar district, was taken into custody on 27 May on the allegation that she “insulted” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a social media post in 2013. Koyurga, who appeared before a court the same day, was released under house arrest.


Koyurga was arrested over a complaint filed by Erdoğan’s lawyers, who also filed separate complaints with the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against three other CHP executives based in Izmir, including Gaziemir Mayor Halil Arda, on the allegation that all three had “insulted Erdoğan on social media.”


Court overturns convictions of 6 journalists in “FETÖ media trial”


The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned the convictions of six journalists in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” where 25 of the 26 defendants were convicted of terrorism-related charges in 2018.


The Supreme Court’s verdict, which has yet to be uploaded on the National Judiciary Informatics System (UYAP), was made public by the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak on 12 May.


According to the Yeni Şafak report, the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of journalists Ahmet Memiş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group,” saying that there had been an error in the classification of the offense and that the six journalists should have been charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”


Citing the Supreme Court’s ruling dated 16 March 2020, Yıldız’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu filed for his release.


For details, see this report.


Courtroom hearings postponed due to pandemic to resume on 16 June 


The Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) announced on 29 May that administrative, civil and criminal courts will resume courtroom hearings on 16 June 2020. The HSK also said that regional courts of justice, which function as appellate courts, will resume all judicial procedures other than hearings and investigative procedures, on 1 June.


List of journalists and media workers in prison


As of 29 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.