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 - 245

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 245

Opposition lawmakers Berberoğlu, Güven and Farisoğulları jailed; Supreme Court upholds conviction of journalist Özgür Boğatekin; TV presenter Metin Uca handed down prison sentence


Azadiya Welat columnist Hamit Dilbahar freed 


Hamit Dilbahar, a former columnist for the shuttered Kurdish newspaper Azadiya Welat, was released from prison after spending 10 years and 3 months behind bars. Dilbahar, who was arrested in Ağrı on 13 February 2010, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.” Dilbahar was freed from the Van F Type Prison this week after completing his sentence.


Three opposition lawmakers stripped of parliamentary status jailed


Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu and opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers Leyla Güven and Musa Farisoğulları were jailed on 4 June 2020 after the Parliament stripped them of their status as MPs based on Supreme Court of Appeals judgments that upheld their convictions. All three were subsequently taken into custody the same day and imprisoned.


Berberoğlu, who was sent to the Maltepe L Type Prison in Istanbul, was sent home on 5 June under house arrest as part of Covid-19 measures in open prisons, which have reportedly been extended until 31 July 2020.


For details, see this report.


Supreme Court upholds conviction of journalist Özgür Boğatekin


The 8th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a prison sentence given in 2015 to journalist Özgür Boğatekin, the news director of Adıyaman-based local newspaper Gerger Fırat.


Boğatekin stood trial on the charge of “defamation/libel” at the Gerger Criminal Court of First Instance in 2014-2015 for several news reports published in Gerger Fırat about Ömer Bilgin, who served as Gerger district governor from 2013-2014. At the end of the trial in 2015, the court sentenced Boğatekin to 1 year and 15 days in prison. Reviewing the appeal against the verdict on 9 March 2020, the Supreme Court upheld Boğatekin’s conviction. The journalist was officially notified of the Supreme Court’s judgment on 4 June 2020. Boğatekin is expected to surrender to prison in the next few days to begin his sentence.


Gaziemir mayor faces investigation on “insulting the president” allegation


Halil Arda, the mayor of Izmir’s Gaziemir district, which is run by the CHP, was summoned to the courthouse on 5 June 2020 as part of an investigation on the allegation of “insulting the president.” Following his statement before a prosecutor, Arda was referred to a judgeship, which ruled to release the mayor under judicial control measures.


The investigation was launched after Erdoğan’s lawyers filed separate complaints with the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against four CHP executives based in Izmir, including Arda, on the allegation that all four had “insulted Erdoğan on social media.”


Journalist Lezgin Akdeniz called in for questioning


Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Lezgin Akdeniz is facing an investigation over a news report published on 14 March 2020, in which he reported that while mosques in Diyarbakır were sanitized against the spread of Covid-19, churches and other places of worship were not. Akdeniz was called in to the Diyarbakır Police Department this week to make his statement as part of the investigation, conducted by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.


Actor Haldun Açıksözlü detained for allegedly “insulting the president”


Actor Haldun Açıksözlü was taken into custody on 3 June 2020 in Antalya on the allegation of “insulting the president” over two social media posts he shared in January 2019. Açıksözlü was referred to the courthouse on 4 June, where he was questioned by a prosecutor from the Kırklareli Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. Açıksözlü was freed following his statement.


Local journalist faces investigation for reporting about investigation


Journalist Alper Karahan, the publisher and managing editor of a local newspaper based in Tekirdağ’s Saray district, is facing an investigation for reporting on an investigation launched against the local municipality over a social media post they shared on 6 May 2020. The Saray newspaper reported on 29 May that Karahan was called in to the local police department for questioning about the newspaper’s coverage of the investigation against the municipality, launched over a post in which they commemorated leftist activists Deniz Gezmiş, Yusuf Aslan and Hüseyin İnan, who were executed on 6 May 1972.


TV presenter Metin Uca handed down prison sentence


TV presenter Metin Uca was sentenced by an Istanbul court to 1 year, 2 months and 17 days in prison for “insulting a public official” over a Twitter post in which he criticized the state-run Anadolu news agency (AA). The 52nd Criminal Court of First Instance recently issued its reasoned judgment in writing in the case, launched after AA’s executives filed a complaint against Uca.


Broadcasting watchdog fines Tele 1, Ulusal Kanal


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed a maximum administrative fine on the TV channel Tele 1 for journalist Merdan Yanardağ’s remarks about the 1960 coup and former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes on the daily commentary show “18 Dakika.” The council imposed a separate penalty on the channel for Yanardağ’s comments on a recent religious service at the Hagia Sophia, which he said was a provocation.


The council also imposed a maximum administrative fine on the TV channel Ulusal Kanal for airing a march in praise of the 1960 military coup on its show “Günaydın Türkiye.”


Court blocks access to 3 reports by Sol news portal


Access to three news reports on the news portal Sol have been blocked by court order. One of the news reports was about a structure commissioned by the Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun on a plot of land in Istanbul that was registered as the property of General Directorate of Foundations. One of the other blocked news reports was about a judge who appointed their nephew as an expert in a case, and one was about the spouse of an AKP lawmaker, who was appointed as a provincial culture and tourism director.


Former CHP provincial exec faces up to 3 years in prison for social media post


Banu Özdemir, a former executive from main opposition CHP’s Izmir provincial branch, who was jailed on 22 May and released pending trial on 29 May by Izmir’s 50th Criminal Court of First Instance, will appear in court on 17 September 2020 for the first hearing of her trial.


Özdemir was initially charged with “insulting religious values” for sharing footage of the song “Bella Ciao” being broadcasted on 20 May from several mosques in Izmir. In the indictment against her, Özdemir faces up to 3 years in prison on the charge of “incitement to hatred and animosity.”


Poet Ahmet Telli called in for questioning on “insulting the president” allegation


Poet Ahmet Telli was called in for questioning on the allegation of “insulting the president” over social media posts shared on a fake Facebook account using Telli’s name and picture. Telli made his statement this week at a police station.


Top court rules journalist Cihan Acar’s re-arrest violated his right to liberty


The Constitutional Court’s First Section ruled that journalist Cihan Acar’s arrest on a different charge following his release in 2017 in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” violated his right to liberty and security and ordered that the journalist be paid TL 30,000 in compensation.


For details, see this report.


Courtroom hearings postponed due to Covid-19 pandemic 


Trials and other legal procedures at courthouses across Turkey have been temporarily put on hold as part of efforts to mitigate the spread of Covid-19. The Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) announced last week that administrative, civil and criminal courts will resume courtroom hearings on 16 June.


Some of the journalism and free speech trials scheduled to take place during the past week have been postponed to the following dates:


The trial of former executives of the shuttered Taraf newspaper and reporter Mehmet Baransu, scheduled for 3-4-5 June at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, was postponed to 11-12-13 August 2020.


The trial of Taraf’s former responsible editor Murat Şevki Çoban and reporter Mehmet Baransu, which was scheduled for 2 June at the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court, was postponed to 17 July 2020.


Journalist Yetkin Yıldız’s trial, scheduled for 2 June at Ankara’s 40th Criminal Court of First Instance, was postponed to 1 October 2020.


List of journalists and media workers in prison


As of 6 June 2020, at least 102 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.