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 - 247

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 247

Constitutional Court rules Selahattin Demirtaş and Eren Erdem’s detention violated their rights; journalist Beritan Canözer handed down prison sentence; six journalists released as Supreme Court overturns their convictions


Top court rules Demirtaş’s detention violated his right to liberty

The First Section of the Constitutional Court ruled in a unanimous decision that the pre-trial detention of Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), violated his right to security and liberty. However, Demirtaş remained behind bars due to his rearrest in September 2019 as part of a separate investigation.

In its judgment published on 19 June 2020 in the Official Gazette, the Constitutional Court ordered that Demirtaş, who has been jailed since November 2016, be paid TL 50,000 in compensation.

For details, see this report.

Top court rules Eren Erdem’s detention was unlawful 

The Constitutional Court’s First Section ruled that the detention of former main opposition CHP lawmaker and former editor-in-chief of the shuttered Karşı newspaper Eren Erdem violated his right to liberty and security, enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution.

In their judgment dated 9 June 2020, the Constitutional Court ruled unanimously that Erdem was unlawfully detained as part of the Karşı newspaper trial, and ordered that Erdem be paid TL 30,000 in compensation.

For details, see this report.

Onur Emre Yağan’s trial adjourned until July

The third hearing in the trial of Onur Emre Yağan, the former editor in chief of the news portal İleri Haber, on the charge of “systematically making propaganda for a terrorist organization” took place on 19 June 2020 at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Yağan and his lawyer Özgür Urfa were in attendance at the hearing, which began three hours later than scheduled. Yağan told the court during his defense statement that all news reports held as evidence against him were within the scope of press freedom and asked to be acquitted.

The court ruled to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 13 July.

Academic Lütfiye Bozdağ acquitted

Academic Lütfiye Bozdağ appeared before the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 18 June 2020 for her retrial as per the Constitutional Court’s 2019 judgment, which held that trials of academics who signed 2016’s Academics for Peace petition violated their right to freedom of expression. Bozdağ was acquitted at the end of the retrial, where neither the press nor any other spectators were allowed in the courtroom.

Jailed journalist Murat Ağırel faces new investigation

Journalist Murat Ağırel, a columnist for Yeniçağ daily, who has been in pre-trial detention since March on account of social media posts concerning a Turkish intelligence operative killed in Libya, is facing another investigation over his book titled Sarmal (the spiral). The investigation was launched upon complaints filed by President Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak, and former Speaker of the Parliament İsmail Kahraman, who claim that Ağırel insulted them in his book.

Journalist Rojhat Doğru’s trial adjourned until October

The seventh hearing in the trial of journalist Rojhat Doğru over footage he recorded during Kobani protests took place on 18 June 2020 at Diyarbakır’s 8th High Criminal Court.

Doğru is charged with “disrupting the unity of the state,” “membership of a terrorist group,” “terrorism propaganda” and “willful injury” in this trial. The journalist, currently jailed as part of a separate trial, addressed the court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS.

An expert report about the footage in question submitted to court held that parts of the video where Doğru is visible on the screen did not show him holding any firearm or weapon.

The prosecution asked the court for the case file to prepare their final opinion. Doğru’s lawyer Resul Tamur requested additional time for the defense’s statement in response to the expert report. Accepting the requests, the court adjourned the trial until 13 October.

Journalist Hazal Ocak’s hearings postponed until October

The fourth hearing of a lawsuit against Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak and the newspaper’s publisher Alev Coşkun, which was scheduled to take place on 17 June 2020 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 14th Civil Court of First Instance, was postponed until 4 November 2020. Lawyers representing both sides submitted letters of excuse to the court, citing the Covid-19 outbreak. The lawsuit was filed by pro-government businessman Mehmet Cengiz, the chairman of Cengiz Holding, who is seeking TL 1 million in damages over a 6 October 2019 report in Cumhuriyet about the restoration of a historical Bosphorus villa that burned down in 2014.

Another trial where Ocak is accused of “insulting a public official,” that was scheduled to get under way on 18 June at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, was also postponed until 27 October. The accusation in this trial stems from Ocak’s coverage about Finance Minister Berat Albayrak’s purchase of a plot of land along the route of the Istanbul Canal project.

Journalist Beritan Canözer handed down prison sentence

Jin News reporter Beritan Canözer was sentenced to prison on 17 June 2020 for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” at the third hearing of her trial overseen by Diyarbakır’s 11th High Criminal Court.

Canözer was represented by her lawyer Resul Tamur during the hearing. Addressing the court for Canözer’s defense statement, Tamur said the investigation against his client was not based on reasonable doubt and that she was on trial for one “like” and four “replies” on social media. Asserting that Canözer’s replies did not amount to criminal activity, the lawyer requested Canözer’s acquittal.

Announcing their verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion and sentenced Canözer to 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”

Journalist Semiha Alankuş acquitted

The seventh hearing in the trial of journalist Semiha Alankuş on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group” took place on 17 June 2020 at Diyarbakır’s 9th High Criminal Court.

Alankuş did not attend the hearing, where she was represented by her lawyer Resul Tamur. The prosecution submitted their final opinion of the case, requesting the journalist’s acquittal on the grounds that secret witness testimony against Alankuş alone could not constitute the basis of a conviction. Ruling in line with the prosecution’s request, the court acquitted Alankuş.

Trial of former Özgür Gündem editors adjourned until October

The 16th hearing in the trial of former Özgür Gündem editors and journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan and Hasan Başak on the charges of “praising crime or a criminal” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” took place on 16 June 2020 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing, where none of the defendants were in attendance. They were represented by their lawyers Özcan Kılıç and Sercan Korkmaz, who said they had no requests at this point.

The court ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants against Hasan Başak and Kemal Yakut and adjourned the trial until 1 October 2020.

Adil Demirci’s trial adjourned until November

The eighth hearing of a trial where Etkin news agency (ETHA) journalist Adil Demirci and 22 others stand accused of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda,” took place on 16 June 2020 at Istanbul’s 25th High Criminal Court.

As part of measures against the Covid-19 outbreak, only defendants and their lawyers were allowed in the courtroom. No press members or spectators were allowed to monitor the hearing.

Demirci’s lawyers told the press after the hearing that the court had lifted Demirci’s international travel ban in between hearings. The court also ruled to lift the judicial control measures imposed on other defendants in the case. The trial was adjourned until 11 November 2020.

Court blocks access to online radio Özgürüz

Access to the online radio Özgürüz Radyo was blocked by an order of the Ankara 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, issued on 12 June 2020. The court’s decision was in response to a request by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), which accused Özgürü of “illegal broadcasting.” The radio channel is headed by exiled journalist Can Dündar.

Six journalists released based on Supreme Court ruling

The 25th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 15 June 2020 released six journalists who were among eight defendants in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” whose convictions were recently overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The trial court ruled to release Ahmet Memiş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat, Yakup Çetin and Yetkin Yıldız, who were in detention on remand since 2016, and Ünal Tanık, who was jailed since January 2017. Accordingly, all six were released from the Silivri Prison in Istanbul late on 15 June. The court also set 4 November 2020 as the date for the retrial.

For details, see this report.

Advertiser Harun Karanfilci faces two investigations

Advertiser and designer Harun Karanfilci faces two separate investigations over posts he shared on social media in 2013. In one investigation, Karanfilci is accused of “insulting the president.” The other investigation alleges that Karanfilci was “pro-coup.” Karanfilci gave his statement at the Prosecutor’s Office on 15 June.

Eren Keskin faces new investigation on “propaganda” allegation

Lawyer and human rights defender Eren Keskin, who is the co-chairperson of the Human Rights Association (İHD), is facing a new investigation on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” over posts she shared on social media in 2015.

Keskin went to give her statement at the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on 12 June 2020 based on a summons. During her statement, Keskin said that her posts were within the context of freedom of opinion and freedom of expression and requested the prosecution to rule for non-prosecution.

Singer Azad Bedran sentenced again for “propaganda”

Kurdish singer Azad Bedran was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison by the 8th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır in his retrial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” over the music video to his song “Partizan,” the folk songs he performed during his concerts and his social media posts.

Bedran’s sentence had been overturned by an appellate court on the grounds that his social media accounts had not been properly examined to determine if the posts were shared by him.

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 20 June 2020, at least 97 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.