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 - 250

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 250

Journalist Aslı Ceren Aslan’s sentence upheld; Actors Metin Akpınar, Müjdat Gezen charged with “insulting the president”; lawyer Özgür Urfa sentenced for “insulting the president”; Communications Director Altun files lawsuit against Cumhuriyet daily


Appellate court upholds journalist Aslı Ceren Aslan’s sentence

A regional court of appeals has upheld a combined prison sentence of 6 years and 9 months given to journalist Aslı Ceren Aslan over her previous work as the managing editor of the Özgür Gelecek newspaper. Aslan had been sentenced to 3 years in prison over reports she shared on social media and 3 years and 9 months over news reports and columns published in the newspaper. Aslan’s lawyer will appeal the verdict.

Hrant Dink murder trial adjourned

The trial of public officials in relation to the 2007 murder of journalist Hrant Dink resumed on 7-8-9 July 2020 at the 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. P24 monitored the hearings.

Over three days, the court heard nine witnesses, including a former top level officer from the Istanbul Provincial Gendarmerie Command. Ruling to hear former National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Istanbul Bureau Chief as a witness at the next hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 16 September.

Compensation case against Müyesser Yıldız adjourned

A compensation case between Odatv news portal’s Ankara News Director Müyesser Yıldız and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar resumed on 9 July 2020 at Ankara’s Dışkapı 7th Civil Court of First Instance. The case comprises a lawsuit initially filed by Akar against Yıldız and a counter lawsuit filed by Yıldız in response to Akar’s claim. 

The court ruled to inquire about the entry of judgment concerning the criminal case against Yıldız that was launched upon a complaint by Akar and adjourned the lawsuit until 10 September. 

Journalist Yetkin Yıldız’s trial adjourned

Journalist Yetkin Yıldız, the former editor-in-chief of the news portal Aktif Haber, appeared before the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance on 9 July 2020 for the 15th hearing in his trial on the charges of “libel” and “insult,” a case filed over a complaint by former Interior Minister Efkan Ala.

Yıldız, who had been in detention on remand since 2016 as part of the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” was released from the Silivri Prison on 15 June 2020 after his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Ruling to ask for a copy of the Supreme Court judgment concerning Yıldız, the court adjourned the trial until 8 December 2020.

Court sends case file to prosecution in Can Dündar’s retrial

The retrial of exiled journalist Can Dündar in the “MİT Trucks case,” where he is charged with “espionage” over Cumhuriyet daily’s 2015 coverage of an alleged transfer of weapons to insurgents in Syria on trucks operated by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), resumed on 9 July 2020 in Istanbul.

The 14th High Criminal Court of Istanbul ruled to send the case file to the prosecution for the drafting of their final opinion and also to wait for the outcome of the Justice Ministry’s application with German authorities for Dündar’s extradition to Turkey. The court set 18 February 2020 as the date for the next hearing.

Kars Mayor Ayhan Bilgen’s trial over Özgür Gündem editorial board membership adjourned 

The trial of Kars Mayor Ayhan Bilgen over his time as a member of the editorial advisory board of the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper resumed on 9 July 2020 at the 24th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Bilgen, who was not in attendance, was represented by his lawyer Özcan Kılıç. Reminding the court that other defendants who faced similar charges for being on the newspaper’s editorial advisory board have been acquitted in the Özgür Gündem main trial, Kılıç requested Bilgen’s acquittal. Kılıç also asked that Bilgen be held exempt from attending hearings.

Granting Bilgen exemption from appearing in court, the panel ruled to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 15 October 2020.

The investigation against Bilgen was initially launched in 2016, but his file was separated because he was a member of the Parliament at the time. Bilgen is accused of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state,” “membership of a terrorist organization,” “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “membership of an organization established for the purpose of committing crime” in the indictment, dated 18 June 2019.

Actors Metin Akpınar, Müjdat Gezen charged with “insulting the president”

Actors Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen are charged with “insulting the president” in a recent indictment, where the accusation stems from their remarks during a TV show in December 2018. The indictment was recently accepted by the Anadolu 8th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Journalist Ruken Demir’s trial adjourned until November 

The second hearing in Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Ruken Demir’s trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group” took place on 7 July 2020 at the 19th High Criminal Court of Izmir. 

Demir, who was arrested on 26 November 2019 over her reporting and conversations with her sources, was freed at the trial’s first hearing on 5 March 2020.

Accepting Demir and her lawyer Zafer İncin’s request for additional time to prepare defense statements, the court ordered the continuation of judicial control measures imposed on Demir and adjourned the trial until 9 November.

Peace petitioners Gençay Gürsoy, Şebnem Korur Fincancı acquitted

Academics Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Gençay Gürsoy, who were convicted in 2018 of “terrorism propaganda” for signing the 2016 petition by Academics for Peace, appeared before the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 7 July 2020 for their re-trials.

P24 monitored both hearings, held one after the other. Fincancı and Gürsoy were in attendance, accompanied by their lawyers. The trial court ruled to acquit both academics, pursuant to the Constitutional Court’s July 2019 judgment, which held that the proceedings against peace petition signatories violated their right to freedom of expression.

Lawyer Özgür Urfa sentenced for “insulting the president” in petition for appeal

Lawyer Özgür Urfa was sentenced to 10 months in prison for “insulting the president” on 7 July 2020 by the 4th High Criminal Court of Istanbul. Urfa was on trial over his statements in a petition for appeal for a client. The court refused to suspend the sentence on the grounds that Urfa “did not show remorse during the proceedings” and “did not ask for his sentence to be suspended.” 

Oktay Candemir’s trial on the “insulting the president” charge adjourned 

Journalist Oktay Candemir’s trial, scheduled to commence on 7 July 2020 at Van’s 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance, was adjourned after the letter of excuse that his lawyers submitted was accepted. Candemir is facing charges for a 5 July 2019 dated column.

Compensation case against Çiğdem Toker rejected again

A compensation case against journalist Çiğdem Toker, filed by a greenhouse company over a newspaper column published in February 2017, was rejected by the 25th Civil Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Justice. The appellate court ruled unanimously to reject the lawsuit, in which the greenhouse company Agrobay was seeking a record TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages.

Ankara’s 1st Civil Court of First Instance had rejected the lawsuit on 6 December 2018. 

Evrensel former responsible editor Cem Şimşek’s trial adjourned

The second hearing in the trial of Cem Şimşek, the former responsible managing editor of Evrensel daily, was held on 6 July 2020 at the Bakırköy 27th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Şimşek was accused of “insulting the president” over a report about caricatures depicting President Erdoğan by German cartoonists.

Accepting Şimşek’s lawyers’ request for a continuance, the court ordered Şimşek to be in attendance at the next hearing and adjourned the trial until 27 October 2020.

Evrensel daily given five-day public ad ban

The Press Advertising Agency (BİK) imposed a five-day public ad ban on Evrensel daily over a report published on 16 April 2020 and titled “CHP’li Özel’den Altun’a izinsiz inşaat tepkisi” (CHP’s Özel slams Altun over illegal construction).

The agency claimed that the newspaper made an “unjust allegation” in the report. In its written defense statement submitted to the agency, Evrensel asserted that the report comprised remarks by CHP MP Özgür Özel.

Communications Director files TL 250,000 lawsuit against Cumhuriyet

Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun filed a compensation case against Cumhuriyet daily, its responsible editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça and reporter Hazal Ocak, seeking a combined amount of TL 250,000 in damages over three reports the newspaper published in April. All three reports were about a structure Altun had commissioned on a plot of land in Istanbul that was registered as the property of General Directorate of Foundations.

In the lawsuit, filed with the Anadolu 30th Civil Court of First Instance, Altun claims the daily’s reports injured his reputation.

The Press Advertising Agency (BİK), a government body under the Presidential Communications Directorate, had previously imposed on Cumhuriyet a 35-day public ad ban over one of the three news reports.

Judgeship blocks access to Cumhuriyet report

Access to a news report titled “Hükümet Konağına özel acil servis” (Exclusive emergency service for governor's office), published in October 2018 in Cumhuriyet daily’s online edition, has been blocked by the Harran Criminal Judgeship of Peace. In its ruling dated 6 July 2020, the judgeship also blocked access to related content featured on the online forum Ekşi Sözlük.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 10 July 2020, at least 93 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.