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 - 251

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 251

Prosecutor seeks conviction for Mehmet Baransu and Murat Şevki Çoban on three charges; Deniz Yücel handed down prison sentence for “propaganda”; journalist Can Özçelik, Artı Gerçek columnist Nurcan Kaya face investigation


Prosecutor seeks conviction for Baransu and Çoban

The trial of Mehmet Baransu, a former reporter for the shuttered Taraf daily, and Murat Şevki Çoban, the newspaper’s former responsible editor, over a news report published in November 2013 in the now-defunct daily resumed on 17 July 2020 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court.

The case was previously overseen by the Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court, which ruled at the end of the 22nd hearing, on 4 December 2019, that the case file be transferred to Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court for lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the alleged crime “was committed through the press.”

At Friday’s hearing, the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court refused to allow press members inside the courtroom, citing Covid-19 measures.

Presenting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecution requested the court to convict Baransu and Çoban of “acquiring documents related to the security of the state,” “disclosing documents related to the security of the state” and “disclosing documents regarding the operations of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).”

The court adjourned the trial until 13 November 2020 for the preparation of statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.

Top court rejects CHP’s appeal against early release law

The Constitutional Court on 17 July 2020 rejected an appeal against the early release law by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). 

CHP was seeking the annulment of the law, which came into force in April, regarding form on the grounds that some of the provisions in the legislation amounted to a covert amnesty and that therefore it should have been voted on by an absolute majority of lawmakers in the Parliament.

The Plenary of the Constitutional Court ruled by a majority. Seven of the 16 judges of the Plenary were of the opinion that the legislation did have the same effect as an amnesty.

Journalist Ayşe Güney freed under judicial control 

Journalist Ayşe Güney, an editor with the Diyarbakır-based women’s news collective JinNews and the spokesperson of the Mesopotamia Women Journalists Platform (MKGP), was taken into custody on 14 July 2020 during an early morning police raid on her Diyarbakır home. Güney was detained based on an arrest warrant issued by the Diyarbakır 2nd Criminal Judgeship of Peace. The grounds for Güney's arrest were not disclosed.

Güney and others who were arrested as part of the same investigation were questioned at the Police Department on 16 July. Due to a confidentiality order on the investigation, neither the suspects nor their lawyers were informed about the allegations.

Güney and 20 other suspects were brought to the Diyarbakır Courthouse on 17 July. After taking their statements, a prosecutor referred Güney and 10 others to a Criminal Judgeship of Peace, seeking their release under judicial control measures. The judgeship released Güney and TJA activist Hatice Şen under judicial control measures.

Journalist Deniz Yücel sentenced for “propaganda”

The final hearing in journalist Deniz Yücel’s trial on the charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “inciting hatred and animosity” was held on 16 July 2020 at the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Yücel of “disseminating propaganda for the FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organization” and “incitement to hatred and animosity,” but convicted him of “disseminating propaganda for PKK/KCK” and sentenced him to 2 years, 9 months and 22 days in prison.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Sözcü columnist faces investigation over September 2019 article

Aytunç Erkin, a columnist for Sözcü daily, is facing an investigation over an article published on 20 September 2019 about judges and prosecutors who are allegedly “members or supporters of FETÖ.” The investigation, conducted by the Manisa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, was launched upon an anonymous tip-off. Erkin gave his statement on 16 July 2020 to a prosecutor at the Anadolu Courthouse in Istanbul in response to the allegation of “insulting a public official.”

Local politician faces investigation over posts on deadly Sakarya blast

Adem Korkmaz, the provincial chair of Labour Party’s (EMEP) Kocaeli branch, is facing an investigation on the charge of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” over his social media posts about a deadly explosion that took place on 3 July at a fireworks factory in Sakarya.

T24 columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz acquitted

A trial where T24 columnist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz was accused of “insulting a public official” over four of his articles in which he inquired about the increase in former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s wealth resumed on 14 July 2020 at the Anadolu 37th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Yıldırım’s lawyer notified the court that Yıldırım had withdrawn his complaint in June and also dropped a separate compensation case filed against Yılmaz with the anadolu 10th Civil Court of First Instance.

Ruling that the elements of the crime had not formed, the court acquitted Yılmaz. The judgment will become final unless an objection is filed with a regional court of appeals within a week.

Journalist Hakan Aygün’s trial adjourned until October 

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Hakan Aygün took place on 14 July 2020 at the Bodrum 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance. Aygün is accused of “incitement to hatred and animosity” over a post he shared on Twitter concerning a donation campaign inaugurated by President Erdoğan on 30 March to help citizens in need during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The court ruled for a separate indictment against Aygün to be merged with the present case file. Aygün’s lawyers requested continuance to prepare defense statements against the new indictment. Ruling to wait for the examination of Aygün’s computer to be completed, the court adjourned the trial until 27 October 2020.

Journalist Meşale Tolu’s trial adjourned until February

The 12th hearing in a trial where Meşale Tolu, a reporter and translator for Etkin news agency (ETHA), and 26 others are facing terrorism-related charges took place on 14 July 2020 at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

P24 monitored the hearing. Tolu’s lawyer Keleş Öztürk reminded the court of their request for the investigation to be expanded to determine whether or not his client had committed a crime. Accepting Öztürk’s request, the court panel adjourned the trial until 11 February 2021 for the completion of the file. 

Journalist Kibriye Evren’s trial adjourned until November

The 10th hearing in the trial of JinNews reporter Kibriye Evren on the charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” was held on 14 July 2020 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court.

Evren did not attend the hearing due to health issues. Her lawyers Resul Tamur and Pirozhan Karali were in attendance in the courtroom. 

The court decided to inquire of the Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about an investigation initiated against Evren in 2012. Ruling to hear Evren’s statement in response to allegations in another file that was merged with the ongoing case at the next hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 26 November 2020.

Sözcü reporter Can Özçelik faces investigation 

Can Özçelik, a reporter for Sözcü daily, is facing an investigation over a news report published on 13 February 2020 about allegations concerning a “FETÖ market,” where investigations against persons facing “FETÖ”-related accusations are “dropped in exchange for a certain amount of payment.” Özçelik was called in for questioning earlier this week as part of the investigation, which he said was launched upın a complaint by businessman Ahmet Taçyıldız.

Columnist-lawyer Nurcan Kaya faces investigation over Twitter posts

Artı Gerçek columnist and lawyer Nurcan Kaya is facing an investigation on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” over her social media posts. Announcing the investigation on her Twitter account earlier this week, Kaya wrote that the investigation file included her posts about demonstrations by Saturday Mothers, police violence during Gezi Park protests, her meeting with Yiğit Aksakoğlu and even her profile pictures.

Onur Emre Yağan acquitted of “propaganda”

The final hearing in the trial of journalist 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 13 July 2020 at the 33rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Presenting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Yağan as charged. In his defense statement, Yağan asked to be acquitted and said he would not accept the deferment of his sentence in case he is convicted. Announcing their verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Yağan.

Regional court renders judgment in Gün printing company case

A regional court of appeals has overturned the acquittal verdict for Cemal Tunç, one of 20 defendants in the case against Gün printing company staff members. The appellate court upheld the convictions of seven other defendants in the case.

The company where the pro-Kurdish Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper used to be printed was closed down in March 2018 as part of the investigation against Özgürlükçü Demokrasi. Its owner and staff were arrested and subsequently jailed pending trial on the charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “publishing statements by a terrorist organization.” At the end of their trial, the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court acquitted company staff members Mehmet Kadir Özkara, Mürsel Demir, Özgür Bozkurt, Cumali Öz, Süleyman Güneş, Kemal Daşdöğen, Derviş Arvas, Muhammed Özkan, Saadettin Demirtaş, Necat Hızarcı, Polat Arslan, Cemal Tunç and Kazım Göçer. Their co-defendants Mehmet Emin Sumeli, Musa Kaya, İhsan Sinmiş, Kasım Zengin, İrfan Karaca, Mahmut Abay and Erdoğan Zamur were convicted of “membership of a terrorist organization.”

Following the appellate court’s judgment, Tunç’s file was sent to the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul for retrial. The files of the rest of the defendants will next be reviewed by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 17 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