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 - 256

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 256

RTÜK imposes fines on five TV channels; journalist Şaban Önen assaulted by relatives of local mayor; judgeships block access to dozens of online news content in a week; journalist Hakan Aygün arrested twice over same Twitter post



RTÜK imposes administrative fines on five TV channels 


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed administrative fines on five television channels, including the opposition Tele 1 TV and a station whose application for a broadcasting license has been pending before the council for the past six months. The decisions were taken during the council’s weekly meeting on 19 August 2020.


The broadcasting watchdog decided to fine TLC over an episode of a show about a same-sex couple, claiming that it was “against the society’s moral values.”


Tele 1 TV was fined over a 2007 movie titled Mr. Brooks. The council said the crime thriller “depicted the act of killing as a source of enjoyment” and that the “film was aired in a time slot when minors could be subjected to scenes depicting extreme violence.”


Pro-government Akit TV was fined over remarks by program host Ahmet Özdemir’s commentary about RTÜK while TV8 was fined over the competition Survivor 2020 on the grounds that the show featured “insults and fighting among competitors in a time slot when minors could be watching.”


Station awaiting broadcasting license receives penalty over logo change


RTÜK also decided to fine Sivas SRT, a channel purchased earlier this year by Sözcü newspaper in line with its plans on launching Sözcü TV. The broadcasting watchdog has yet to review Sözcü’s application for a broadcasting license, filed with the council on 27 February 2020. Despite the pending application, RTÜK imposed an administrative fine worth TL 26,000 on the channel for “making an unauthorized revision on the channel’s logo.”


Local journalist Şaban Önen assaulted in Bursa


Şaban Önen, the publisher of Yörem, a local newspaper published in Karacabey, a district of the northwestern Bursa province, was assaulted by a group of four assailants on 18 August 2020. Önen, who is also a columnist for the local daily, was hospitalized following the assault. Önen told reporters that one of the assailants was screaming as they were attacking Önen that the journalist had “no right to write about his uncle, the mayor [of Karacabey].”


Jailed Twitter user Oktay Yaşar released pending trial


Oktay Yaşar, the user behind the Twitter account “Ankara Kuşu,” who was jailed in April on the charge of “terrorism propaganda,” was released pending trial on 18 August 2020, at the end of the first hearing of his trial. Yaşar is accused of “making propaganda on social media for the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization.” The Kocaeli 5th High Criminal Court adjourned Yaşar’s trial until November.


European Court rules demonstrator’s freedom of expression violated


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that a prison sentence given to Seyfettin Demir over a slogan on a banner he carried during a demonstration in Mersin in 2008 violated Demir’s freedom of expression.


The Adana 6th High Criminal Court had sentenced Demir to 6 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization” pursuant to Article 220/6 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).


Ruling on Demir’s 2009 application on 19 May 2020, the Strasbourg court held that Turkey violated Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and ordered the Turkish government to pay Demir 5,000 euros in compensation.


Search engines omitting online content blocked by courts


Turkish courts ordering removal of online news content on the grounds of “the right to be forgotten,” pursuant to provisions introduced with the newly enacted “social media law,” have also been asking search engines to omit blocked content from search results.


According to the Freedom of Expression Association’s (İFÖD) EngelliWeb, which lists blocked online content on Twitter, search engines Yandex and Bing have lately been excluding online content that has been blocked by courts from search results in Turkey.


President Erdoğan files TL 2 mln lawsuit against opposition leader


Lawyers of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed a lawsuit against main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, seeking TL 2 million in compensation over the CHP leader’s remarks in an interview published on 17 August 2020 in Cumhuriyet daily. Erdoğan’s lawyers claimed that Kılıçdaroğlu’s comments about assets allegedly owned by the Erdoğan family in overseas locations constituted libel against the president and his family.


Court blocks access to online reports about Defense Minister Akar


A judgeship has blocked access to online news reports alleging that Defense Minister Hulusi Akar had recently visited the grave of Islamic fundamentalist Salih Mirzabeyoğlu. Istanbul’s Anadolu 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled on 17 August 2020 to block access to online reports on the news portals Odatv, Sol and Halk TV on the grounds that the reports “violated the personal rights” of Mirzabeyoğlu, who was sentenced to death in 2001 for being the leader of the Islamist militant organization IBDA-C and acquitted in his retrial in 2016.


Journalist Hakan Aygün arrested twice over same Twitter post


Journalist Hakan Aygün was taken into custody on 15 August 2020 in the southwestern resort town of Datça. Aygün was released the same day after giving his statement to a prosecutor at the Datça Courthouse. Aygün said that an arrest warrant had been issued against him after he “failed to give his statement” as part of an investigation initiated in relation to a social media post, for which he remained in pre-trial detention this year from April to May in a separate trial currently ongoing in Bodrum.


Court blocks access to reports about Agricultural Credit Cooperatives Union


The Ankara 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace blocked access to a number of online news reports about allegations of malpractice in Tarım Kredi Kooperatifleri Birliği (the Union of Agricultural Credit Cooperatives of Turkey), published between February and May on the websites of Cumhuriyet, Sözcü and Milli Gazete. The judgeship cited “violation of personal rights” as the grounds for its 14 August 2020 ruling, made public by EngelliWeb.


Access to news reports about wrestler convicted of rape blocked


The Korkuteli Criminal Judgeship of Peace in Antalya blocked access to online news reports about Recep Çakır, a former wrestler convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to 23 years and 6 months in prison. The ruling was issued based on a request filed by Çakır, who is still serving his sentence. According to, the judgeship blocked access to some 28 online news reports, blog entries and content on EkşiSözlük about the rape case that concluded in 2010. The judgeship cited the “right to be forgotten” as the grounds for its 13 August 2020 ruling.


Four people in Denizli taken into custody over social media posts


Four people in the Aegean province of Denizli, including local politicians Ercan Çelik from the Left Party (Sol Parti) and Musa Aydın from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), were arrested on 11 August 2020 in raids on their homes. Çelik, whose computer and cell phone were confiscated during the raid, was questioned about a post he shared on Mahir Çayan, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary leader. Aydın was questioned over a social media post he shared five years ago about the Kurdish-Turkish Peace Process. They were released after giving their statements at the police department.


At least 92 journalists and media workers in prison 


As of 21 August 2020, at least 92 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.