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 - 258

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 258

Journalist Rawin Sterk released at first hearing; Diken executives acquitted in “Fuat Avni” trial; Tele 1 broadcast suspended for 5 days; judgeship blocks access to news reports about blocking of access


Council of Europe urges Turkey to release Osman Kavala


The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, in charge of supervising the implementation of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments, urged Turkish authorities to immediately release businessman and rights defender Osman Kavala, who has been imprisoned since 2017.


The Committee convened in Strasbourg on 1-3 September 2020 to review the implementation of the European Court’s Kavala judgment, rendered in December 2019. In its decision on 3 September, the Committee said that Kavala’s ongoing imprisonment under a new detention order raised “a strong presumption that his current detention is a continuation of the violations found by the Court.”


The Committee also called on the Constitutional Court to examine a second individual application filed on behalf of Kavala in May “with full regard to the European Court’s findings in this case” and “to ensure the applicant’s immediate release.”


For details, see this report.


Journalist Gökhan Altay faces investigation over social media posts


Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Gökhan Altay is facing a criminal investigation on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” over a number of his social media posts between 2014 and 2018. Altay went to the Diyarbakır Courthouse to give his statement on 4 September 2020 as part of the investigation, conducted by Şırnak Cizre Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.


RTÜK orders Netflix to remove “Cuties” from its library


Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) unanimously ruled on 3 September 2020 that streaming service Netflix should remove the upcoming film “Mignonnes” (Cuties) from its library on the grounds that the film “comprises the abuse of children,” pursuant to Article 8 of Law No. 6112. 


The Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services had asked the broadcasting watchdog to “take necessary measures” concerning the French drama, which was scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix on 9 September 2020.


Diken executives acquitted in “Fuat Avni” trial


News portal founder Harun Simavi, Editor-in-Chief Erdal Güven and former Responsible Editor Semin Sezerer appeared before the 22nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 3 September 2020 for the first hearing of their trial on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member.”


The accusation stemmed from the news portal’s coverage of tweets by the anonymous Twitter account that went by the name “Fuat Avni,” which leaked confidential information on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) between 2014 and 2016.


Announcing its ruling at the end of the hearing, the court panel acquitted Güven, Simavi and Sezerer on the grounds that the act committed was not defined as crime in law.


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


Journalists Arif Aslan and Selman Keleş’s files separated


The eighth hearing in the trial of journalists Arif Aslan and Selman Keleş on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” was held on 3 September 2020 at the 5th High Criminal Court of Van. Aslan and Keleş have been on trial since 2017 for taking photos of the barriers placed in front of the Van municipal building after the government appointed a trustee to replace the mayor of Van.


At the end of the hearing, the court panel ruled to separate the files against Keleş and Aslan and rejected Aslan’s request for his international travel ban to be lifted.


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


Judgeship blocks access to news reports about blocking of access


The Anadolu 7th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled on 2 September 2020 to block access to news reports published on Anka news agency, T24 and İleri Haber concerning a previous court order that blocked access to a news story. The judgeship cited “a violation of personal rights” as the grounds for the ruling. 


The reports that were previously blocked for access were about Aykut Emrah Polat, an old school friend of Bilal Erdoğan, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son, who won a tender organized by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), a government agency.


Tele 1 TV’s broadcast suspended for 5 days


A five-day broadcast suspension penalty imposed on Tele 1 by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) began to be implemented as of 3 September 2020. A court had previously suspended the penalty.


In a written statement, RTÜK said the previous suspension of penalty decision was lifted by the court on the grounds that the channel “violated the principle of ‘media services shall not incite the public to hatred and hostility’” in Article 8 of Law No. 6112 for a second time.


Journalist Rawin Sterk released pending trial


The first hearing of jailed journalist Rawin Sterk Yıldız’s trial on “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” charges took place on 2 September 2020 at the 34th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.


Announcing its decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release Yıldız under an international travel ban and to send his case file to the 3rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul to be merged with the ongoing “KCK Press Trial.”


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


Cumhuriyet columnist Işıl Özgentürk faces investigation


The Batman Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Cumhuriyet columnist Işıl Özgentürk over her remarks about women of Batman in an article she penned last week concerning the death of İpek Er, who committed suicide after being sexualy assaulted by Sergeant Musa Orhan. The investigation file has been sent to Istanbul.


Investigation against Professor Kayıhan Pala dismissed


An investigation launched against Public Health Professor Kayıhan Pala over his remarks concerning the Covid-19 outbreak in Turkey during an interview he gave in April has been dismissed by the Uludağ University.


The investigation was initially launched after the provincial administrative board under the Bursa Governor’s Office filed a complaint against Pala on the allegation that his comments “misinformed the public and caused panic.” The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ruled for non jurisdiction and sent the file against Pala to the Uludağ University. The rectorate decided on 1 September 2020 to dismiss the investigation against Pala, citing scientific responsibility to the public.


Filmmaker Kazım Öz acquitted at third hearing


Award-winning filmmaker Kazım Öz appeared before the 2nd High Criminal Court of Tunceli on 1 September 2020 for the third hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.” At the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Öz for lack of evidence.


Öz faced up to 15 years in prison in the case. The filmmaker’s participation in 2013's nationwide Gezi Park protests and in the political academy organized by the now-defunct Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) were held as evidence against him in the indictment.


Court blocks access to reports about corn seller who set himself on fire


The Erzincan Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled on 1 September 2020 to block access to news reports published on Cumhuriyet,, BirGün and Milli Gazete websites and content on Ekşi Sözlük about a corn seller who set himself on fire after municipal police confiscated his cart. The judgeship cited “the protection of national security and public order” as the grounds for the ruling.


Journalist Şirin Payzın threatened on social media 


Journalist Şirin Payzın, a political talk show host and T24 programmer, was threatened by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Central Executive Board member Selami Şişman on social media. Posting a reply to a tweet by Şirin Payzın about MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, Şişman shared the death notice for Payzın’s late father, Nizam Payzın, who was also a journalist, in addition to posting “... for what you did and will be doing in the land of the Turk, in words that you’ll understand, THE END, as the roots of the Turk encircle you, you will go mad, you will suffocate.”


AKP politician and wife file lawsuit against journalist Gençağa Karafazlı


Justice and Development Party (AKP) politician İbrahim Türüt, the chairman of the Rize General Provincial Council, and his wife, Ennur Türüt, filed a compensation case against journalist Gençağa Karafazlı, the publisher of the local newspaper Rize Nabız and chairman of the Rize branch of Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD). Claiming a “violation of their personal rights,” the Türüts are seeking TL 50,000 in damages over a news report by Karafazlı.


At least 92 journalists and media workers in prison 


Following journalist Rawin Sterk’s release, as of 4 September 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.