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 - 267

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 267

Two journalists convicted of “insulting the president”; journalist İbrahim Karakaş jailed; court overturns acquittals in “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial”; documentary maker Cebe convicted of “propaganda”



Journalist İbrahim Karakaş jailed pending trial


Yeni Yaşam newspaper staff member İbrahim Karakaş was arrested on 4 November 2020 at the Adana Courthouse, where he was called in for questioning as part of an investigation conducted by the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Following his questioning at the Police Department, Karakaş was taken to the courthouse again on 6 November, where the prosecutor who took his statement referred the journalist to court, seeking his imprisonment on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.” Karakaş was jailed pending trial by the court.


Ali Ergin Demirhan handed down sentence for “insulting the president”


Sendika.Org editor Ali Ergin Demirhan appeared before the Istanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 6 November 2020 on the charge of “insulting the president” over six social media posts he had shared in 2018. This was the second hearing in the trial. Demirhan and his lawyer were in attendance. The court sentenced Demirhan to 1 year, 2 months and 17 days in prison. The sentence was deferred.


RTÜK fines Halk TV and Tele1 TV


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed administrative fines on the opposition television channels Halk TV and Tele1. Tele1 was fined over commentary by the host of the morning news show “Gün Başlıyor” while Halk TV was fined over commentary by Veysi Dündar, who appeared as a guest on an episode of the program “Gündem Özel.”


Regional court upholds Hidayet Karaca’s conviction


The 20th Criminal Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Justice has upheld the convictions in the “FETÖ main trial,” where Hidayet Karaca, the former president of the shuttered Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, was among the 75 defendants.


Karaca and three other defendants were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment by the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” at the final hearing of the trial in June  2018.


Onur Emre Yağan sentenced for “insulting the president”


Journalist Onur Emre Yağan’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” over four news reports published in 2014 and 2015 on the news portal İleri Haber resumed on 5 November 2020 at the Anadolu 53rd Criminal Court of First Instance. The court handed down Yağan a prison sentence of 1 year, 2 months and 17 days. The sentence was deferred.


Yağan was on trial over social media posts of news reports from before the period he served as the news portal’s editor-in-chief between 2017 and 2018.


Former Fox TV anchor Fatih Portakal’s trial postponed


Former Fox TV anchor Fatih Portakal’s trial on the charges of “violating the Banking Law” and “insulting the president” was set to resume on 5 November 2020 at the Istanbul 46th Criminal Court of First Instance. The trial was postponed until a later date because the judge was on leave and Portakal’s lawyers submitted letters of excuse.


Ali Sönmez Kayar’s trial adjourned until February 


The eighth hearing in the trial of Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar and eight other defendants on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” took place on 5 November 2020 at the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court.


Kayar was not in attendance. Ordering the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the defendants and ruling to hear the secret witness “Zafer Atılım,” who had testified against Kayar, in the courtroom, the panel adjourned the trial until 16 February 2021.


Former talk show host Rüstem Batum’s trial adjourned until February


The third hearing of a trial where former TV talk show host Rüstem Batum is charged with “insulting the president” and “inciting the public to hatred and enmity” took place on 5 November 2020 at the Istanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance. Batum is on trial over 20 social media posts from 2016 and 2018.


The court ruled to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Batum and to decide on whether to issue a letter rogatory for Batum’s statement to be taken in his current country of residence in between hearings. The trial was adjourned until 25 February 2021.


ECtHR to rule on Cumhuriyet journalists’ applications, 4 years on


The European Court of Human Rights will next week render its judgment concerning the application filed four years ago on behalf of former Cumhuriyet executives, columnists and staff members.


Former staffers of Cumhuriyet newspaper were arrested and jailed in 2016 on the allegation of “aiding FETÖ and PKK without being a member.” In the four years that went by, the Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court convicted them for “aiding a terrorist organization”; the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned their convictions for lack of substantial evidence and ruled that they should have been acquitted; and at the retrial that followed, the trial court refused to comply with the Supreme Court of Appeals’ judgment, once again convicting all but one of the defendants. The case file is currently pending before the Supreme Court of Appeals. The ECtHR is expected to review the Cumhuriyet file on 10 November.


Retrial of Atilla Taş and 7 journalists gets underway


Journalists Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin, Yetkin Yıldız and musician Atilla Taş, who was a newspaper columnist between 2015 and 2016, appeared before court on 4 November 2020 for their retrial, ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which had overturned the convictions of eight of the 25 defendants in the case publicly known as the "FETÖ media trial.”


The court decided to comply with the reversal order and heard the defendants' statements in response to the new accusations. Granting additional time to defendants who requested continuance for their statements, the court adjourned the trial until 31 March 2021.


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


Lawsuit against Hazal Ocak and Alev Coşkun adjourned until January


A lawsuit against Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak and the newspaper’s publisher Alev Coşkun, filed by pro-government businessman Mehmet Cengiz, who is seeking TL 1 million in compensation over an October 2019 report, resumed on 4 November 2020 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 14th Civil Court of First Instance.


The court announced that it had received a previous stay of execution order issued by another court concerning the restoration of a historical Bosphorus villa, which Ocak referred to in her report. Ruling to reconsider the case file, the court adjourned the lawsuit until 20 January 2021.


Film director Kutbettin Cebe convicted of “propaganda”


Film director Kutbettin Cebe appeared before the Balıkesir 3rd High Criminal Court on 4 November 2020 for the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” over his 2016 documentary “Roza -- The Country of Two Rivers.”


Presenting his defense statement during the hearing, Cebe rejected the accusation and demanded to be acquitted. Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Cebe to 2 years and 4 months in prison.


BTK fines social media platforms that failed to appoint representatives


The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) has imposed TL 10 million in administrative fines on social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, YouTube and TikTok for failing to appoint local representatives in Turkey within the designated period. Deputy Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Fatih Sayan announced the fines on his Twitter account. Under the new social media law enacted earlier this year, social media companies had until 2 November to appoint a local representative in Turkey.


Complaint filed by assaulted journalists dismissed after 3 years


A complaint filed in 2017 by journalists İdris Yılmaz and Erhan Akbaş has been dismissed by the Van Erciş Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Yılmaz and Akbaş were assaulted in October 2017 by a local contractor and his relatives as they were trying to conduct an interview with the contractor. The journalists filed a complaint against the contractor. Issuing its decision concerning the complaint three years later, the Van Erciş Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a decision of non-prosecution on the grounds that “no impartial witness could be found.”


Trial of Mustafa Sönmez adjourned until March


Economist and journalist Mustafa Sönmez appeared before the Anadolu 26th Criminal Court of First Instance on 3 November 2020 on the charge of “insulting the president.” Sönmez is charged over three Twitter posts from 2015 and 2016. Granting Sönmez and his lawyer additional time for their statements, the court adjourned the trial until 9 March 2021.


Hakkı Boltan charged with “membership of terrorist organization” in new indictment


Journalist Hakkı Boltan, who was arrested on 30 September in Diyarbakır as part of an investigation against the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” in a new indictment, where the DTK’s press conferences and Boltan’s social media posts are held as evidence against him.


The indictment was recently accepted by the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court, which set 24 February 2021 as the date for the first hearing. The court has also issued an international travel ban for Boltan.


Regional court overturns acquittals in “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial”


A regional court of appeals overturned the acquittals of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, Professor Şebnem Korur-Fincancı and journalist-writer Ahmet Nesin in 2019’s “Özgür Gündem solidarity trial,” where they faced “terrorism” charges for symbolically editing the newspaper for a day before it was closed down by the government in 2016.


The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice held in its unanimous ruling dated 20 October 2020 that the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court’s acquittal judgment was “against procedural law.”


At least 88 journalists and media workers in prison 


Following the imprisonment of Yeni Yaşam staff member İbrahim Karakaş, as of 6 November 2020 at least 88 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.