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 - 273

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 273

Osman Kavala remains behind bars as his “coup” trial begins; Mezopotamya news agency reporter Zeynep Durgut arrested; trial of four Cumhuriyet journalists gets underway


Osman Kavala remains behind bars as his “coup” trial begins


Jailed businessperson and civil society leader Osman Kavala’s trial on "coup" and "espionage" charges got underway on 18 December 2020 at the Istanbul 36th High Criminal Court.


The indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for Kavala and US academic and former State Department official Henri Barkey on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order using force and violence” under Article 309 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and up to 20 years in prison for “political or military espionage” under TCK 328.


At the end of the hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of Kavala’s pre-trial detention and adjourned the trial until 5 February 2021.


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


Constitutional Court refers Kavala's application to Plenary


The Constitutional Court's First Section on 15 December 2020 decided to refer the application against the ongoing detention of businessperson and civil society leader Osman Kavala to its Plenary. No date has been set for the Plenary's review. The First Section said that under the rules of Court, due to its classification, the application should be adjudicated on by the Plenary.


The Court was originally scheduled to rule on the application in September but postponed its review when the prosecution issued the new indictment against Kavala on “coup” and “espionage” charges.


Mezopotamya news agency reporter Zeynep Durgut arrested


Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporters Zeynep Durgut and Azad Kaya and JinNews reporters Rojda Aydın and Derya Ren were taken into custody on 17 December 2020 as they were returning to Cizre from Şırnak.


Kaya, Aydın and Ren were released shortly. However, Durgut was taken to the Şırnak Police Department. MA reported that an arrest warrant had been in place for the journalist as part of an ongoing investigation in Van in connection with the news agency’s coverage of the alleged torture of villagers Osman Şiban and Servet Turgut in the Çatak district after being arrested by troops. Van-based MA reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur are currently jailed pending trial as part of the investigation. Durgut was to be transferred to Van on 18 December.


Trial of four Cumhuriyet journalists gets underway


Cumhuriyet daily’s Managing Editor İpek Özbey, Responsible Editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, reporter Hazal Ocak and photojournalist Vedat Arık appeared before the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court on 16 December 2020 for the first hearing of their trial on the charges of "violating the secrecy of one's private life" and "marking officials involved in the fight against terrorism as targets."


The charges stem from a news article Cumhuriyet published on 14 April 2020 about a structure commissioned by the Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun on a plot of land next to his residence in Istanbul. The newspaper wrote that the land was originally owned by a foundation. The case was launched upon a complaint by Altun.


The journalists and their lawyers Turan Karakaş and Buket Yazıcı were in attendance while Altun and his lawyers were absent. Accepting Karakaş's request for additional time to submit to the court their list of evidence, the panel adjourned the trial until 18 March 2021.


YouTube says will appoint representative in Turkey


YouTube announced on 16 December 2020 that it would appoint a legal representative in Turkey in compliance with the country’s new social media law.


The law, which came into effect on 1 October 2020, makes it obligatory for social media platforms with over 1 million daily access from Turkey to appoint at least one local representative and to store its user data locally. So far, social media platforms that have not yet appointed a representative in Turkey have been fined TL 40 million each.


“RedHack” file sent to prosecution for final opinion


The “RedHack trial,” where journalists Ömer Çelik, Metin Yoksu, Tunca Öğreten, Eray Sargın, Derya Okatan and Mahir Kanaat stand accused for their coverage of former Minister Berat Albayrak’s emails leaked by RedHack, resumed on 15 December 2020 at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court.


This was the 11th hearing in the trial, where all six journalists are charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization,” “hindrance or destruction of a data processing system,” “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” and “membership of a terrorist organization.”


P24 monitored the hearing, where Kanaat and Öğreten and lawyers representing the journalists and the plaintiff were in attendance. Kanaat and Öğreten once again rejected the accusations and asked to be acquitted. The court decided to send the case file to the prosecution for the preparation of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 5 May 2021.


Trial of Can Dündar and İnan Kızılkaya adjourned


A trial where journalist Can Dündar and the former responsible editor of Özgür Gündem newspaper İnan Kızılkaya are accused of “insulting a public official” resumed on 15 December 2020 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.


The accusation stems from a report titled “Saray rejiminin en kullanışlı hakimi” (The regime’s most functional judge), published in Özgür Gündem on 22 June 2016, when Dündar symbolically assumed the role of editor-in-chief of the newspaper for a day. The trial was launched upon a complaint by Judge Bekir Altun.


Kızılkaya was not in attendance. He was represented by his lawyer Özcan Kılıç. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Dündar and the response to a letter rogatory sent to Germany for Dündar’s statement to be taken abroad, the court adjourned the trial until 4 March 2021.


Trial of Özgür Gündem editors and politician Hatip Dicle adjourned


Another trial where former Özgür Gündem journalists Hüseyin Aykol, Zana Kaya and İnan Kızılkaya are on trial alongside Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle for news articles published in the shuttered newspaper also resumed on 15 December at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.


This was the 17th hearing in the trial. None of the journalists were in attendance. They were represented by their lawyer Özcan Kılıç.


The four defendants are accused of “publicly degrading the government, the judiciary or the security forces” and “publicly degrading the Turkish nation, the Turkish Republic and the Parliament” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).


Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant against Dicle, the court adjourned the trial until 4 March 2021.


Prosecutor seeks conviction for Yeni Yaşam staff member


A trial where Yeni Yaşam newspaper staff member Murat Sekmen is among 11 defendants charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” resumed on 15 December 2020 at the Mersin 7th High Criminal Court.


Presenting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to convict Sekmen as charged. The prosecutor claimed that Sekmen committed a crime by sending copies of the Yeni Yaşam newspaper’s 15 March 2019 issue, banned by a decision of the Istanbul 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace, to Mersin.


Granting time for the preparation of defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 19 March 2021.


At least 87 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 18 December 2020, at least 87 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.