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 - 276

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 276

MA reporter Mehmet Aslan jailed; journalist Ayten Akgün given 11-month sentence; top court rules house arrest violated Şahin Alpay’s right to liberty; Müyesser Yıldız and İsmail Dükel face new charge


MA reporter Mehmet Aslan jailed pending trial


Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Mehmet Aslan, who was taken into custody on 5 January 2021 in Istanbul as part of an investigation launched by the Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, was jailed pending trial on 8 January by a criminal judgeship of peace in Antalya.


The prosecution had a confidentiality order issued on the investigation file against Aslan, who is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization.” MA reported that Aslan was questioned about his news sources during his interrogation. Aslan was sent to the Antalya L Type Closed Prison.


45 people arrested for protesting Boğaziçi University rector released


Forty-five people were arrested during the week for taking part in demonstrations in protest of President Erdoğan’s appointment of Professor Melih Bulu as the new rector of Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University. Twenty-four people among those arrested were brought to the courthouse on 7 January 2021, where they were released after their statements were taken. The remaining 21 people in custody, who were brought to the courthouse the next day, were also subsequently released.


Top Court: House arrest violated Şahin Alpay’s right to liberty


The Constitutional Court has unanimously ruled that political scientist and former Zaman columnist Şahin Alpay’s release from prison in 2018 under house arrest violated his right to liberty and security. The Court’s 3 December 2020 judgment was published in the Official Gazette on 7 January 2021. The Court ruled that Şahin be paid TL 20,000 in compensation.


This is the third Constitutional Court judgment finding a rights violation in the case against Alpay, who was arrested in 2016 as part of the “Zaman trial” and remained behind bars for more than 500 days before being released in March 2018 based on a Constitutional Court decision.


Top Court rules Yiğit Aksakoğlu’s detention violated his right to liberty


The Constitutional Court also ruled on 3 December 2020 that NGO representative Yiğit Aksakoğlu’s detention as part of the “Gezi Park trial” violated his right to liberty and security. The Court ruled that Aksakoğlu be paid TL 30,000 in non-pecuniary damages.


In its unanimous judgment, the Constitutional Court found the claim in Aksakoğlu’s application that the restriction on the investigation file against him violated his right to liberty and security to be “inadmissible” on the grounds that it was “manifestly ill-founded.”


Aksakoğlu remained behind bars for seven months before being acquitted of all charges at the end of the Gezi Park trial.


Journalist Ayten Akgün handed down 11-month sentence


Journalist Ayten Akgün was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president” on 7 January 2021. The Anadolu 6th Criminal Court of First Instance deferred Akgün’s sentence. The journalist was on trial over two Twitter posts she had shared in 2018.


Poet Ahmet Telli acquitted in “insult” case


Poet Ahmet Telli appeared before the Ankara 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 7 January 2021 for the second hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president.” Telli, who was accused over posts shared on a fake Facebook account using his name and picture, was acquitted for lack of evidence.


Journalists Müyesser Yıldız and İsmail Dükel face new charge


The second hearing in the trial of Odatv news portal’s Ankara News Director Müyesser Yıldız and Tele1 TV Ankara Representative İsmail Dükel on the charge of “Disclosing information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security, or domestic or foreign political interests of the state” under Article 329 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) took place on 6 January 2021 at the Ankara 26th High Criminal Court.


Yıldız and Dükel are accused over their phone calls with their news source, Erdal Baran, a non-commissioned officer, who is the third defendant in the case.


In between the two courtroom hearings, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a new indictment where the defendants are charged with “Securing information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security or domestic or foreign interests of the state” under TCK 327. The presiding judge told those in attendance that the court panel ruled on 14 December to merge the new indictment with the ongoing case.


After hearing the defendants and their lawyers’ statements in response to the new charge, the court adjourned the trial until 5 February.


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


Journalist Pelin Ünker faces new investigation


Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish journalist Pelin Ünker and DW General Manager Peter Limbourg are facing an investigation over a 21 September 2020 report by Ünker. The report was about allegations of suspicious transactions by Turkey’s Aktif Bank in leaked Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) files.


The investigation was launched over a complaint by the Çalık Holding-owned Aktif Bank. Ünker was called in for questioning earlier this week at the Istanbul Police Department’s financial crimes unit.


Three journalists detained while covering demonstration in Ankara


JinNews reporters Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer and freelance journalist Eylül Deniz Yaşar were taken into custody on 5 January 2021 during police intervention on a demonstration in Ankara for Gülistan Doku, a woman who has been missing for the past year. Another journalist who was also covering the demonstration, Mezopotamya news agency reporter Mehmet Günhan, was beaten by the police, who also seized the journalist’s press card.


A total of 18 people, including the three journalists, were briefly detained by the police on the charge of “violating the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations.” All 18 were released following interrogation at the police department.


Former DİHA reporter Yusuf Topaloğlu acquitted of “terror” charge


Hacı Yusuf Topaloğlu, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), was acquitted of “membership of a terrorist organization” charge at the final hearing of his trial, held on 5 January 2021 at the Adıyaman 2nd High Criminal Court.


The court ruled that the statements of a witness who testified against Topaloğlu were contradictory and held that there was not sufficient evidence against the journalist. Topaloğlu was arrested on 5 December 2019 and released pending trial at the end of his first hearing on 22 January 2020.


Journalist Can Ataklı faces investigation over YouTube broadcast


The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has launched a criminal investigation against journalist Can Ataklı over his commentary in a recent YouTube broadcast, in which he said he believed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would not leave office even if he loses the election.


The investigation was launched based on a complaint filed by two lawyers representing an association called “Kardeşlik Derneği,” who alleged that Ataklı’s commentary “incited hatred and hostility.”


Former Cabinet minister faces investigation over televised comments


The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against former Cabinet minister and CHP lawmaker Fikri Sağlar on the allegation of “inciting hatred and hostility” under TCK Article 216 over televised remarks during a program that aired on Halk TV on 30 December 2020. Sağlar had said he “had doubts on whether a headscarved judge would render a fair judgment because some of them acted like militants and were guided by ideological motivations.”


Evrensel newspaper fined over 25th year commercial


The Ministry of Trade has imposed an administrative fine of TL 20,953 on Evrensel daily over a commercial that aired in July on Tele1 TV to mark the 25th anniversary of the newspaper. A scene from the commercial showing a girl holding a red scarf with patterns in yellow and green was cited as the grounds for the fine.


BİK says will “take action” against Sözcü newspaper


The Press Advertising Agency (BİK) announced that it would “take action” against Sözcü newspaper over its front page headline story published on 1 January 2021. BİK’s announcement followed immediately on the heels of a public statement by President Erdoğan, in which he said he did not read Sözcü newspaper and advised that “no one buy or read it.”


In a statement, BİK claimed that Sözcü’s headline story “interpreted Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque as a disaster” and that this “outraged various segments of the society.”


Odatv’s Pehlivan and Terkoğlu face 14 new investigations over new book


A total of 14 new investigations have been filed against Odatv news portal’s Editor-in-Chief Barış Pehlivan and Managing Editor Barış Terkoğlu over a new book they co-wrote, titled Metastaz 2: Cendere.


Pehlivan and Terkoğlu gave their statements to the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau under the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on 30 December 2020.


Terkoğlu and Pehlivan face up to 95 years and 63 years in prison, respectively, in the 14 investigation files combined. Additionally, eight other compensation cases have been filed against the two journalists over their book.


Journalist Cem Bahtiyar to stand trial for “insulting the president”


Journalist Cem Bahtiyar is charged with “insulting the president” in a new trial, where the accusation stems from comments the journalist posted under three Twitter posts from 2015 and 2016.


The Bandırma Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office accuses the journalist of “systematically insulting the president” in the indictment, issued on 10 September 2020.


Bahtiyar’s trial was set to get underway on 24 December 2020 at the Bandırma Criminal Court of First Instance but was adjourned until a later date because a new judge had been appointed to the court.


At least 86 journalists and media workers in prison


P24 has updated its list of journalists and media workers in prison -- compiled using information available in open sources -- upon the imprisonment of MA reporter Mehmet Aslan on Friday and discovering that journalists Mehmet Kuru and Ömer Oruç have been released from prison.


Accordingly, as of 8 January 2021, at least 86 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.