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 - 277

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 277

ETHA reporter Pınar Gayıp arrested; journalist Özgür Boğatekin handed down 18-month sentence for “propaganda”; prosecutor seeks life sentence for jailed journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç; journalist Orhan Uğuroğlu assaulted


Journalist Engin Korkmaz's trial adjourned until June


The fourth hearing of Antalya Körfez newspaper responsible editor and Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD) Mediterranean branch Chairman Engin Korkmaz's trial on "insulting the president" charge was held on 15 January 2021 at the Antalya 19th Criminal Court of First Instance.


Upon the prosecutor's request for President Erdoğan's lawyers to be notified about the case, the court decided to accept the request and adjourned the trial until 11 June 2021.


TV host Öykü Serter faces investigation for her social media posts


An investigation was launched against TV show host Öykü Serter on the allegation of "inciting hatred and hostility" over social media posts she shared about the Izmir earthquake and its aftermath.


According to the pro-government Sabah newspaper, police issued an investigation report after an unidentified person filed a complaint about Serter. The report has been sent to the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.


Yeniçağ newspaper Ankara bureau chief Uğuroğlu assaulted


Ankara representative of Yeniçağ newspaper, Orhan Uğuroğlu was attacked by a group of three men in front of his house in Ankara on 15 January 2021. It has been reported that the attackers drove their cars straight to Uğuroğlu and said, “We are members of MHP. Do not criticize MHP. Ülkücüs (MHP members) will hold you responsible.”


Prosecutor seeks life sentence for jailed journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç


The prosecution submitted their final opinion in a trial where jailed journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç is among 18 defendants charged with various offences over the 7 February 2012 “MİT crisis,” where the head of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) Hakan Fidan and several officials from the agency were summoned to give their statements as part of an investigation.


The hearing was held on 14 January 2021 at the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court in a courtroom located in the Silivri Prison complex. The hearing was closed to the press and the public.


The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the prosecutor demanded an aggravated life imprisonment sentence for Gökkılıç for “attempting to overthrow the government using force and violence” and an additional prison sentence of up to 4.5 years for “violating the confidentiality of an investigation.”


The trial court had prohibited persons other than the court panel from examining and taking samples from the case file and related documents on the grounds that sensitive classified information could be revealed during the trial. At the first hearing of the case, which was held on 22 June 2020, the court issued a broadcast ban on the content of the case and courtroom hearings.


Court issues reasoned judgment in “MİT trucks trial” against Can Dündar


The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court has issued its reasoned judgment in writing in the MİT trucks trial, where Cumhuriyet newspaper's former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar was handed down a combined prison sentence of 27.5 years for “espionage” and “aiding a terrorist organization” over the newspaper’s coverage of an alleged weapons transfer to insurgents in Syria on trucks operated by the National Intelligence Agency.


In its reasoned judgment, the court held that Dündar went ahead and published the story despite knowing that many judicial members and law enforcement officers had been detained due to the suspension of the trucks.


The panel wrote in their judgment that Cumhuriyet reported on “a previously disclosed topic” -- referring to Aydınlık newspaper’s coverage of the same allegation -- and argued that this was “incompatible with current journalism trends” despite writing in the same judgment that Dündar’s story “revealed never before seen documents, information and footage.”


The court held that Dündar “obtained the information with the intent of political espionage.”


On 23 December 2020, the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court sentenced Dündar to 18 years and 9 months on the charge of “obtaining information that must be kept confidential for reasons relating to the security or domestic or foreign political interests of the State, for the purpose of political or military espionage” under Article 328 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) and 7 years and 21 months on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” (TCK 220/7).


BİK imposes three-day ad ban on Evrensel and BirGün


The Press Advertising Agency (BİK) issued a three-day advertisement ban on Evrensel newspaper over a 1 May 2020 report on Cumhuriyet staff members who were called in for questioning over their reports. The newspaper was given the penalty on 12 January 2021. The penalty was given upon a complaint by Communications Director Fahrettin Altun’s lawyer.


Separately, BİK also imposed another three-day ban on BirGün newspaper over their 6 October 2020 report on corruption allegations concerning the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). The broadcasting watchdog filed a complaint against BirGün with BİK, saying the newspaper’s report, which was based on reports issued by the Court of Accounts, “discredited” RTÜK, its president and its members.


Mezopotamya news agency editor Çelik to stand trial


Mezopotamya news agency (MA) managing editor Ferhat Çelik will appear in court in February over a report dispatched by the agency on 4 October 2018, in which they wrote that inmates in Bayburt Prison were served food with insects in it. The case was filed upon a compliant by the Bayburt M Type Closed Prison management. The first hearing of Çelik’s trial is set for 2 February at the Bayburt Criminal Court of First Instance.


MA reporter Ruken Demir’s trial adjourned


The fifth hearing of Mezopotamya news agency reporter Ruken Demir’s trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” was held on 14 January 2021 at the Izmir 19th High Criminal Court.


A digital forensics report issued by the police was submitted to the court. The court decided to examine the report and adjourned the trial until 23 February 2021.


Demir was jailed on 26 November 2019 and released pending trial at her first hearing on 6 March 2020.


Trial of 7 defendants separated from Gezi trial adjourned until April


The second hearing in the trial against seven “Gezi Park trial” defendants whose files were separated, actors Memet Ali Alabora and Pınar Öğün, journalist Can Dündar, Open Society Foundation employee Gökçe Yılmaz, writer Handan Meltem Arıkan, Civil Society Development Center (STGM) coordinator Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu and NGO member İnanç Ekmekçi, was held on 14 January 2021 at Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court.


The court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants issued fort he defendants, all of whom live abroad, and adjourned the trial until 28 April 2021.


ETHA reporter Pınar Gayıp taken into custody


Etkin news agency (ETHA) reporter Pınar Gayıp was arrested in a midnight police raid on her home in Istanbul on 14 January 2021 as part of a sweeping police operation targeting members and executives of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP). A total of 48 people were arrested as part of the raids conducted across 12 provinces.


ESP Co-Chair Özlem Gümüştaş, and HDP member Sıtkı Güngör were among those arrested, as well as actors from the Yenikapı Theater in Istanbul. During the operations, police also raided and searched ETHA's office in Istanbul and confiscated the digital equipment in the office.


Journalist Can Ataklı appears in court over commentary on EBA TV


Journalist Can Ataklı’s trial on the charge of “denigrating a section of the society based on social class, race, religion, sect, gender or regional differences” over his comments about a headscarf wearing teacher on the distance education platform EBA TV resumed this week in Istanbul.


P24 monitored the second hearing, held on 13 January 2021 at the Istanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Ataklı, who was in attendance in the courtroom, accompanied by his lawyer, demanded his acquittal, stating that there was no insult intended.


Representatives of the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM) requested to participate in the case. The court rejected KADEM's request because they were not directly harmed by the offense and decided to send the file to the prosecutor's office for their final opinion and postponed the case until 6 May 2021.


Journalist Melis Alphan charged with "terrorism propaganda"


Journalist Melis Alphan will stand trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” over a photo from the 2015 Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır that she had posted on social media.


The indictment against Alphan was accepted by Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court, which set 15 April 2021 as the date for the first hearing.


Journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu faces new investigation


Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Co-Chair Dicle Müftüoğlu on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda,” citing news reports she had shared on social media.


Müftüoğlu went to the Diyarbakır Police Department this week with her lawyer to give her statement as part of the investigation. Asked about the reports she posted online, Müftüoğlu stated that she shared the posts as a journalist and that sharing news articles was not a crime.


RTÜK fines Halk TV over televised comments by program guest


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed an administrative fine on Halk TV for televised remarks by former Cabinet Minister Fikri Sağlar about judges who wear headscarf. RTÜK’s penalty decision was taken unanimously. An investigation has also been launched against Sağlar by the prosecutor's office over his remarks.


Alican Uludağ and Olcay Büyüktaş Akça’s trial adjourned until March


The second hearing of the trial against Cumhuriyet editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça former Cumhuriyet reporter Alican Uludağ on the charge of “disclosing or publishing the identities of informants” was held on 12 January 2021 at the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court.


The two journalists are on trial over a news article on the trial into the 10 October 2015 Ankara railway station attack, published in Cumhuriyet in November 2019.


P24 monitored the hearing, where Uludağ and the journalists’ lawyers were in attendance. The court decided to wait for the indictment for the Ankara railway station attack trial from the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court and adjourned the trial until 16 March 2021.


Journalist Özgür Boğatekin handed down 18-month sentence


The fifth hearing in the retrial of Adıyaman-based journalist Özgür Boğatekin, local newspaper Gerger Fırat’s news director, on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” was held on 12 January 2021 at the Adıyaman 2nd High Criminal Court.


Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Boğatekin to 1 year, 6 months and 22 days in prison for "terrorism propaganda.” The court did not defer the sentence.


In their final opinion submitted during the previous hearing, the prosecutor had requested Boğatekin’s acquittal of the charges in a separate file merged with the ongoing case due to lack of conclusive and convincing evidence. Ruling in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court acquitted Boğatekin of the charges in the merged file.


Prosecutor submits final opinion in Antalya “FETÖ media” trial


The eighth hearing of a trial where local journalists in the Mediterranean city of Antalya are accused of “membership of a terrorist organization” and “aiding a terrorist organization” was held on 12 January 2021 at the Antalya 2nd High Criminal Court.


Submitting their final opinion during the hearing, the prosecution asked the court to convict Olgun Matur, Özkan Mayda, Osman Yakut, Cihat Ünal, Kenan Baş, Ömer Özdemir and Serhat Şeftali for “membership of a terrorist organization” and Sıtkı Soydal for “aiding a terrorist organization” while demanding acquittal for eight other defendants.


The court adjourned the trial until 4 May 2021 for the preparation of final defense statements.


The indictment alleges that the journalists on trial, from, Antalya Newspaper, and Cihan News Agency, which were closed through statutory decrees, “formed the media leg of the Fethullahist terrorist organization [FETÖ] in Antalya.”


Journalist Arafat Dayan’s trial adjourned until April


The 19th hearing of the shuttered Demokratik Ulus newspaper's former responsible editor Arafat Dayan on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” was held on 11 January 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd High Criminal Court.


Due to Covid-19, the court did not allow spectators in the courtroom. In its interim decision, the court decided to send the file to the prosecutor's office for their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 14 April 2021.


Turkey ranks first in account removal requests from Twitter


Twitter has issued its transparency report for the first six months of 2020.


Commenting on the statistics in the report, Professor Yaman Akdeniz, an expert on cyber rights, wrote that Turkey ranked first in the categories of court decisions, blocking and removal requests and other demands in Twitter’s report. Regarding the worldwide requests sent to Twitter, Turkey ranks first with 45,776 demands.


Turkey asked Twitter to suspend 99,849 accounts from 2012 until the first half of 2020, ranking the first among worldwide requests.


Noting that Twitter removed 12,165 tweets due to Turkey’s requests, Akdeniz added that among the 333 account removal requests sent to Twitter concerning verified accounts of journalists, 142 was submitted from Turkey.


METU students on trial over banner acquitted


Four graduates of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), who have been on trial since 2018 for carrying a banner featuring a cartoon titled “Tayyipler Alemi” (the Tayyip Kingdom) at the school’s 2018 graduation ceremony, and the person who printed the banner, were acquitted at the seventh hearing of their trial, held on 11 January 2021 at Ankara 11th Criminal Court of First Instance. All five were charged with “insulting the president.”


Journalist questioned for covering demonstration in Van


Journalist Ruşen Takva was called in for questioning last weekend for covering a demonstration held on 8 January in Van province, where Democratic Society Congress (DTK) Co-Chair Berdan Öztürk, Democratic Regions Party (DBP) Co-Chairs Saliha Aydeniz and Keskin Bayındır and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers participated. Takva gave his statement at the Van Police Department.


At least 86 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 15 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.