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 - 278

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 278

Regional court overturns acquittals in Gezi Park trial; journalist Bulut sentenced at first hearing; ECtHR rules Atilla Taş’s detention violated his right to liberty; at least 10 journos appear in court in a week

 

Regional court overturns acquittals in Gezi Park trial

 

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice on 22 January 2021 overturned the acquittals of nine defendants in last year’s Gezi Park trial, including imprisoned businessman Osman Kavala. 

 

The Chamber held that the trial court didn’t evaluate the evidence in the indictment in the reasoning of the verdict while acquitting Osman Kavala, Yiğit Aksakoğlu, Mücella Yapıcı, Can Atalay, Mine Özerden, Çiğdem Mater, Tayfun Kahraman, Hakan Altınay and Yiğit Ali Ekmekçi.

 

The Chamber remanded the case to the trial court.

 

Our report about the appellate court's judgment can be found here

 

Journalist Sonya Bayık's trial adjourned until May

 

The second hearing of the trial of Jiyan Haber Managing Editor Sonya Bayık on the charge of “breaching the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations” was held on 22 January 2021 at the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance.

 

Bayık and her co-defendants in the trial were detained in June 2019 during a demonstration in protest against the flooding of the ancient town of Hasankeyf. Bayık was there to cover the demonstration.

 

In her defense statement, Bayık told the court that she is a journalist; that she had gone to the district to cover the demonstration and was detained despite holding a valid press card. Bayık rejected the accusation and demanded her acquittal. Following the defendants’ statements, the court adjourned the trial until 27 May 2021.

 

Journalist İdris Yayla’s trial adjourned until April

 

The third hearing of a trial where Jiyan Haber concessionaire İdris Yayla is also prosecuted for “breaching the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations” was also held on 22 January 2021 at the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance. Yayla is on trial for covering a demonstration in 2016 against the appointment of trustees to replace mayors in the region. Yayla did not attend the hearing. The court postponed the trial until 2 April.

 

Journalist Zeynel Abidin Bulut sentenced at his first hearing

 

Journalist Zeynel Abidin Bulut, an executive with the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG), was sentenced to 10 months in prison for “terrorism propaganda” at the first hearing of his trial, held on 21 January 2021.

 

The Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court ruled that there was “no need to suspend or defer the sentence.” Bulut was accused of calling a minute of silence during a commemoration held on 29 June 2020 in Diyarbakır at the grave of journalist Mazlum Erenci, who died in Tunceli in 2011.

 

Top court rules judicial fine violated journalist Palçik’s freedom of expression

 

The Constitutional Court’s First Section ruled that a TL 7,000 judicial fine imposed in 2018 on local newspaper columnist Osman Palçik in an insult case violated his freedom of expression. Palçik had received the fine over his online remarks about the former mayor of Kemer, Mustafa Gül.

 

The Constitutional Court’s 15 December 2020 judgment was published in the Official Gazette on 21 January 2021. The Constitutional Court ruled to send Palçik's file to the Kemer 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance for a retrial.

 

Sözcü columnist Yılmaz Özdil faces “301” charge

 

Yılmaz Özdil, a columnist for Sözcü newspaper, is charged with “insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey, the Turkey Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey, the government of Turkey and judicial bodies of the state” under Article 301/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) in a new trial.

 

Sözcü reported that Özdil is accused because he wrote the last three letters of the acronym TBMM in lower case in an article published on 4 July 2020.

 

Verdict in compensation case against Hazal Ocak set for next week

 

A compensation case filed by pro-government businessman Mehmet Cengiz against Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak and Cumhuriyet Foundation Chairperson Alev Coşkun over an October 2019 report by Ocak resumed on 20 January 2021 at the Anadolu 14th Civil Court. Accepting letters of excuse submitted by Ocak and her lawyer, the court adjourned the lawsuit until 26 January. The judge is expected to issue their verdict at next week’s hearing.

 

Mehmet Cengiz is seeking TL 1 million in compensation over Ocak’s report titled “Boğaz Manzaralı Lüks Müştemilat” (Luxury shed with a view of the Bosphorus).

 

Yeni Yaşam reporter Hatice Şahin appears in court on “terror” charge

 

Hatice Şahin, a reporter for Yeni Yaşam newspaper, appeared before the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court on 20 January 2021 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization.” She was detained and released as part of a sweeping operation carried out on 9 October 2018 in Diyarbakır, where more than 100 people were arrested.

 

Şahin’s phone calls with other journalists and her news sources, anonymous witness statements, and Diyarbakır-Istanbul plane tickets are cited as evidence against her in the indictment, which also claims that Şahin participated in the activities of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK).

 

Şahin and her lawyer Resul Tamur were present at the first hearing. No audience was admitted to the courtroom due to Covid-19.

 

Ruling to keep Şahin’s travel ban in place, the court decided to hear two secret witnesses in-between courtroom sessions and allowed 10 days for the defendant and her lawyer to submit the questions they wanted to ask the witnesses. Also ruling to hear a third open witness in court, the panel adjourned the trial until 24 March 2021.

 

ECtHR rules Atilla Taş’s detention violated his right to liberty, freedom of expression

 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on 19 January 2021 that the pretrial detention of singer and former columnist Atilla Taş as part of the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” violated his right to liberty and security and his freedom of expression.

 

The Strasbourg court ordered that Turkey pay Taş 12,275 euros in non-pecuniary damages.

 

In its Chamber judgment, the European Court held unanimously that Taş’s detention violated articles 5/1 (right to liberty and security) and 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court held by a majority of four votes to three that there had also been a violation of Article 5/4 (inability to consult the investigation file). The Court dismissed Taş’s complaint concerning the length of the proceedings before the Constitutional Court.

 

Our report about the judgment can be accessed here.

 

Journalist Sedef Özdemir's trial adjourned until May

 

The second hearing of a trial where Jiyan Haber reporter Sedef Özdemir and 23 others are charged with “resisting to prevent law enforcement officers from performing their duty" and “participating in illegal assemblies without arms and not dispersing despite a warning” was held on 19 January 2021 at the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance. Özdemir and her co-defendants were detained in April 2019 during a demonstration by families of inmates in front of the Batman M Type Closed Prison.

 

In her defense statement, Özdemir told the court that she was a journalist and was there on the day of the incident to cover the demonstration. She demanded to be acquitted. After hearing the defendants’ statements, the court adjourned the trial until 4 May 2021.

 

Two trials against journalist Erk Acarer postponed

 

The latest hearing of a trial against journalist Erk Acarer on the charge of "insulting the president" over an article published in BirGün newspaper on 6 October 2016 was scheduled for 19 January 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The trial was postponed until a later date as lawyers representing both parties submitted to the court letters of excuse.

 

The ninth hearing of another trial where Acarer and journalist Hakan Dirik are accused of "slander" was held on 12 January 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

 

Dirik and Acarer are on trial for reporting on the alleged shipment of materials used in chemical weapons to jihadist groups in Syria from Turkey. Ruling to issue a new subpoena for Eren Erdem to testify as a witness in court and to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Acarer, the court adjourned the trial until 9 March 2021.

 

Journalist Hakan Aygün’s trial adjourned until March

 

The fourth hearing of a trial where journalist Hakan Aygün is charged with “insulting religious values” and “inciting hatred and enmity” over a Twitter post was held on 19 January 2021 at the Bodrum 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance. The court decided to investigate whether Aygün's social media posts "disturbed public peace" and postponed the trial until 9 March 2021.

 

Evrensel editor Cem Şimşek's trial adjourned until April

 

The trial of Evrensel daily’s former Responsible Managing Editor Cem Şimşek on the charge of “insulting the president” resumed on 19 January 2021 at the Bakırköy 27th Criminal Court of First Instance. Şimşek is on trial over a report titled “Alman karikatüristler Erdoğan’ı fena çizdi,” about German cartoonists’ depictions of President Erdoğan.

 

Telling the court that the cartoons were published in other news portals before Evrensel, Şimşek rejected the accusation and demanded his acquittal. The court decided to send the file to the prosecutor's office for their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 15 April 2021.

 

Journalist İdris Yılmaz acquitted

 

On 18 January 2021, journalist İdris Yılmaz was acquitted at the final hearing of a trial where he was prosecuted for his social media posts about Turkey’s 2018 military operation on the Syrian city of Afrin.

 

Yılmaz was charged with “inciting hatred and hostility.” The Erciş 1st Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted the journalist on the grounds of a lack of incriminating evidence.

 

Hülya Oruç appears in court over social media posts

 

Hülya Oruç, the wife of journalist Aziz Oruç, appeared before the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 January 2021 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “inciting hatred and hostility” over her social media posts about insufficient measures against the pandemic in prisons.

 

Oruç and her lawyer Ferhat Kılınç were present at the hearing. After hearing Oruç and her lawyer’s statements, the court decided to send her file to the prosecutor's office for the preparation of the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 3 February 2021.

 

ETHA reporter Pınar Gayıp released under house arrest

 

Journalist Pınar Gayıp, an Istanbul-based reporter for Etkin news agency (ETHA), who was taken into custody last week in a midnight police raid on her home as part of a police operation held in 12 provinces against members and executives of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), was taken to the courthouse on 17 January 2021.

 

The prosecutor referred Gayıp to court, seeking her imprisonment pending trial. The court released Gayıp under house arrest and a ban on traveling abroad.

 

Evrensel cartoonist Sefer Selvi acquitted of "insulting the president"

 

The Istanbul 18th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted Evrensel newspaper's cartoonist Sefer Selvi of “insulting the president” at the final hearing of his trial on 8 January 2021. The court held that “offensive, shocking or disturbing" expressions were also within the scope of freedom of expression and ruled that the elements of the offense did not occur.

 

At least 85 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 discovering that Nuri Yeşil, the former Tunceli representative of the Kurdish newspaper Azadiya Welat, was released from prison in late 2020. Accordingly, as of 22 January 2021, at least 85 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.

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