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 - 281

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 281

Academic Cenk Yiğiter’s sentence upheld; prosecutor seeks conviction for journalist Arif Aslan; Evrensel editor Görkem Kınacı to stand trial; columnists Ayşen Şahin, Ahmet Takan arrested; mother of boy killed in train crash fined over social media posts 


Prosecutor demands conviction for journalist Arif Aslan


Journalist Arif Aslan’s trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” continued on 11 February 2021 at the Van 5th High Criminal Court. Aslan was jailed in 2017 for taking photos of the barriers placed in front of the city hall in Van and remained in prison for eight months before being released pending trial. Submitting his final opinion, the prosecutor demanded the court to convict Aslan as charged. The court adjourned the trial until 4 March 4 for Aslan to prepare his final defense statement.


Court sends case file to prosecutor in trial against Meşale Tolu


The 13th hearing of a trial where 27 people including Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter and translator Meşale Tolu are facing terrorism-related charges was held on 11 February 2021 at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court.


P24 monitored the hearing, where Tolu's lawyer Keleş Öztürk was in attendance. Tolu, who lives in Germany, did not attend. Öztürk reiterated his request for further investigation. Other defendants’ lawyers requested the return of digital equipment confiscated from their clients for forensic examination.


The court decided to send the file to the prosecutor's office for the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 16-17 September 2021.


Trial against Nagehan Alçı adjourned until 10 March


The second hearing of HaberTürk columnist Nagehan Alçı’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” was held on 11 February 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Alçı is accused of “insulting” Istanbul 37th Criminal Court of First Instance Judge Hakkı Yalçınkaya in an article she wrote in June 2018.


In their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Alçı for “insult.” Alçı will make her final defense statement at the next hearing, set for 10 March.


Semiha Şahin and Pınar Gayıp’s trial adjourned


Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Semiha Şahin and reporter Pınar Gayıp’s trial that was scheduled to resume on 11 February 2021 was adjourned until 15 April because the two panels of the trial court have been merged.


Journalist Melike Aydın’s trial adjourned until June


The second hearing of a trial where JinNews reporter Melike Aydın is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” due to her news articles and phone calls with her sources, was held on 11 February 2021.


Aydın and her lawyer Şükran Öztürk were present at the hearing, held at Izmir 2nd High Criminal Court. The prosecutor demanded the court inquire of anti-terror police about the evidence collected in the file. The prosecutor also requested that the court hear secret witnesses mentioned in the indictment. Accepting the prosecutor's requests, the court adjourned the trial until 8 June.


Appellate court upholds sentence given to academic Cenk Yiğiter


The 4th Criminal Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, has upheld a sentence given last year to Cenk Yiğiter, an academic who was dismissed from Ankara University’s Faculty of Law through a statutory decree. Yiğiter was sentenced to 1 year, 5 months and 15 days in prison for “insulting the president” in the trial, which began in 2018. Yiğiter, who was accused over a social media post, said he will next appeal the sentence at the Supreme Court of Appeals.


Evrensel editor Görke Kınacı to stand trial over 2018 article


Evrensel newspaper's responsible managing editor Görkem Kınacı is charged with “inciting hatred and hostility” in a new trial, where the accusation stems from a news story published on the newspaper’s online edition in December 2018, titled “Sakarya'da ırkçı saldırı: Baba hayatını kaybetti, oğlu tedavi altında” (Racist attack in Sakarya: Father dies, son hospitalized).


The prosecutor claims the news story is “fake.” The case was filed at the Sakarya 5th Criminal Court of First Instance. Kınacı will give his statement to the court on 26 May 2021 at the Gaziosmanpaşa 10th Criminal Court of First Instance.


The investigation was launched based on an anonymous complaint filed with the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER).


Journalist Selda Manduz appears before court on


The first hearing of a trial where Demokrat Haber news portal editor Selda Manduz is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 10 February 2021 at the 2nd High Criminal Court of Kars.


Manduz was arrested on 1 October 2020 as part of a sweeping operation targeting HDP politicians in Kars. She was released four days later.


Manduz and her lawyer Ömer Çapkurt were present at the hearing. Regarding the confidential witness statements and the phone records in the indictment, Manduz defended herself that her phone calls were within the scope of journalism and did not constitute a crime. Manduz denied the accusations and requested her acquittal. Deciding to wait for the digital forensic report, the court adjourned the trial until 9 March.


Photojournalist Ozan Acıdere placed under house arrest


Ozan Acıdere, a photojournalist who has extensively covered the protests at the Boğaziçi University campus, and who is also a journalism student at Ege University, was detained at the entrance of the school on 8 February 2021. Acıdere was brought to the courthouse on 9 February. There the prosecutor referred him to court, seeking his imprisonment. The court released Acıdere under house arrest.


Trial against Odatv journalist Caner Taşpınar begins


Odatv editor Caner Taşpınar appeared before a court in Istanbul on 9 February 2021 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “insult” over his book “Damat: Fethullahçıların AKP'li Kayınpederleri” (The groom: The AKP-member fathers-in-law of Fethullahists). Former Speaker of the Parliament İsmail Kahraman and AKP Deputy Ali İhsan Arslan had requested the book to be confiscated in their complaint petitions about Taşpınar.


During the first hearing, held at Istanbul 11th Criminal Court of First Instance, Kahraman and Arslan's lawyers requested the acceptance of their request to participate in the prosecution. The court adjourned the trial until 1 July.


Dindar Karataş released at his first hearing


Mezopotamya news agency reporter Dindar Karataş, who was jailed in November on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization,” was held on 9 February 2021 at Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court.


Karataş addressed the court from Erzurum H Type Closed Prison via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. In his defense statement, Karataş said some of the phone conversations held as evidence in the indictment were not his. Asserting that he is being accused over his journalistic activities, Karataş asked to be released and acquitted.


The prosecutor requested the continuation of Karataş's detention. In its interim ruling, the court released Karataş under a travel ban and adjourned the trial until 27 May.


BBC Türkçe reporter Hatice Kamer acquitted for the second time


The retrial of BBC Türkçe reporter Hatice Kamer on “propaganda” charge over several photos she had shared on social media from the HDP and DTK's assemblies and press conferences in 2015 and 2016, was held on 9 February 2021 at Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court.


Kamer was accused because a poster featuring PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was seen in the photos. Kamer was acquitted at the original trial but an appellate court reversed her acquittal on procedural grounds. At the first hearing of the retrial, the trial court once again ruled for Kamer’s acquittal.


Journalist Selman Keleş’s trial adjourned


The trial against journalist Selman Keleş, who was jailed in 2017 along with journalist Arif Aslan for taking photos of the barriers placed in front of the city hall in Van, resumed on 9 February 2021 at the Van 5th High Criminal Court. Keleş is also charged with “membership in a terrorist organization.” Accepting letters of excuse submitted by Keleş’s lawyers, the court postponed the trial until a later date.


Mother of boy who was killed in Çorlu crash fined over social media posts


Mısra Öz, who lost her son Oğuz Arda in 2018's Çorlu train crash, was fined TL 8,840 for “insulting a public official” at the second hearing of her trial, held on 9 February 2021 at the Çorlu 5th Criminal Court of First Instance. Sel was accused of “insulting the court panel” in her social media posts.



Evrensel columnist Ayşen Şahin arrested


Evrensel columnist Ayşen Şahin was taken into custody by police at her home on the night of 8 February 2021. She was taken to the Istanbul Police Headquarters. Şahin found out on the way to the police department that she was being accused of “inciting hatred and hostility” over her social media posts. Şahin was released later that night after giving her statement at the police department.


Several days earlier, Şahin was targeted on social media by pro-government Sabah columnist Hilal Kaplan after sharing a video of a shopkeeper in Kadıköy pointing at university students participating in Boğaziçi protests to indicate their location to riot police.


Journalists Taylan Öztaş and Zarife Çamalan released


Gazete Alınteri reporter Zarife Çamalan and Özgür Gelecek reporter Taylan Öztaş, who were detained on 4 February while they were covering police intervention on a group of activists who wanted to make a public statement in Kadıköy to announce the establishment of a platform called “Birleşik Mücadele Güçleri,” were released by a Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 8 February 2021.


Columnist Ahmet Takan briefly detained


Ahmet Takan, a columnist for Korkusuz newspaper, was detained in Ankara on 8 February 2021 due to a recent arrest warrant issued in an ongoing trial against him over one of his articles. Takan was released after giving his statement to the court.


The arrest warrant was issued on 26 January 2021, at the latest hearing of Takan’s trial, overseen by Bakırkoy 16th Criminal Court of First Instance. Upon finding out about the warrant, Takan immediately filed a petition with the court, requesting to give his statement at the Ankara Courthouse. Takan was arrested because his petition was not processed.


Interior Ministry: 39 arrested for “propaganda” on social media


The Interior Ministry announced on 9 February 2021 that cyber crimes units under the police and gendarmerie have investigated a total of 1,264 social media accounts that “disseminated terrorism propaganda” on social media between 1-7 February 2021. The Ministry said legal action was launched against 575 social media account users “operating under the guidance of FETÖ/PDY, PKK/KCK, radical leftist and DAESH terrorist groups” and that 39 people among them have been arrested.


University student Beyza Buldağ jailed


Beyza Buldağ, a student at Istanbul’s Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (MSGSÜ), was arrested in Izmir on 7 February 2021 on the allegations that she “managed a social media account named Boğaziçi Dayanışması” and that she shared an open letter addressed to President Erdoğan. Buldağ was arrested on the charge of “insulting the president” and brought to Istanbul the same day, where she appeared before a criminal judgeship of peace. The court jailed Buldağ on the charges of “inciting hatred and hostility" and "incitement to commit an offense” and sent her to the Bakırköy Prison.


Buldağ is among 11 students from various universities across Turkey, jailed last week on various charges for supporting the Boğaziçi protests.


On 12 February, two of the 11 students, Buldağ and Muhammet Ünal, who was also jailed over his social media posts, were released.


At least 82 journalists and media workers in prison


Following Mezopotamya news agency reporter Dindar Karataş’s release pending trial, as of 12 February 2021 at least 82 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.