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 - 288

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 288

Four journalists jailed for reporting on torture allegations in Van released at first hearing; columnist Nagehan Alçı fined for “insulting” judge; actress Nilüfer Aydan sentenced for “insulting the president”; HDP’s Gergerlioğlu sent to prison



Former HDP MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu sent to prison


Former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who was stripped of his MP status last month based on a finalized conviction for “terrorism propaganda” over a social media post he had shared in 2016, was arrested by police on the evening of 2 April 2021 at his home in Ankara.


Gergerlioğlu, who was taken to the courthouse, was hospitalized later in the evening due to chest pain. After undergoing angiography at the hospital, Gergerlioğlu was placed in the intensive care unit, from where he was taken by police the next morning although his treatment was still ongoing and sent to the Sincan Prison.


Four journalists jailed in Van released at first hearing


Five journalists, four of whom have been in pre-trial detention for almost six months, appeared before the Van 5th High Criminal Court on 2 April 2021 for the first hearing of their trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”


Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur, JinNews reporter Şehriban Abi and journalist Nazan Sala were jailed pending trial in October for reporting on allegations that two locals had been tortured and thrown out of a chopper by soldiers in Van. Zeynep Durgut, another MA reporter who was arrested and released pending trial as part of the same investigation, is the fifth defendant in the case.


News reports penned by the journalists are held as evidence in the indictment, which alleges that the media outlets the journalists work for have been “publishing provocative content against the state.” Sala is additionally charged with “terrorism propaganda” for her social media posts.


At the end of the hearing, the Van 5th High Criminal Court ruled to release Bilen, Uğur, Sala and Abi pending trial under judicial control measures in the form of a monthly signature obligation and a ban on traveling abroad. The court set 2 July 2021 as the date for the second hearing.


Accordingly, Bilen, Uğur, Sala and Abi were released from the Van Prison later on 2 April. Meanwhile, the prosecutor filed an objection against the court’s decision to release the four journalists.


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


Columnist Yılmaz Özdil faces investigation over social media post


Sözcü newspaper columnist Yılmaz Özdil was summoned to the Istanbul Courthouse on 2 April 2021 to give his statement as part of an investigation launched against him by the Bursa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on the allegation of “insulting the memory of Atatürk” (under the Law no. 5816 on Crimes Committed against Atatürk) over a post Özdil had shared on social media. The investigation was launched after a citizen filed a complaint against Özdil.


Journalists covering demonstration in Kadıköy assaulted by police


Halk TV reporter Erdinç Yılmaz and cameraman Umur Çilingir were assaulted by police on 1 April 2021 while they were covering police intervention to disperse university students who were gathering in Istanbul’s Kadıköy to hold a demonstration in support of their peers who have been jailed for taking part in the Boğaziçi University protests. Police detained 35 university students during the intervention.


Council of State rules for stay of execution of new press card regulations


The Council of State ruled this week that amendments introduced in 2018 by the Presidential Directorate of Communications on the Press Cards Regulation, allowing the government to easily cancel press cards, violated press freedom and ordered a stay of execution.


The Council of State ruled that press cards cannot be canceled on grounds such as “conduct against public order or national security” or “damaging the professional dignity of journalism.”


Reacting to the Council of State decision on his Twitter account, the Presidency’s Director of Communications Fahrettin Altun wrote: “So long as we are on duty, we will keep combating those who carry out 'terrorism propaganda' in the guise of 'journalism'. Terror sympathisers should not rejoice in vain.”


Columnist Nagehan Alçı fined for “insulting” judge


The fourth hearing of HaberTürk columnist Nagehan Alçı’s trial on the charge of “insult by means of an audio, written or video message” under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) was held on 31 March 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.


Ruling in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court sentenced Alçı to a judicial fine of TL 7,080 for “insulting a public official through an audio, video or written message for the performance of their duty” (TCK 125/3-a). Due to a previous conviction in another case, the court did not defer Alçı’s sentence.


Alçı was on trial over an article titled “O Utanç Verici Karara Adalet Bakanı’nın Tepkisi” (Justice Minister's reaction to that shameful decision), published in HaberTürk newspaper on 15 June 2018.


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


Retrial of Atilla Taş and seven journalists adjourned until October


The second hearing of the retrial of journalists Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin, Yetkin Yıldız and musician Atilla Taş, who was a newspaper columnist between 2015 and 2016, was held on 31 March 2021 at the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court.


All eight were convicted in 2018 in the case publicly known as the "FETÖ media trial," where 26 defendants faced "terror" charges over alleged ties with the Fethullah Gülen network. Their convictions were overturned last year by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which held that Memiş, Kalyoncu, Çulhaoğlu, Tanık, Çetin and Yıldız should have been charged with "aiding a criminal organization without being its member" instead of “membership in a terrorist organization” and that Taş, who was convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization” should be charged with "insulting the president" and "publicly degrading the institutions and organs of the state."


In their interim ruling, the court decided to lift the monthly signature obligation judicial control measure imposed on the defendants but ruled for the continuation of their travel ban. Deciding to initiate procedures for the witnesses to be heard at the next hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 26 October.


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


Public ad authority imposes five-day ban on Evrensel daily


The Public Advertising Authority (BİK) imposed a five-day public ad ban on Evrensel newspaper over the title of a report the newspaper published on 3 February 2021. The report was titled “Gözaltı, yasak, saldırı durduramadı dayanışma büyüyor” (Arrests, bans, attacks couldn’t stop [protests], solidarity growing). BİK held that the word “attack” in the headline violated the Press Ethics Code.


MHP leader targets journalists, political commentators on social media


Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli on 31 March 2021 targeted journalists Necdet Saraç, Şaban Sevinç, Orhan Bursalı, Sevilay Yılman and political commentators Ali Haydar Fırat and Hakan Bayrakçı by naming them in a Twitter post and calling them “hired guns lobbying for an election” and “accusing” them of “speaking in behalf of the CHP on TV shows.”


RTÜK fines Halk TV and Tele 1


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed administrative fines on Halk Tv and Tele1 on the grounds that several shows aired recently on the opposition channels violated various articles of Law no. 6112.


RTÜK fined Halk TV for an episode of “Medya Mahallesi,” co-hosted by Ayşenur Arslan and Emin Çapa; allegations concerning former Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek voiced by journalist Murat Ağırel in an episode of the program “Özlem Gürses ile Kayda Geçsin”; and writer and political commentator Levent Gültekin’s remarks concerning the late Islamist politician Necmettin Erbakan during his program “İki Yorum.” Tele 1 was fined over the expression “islamic terror,” uttered by Emre Kongar during a recent episode of his program “18 Dakika.”


Actress Nilüfer Aydan sentenced for “insulting the president”


Actress Nilüfer Aydan was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president” (under TCK 299) in four Facebook posts she had shared in 2016, 2017 and 2018.


Aydan’s final hearing was held on 30 March 2021 at the Anadolu 37th Criminal Court of First Instance. The court deferred the sentence.


Activist-writer Temel Demirer acquitted in Suruç commemoration trial


Activist and writer Temel Demirer was acquitted of “praising an offense or an offender” charge (TCK 215) at the final hearing of his trial, held on 30 March 2021 at the Anadolu 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance.


Demirer was accused over his remarks in a speech he delivered in July 2017 during a demonstration organized in Kadıköy, Istanbul, to commemorate those killed in the 2015 suicide attack in Suruç.


Demirer was arrested on 25 July 2017, five days after making the speech. After giving his statement to a prosecutor at the courthouse the same day, he was released under judicial control measures and a ban on traveling abroad by the 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace.


More than a year later, on 26 September 2018, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued an indictment against Demirer, charging him with “praising an offense or an offender” for referring to Suphi Nejat Ağırnaslı, who was killed in Kobani in 2014 while he was fighting against ISIS.


Court issues reasoned judgment in Özgür Gündem main trial; prosecutor says defendants should have been convicted as charged


The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul issued its reasoned judgment in writing in the “Özgür Gündem main trial” against Eren Keskin, Zana (Bilir) Kaya, İnan Kızılkaya and Kemal Sancılı, which concluded last month after their files were separated from the main trial in 2020.


At the final hearing held on 15 February 2021, the court sentenced Kızılkaya, Keskin and Sancılı to 6 years and 3 months in prison on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” while former Co-Editor-in-Chief Kaya was sentenced to 2 years and 1 month for “systematically disseminating terrorism propaganda by means of the press.” The accusations stemmed from the editorial policy of the newspaper.


The Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court wrote in the reasoned judgment that Özgür Gündem “published all kinds of disinformation that could influence public opinion against Turkey; legitimized violent acts committed by the terrorist organization; […] published the instructions the organization sought to deliver to its supporters; [...] incited the public to hatred and rebellion,” and that it “was not established with the aim of publishing [a newspaper] but [to serve] as a news bulletin for the PKK/YPG.”


A report on the reasoned judgment can be accessed here.


Several days after the trial court issued their judgment in writing, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor filed an objection against the reasoned judgment, claiming that the defendants should have been sentenced for all the charges they faced in the indictment. All four were charged with “Disrupting the integrity of the state and the unity of the nation” under Article 302 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), “membership in a terrorist organization” under TCK Article 314/2, and “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law.


At least 74 journalists and media workers in prison


Following journalists Adnan Bilen, Cemil Uğur, Nazan Sala and Şehriban Abi’s release pending trial, as of 2 April 2021, at least 74 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.