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 - 292

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 292

Academic Bülent Şık acquitted as court overturns his conviction over 2018 article series; BirGün editor Eren Tutel charged with “insulting public official”; five journalists stand trial for covering 2019 protest in Mardin


Academic Bülent Şık acquitted as court overturns his conviction


Food safety expert Bülent Şık was acquitted of “disclosing confidential information obtained by virtue of duty” (Article 258 of the Turkish Penal Code) as the 13th Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, overturned his conviction this week.


Şık, a former academic who was dismissed from Akdeniz University’s Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace declaration, was sentenced in September 2019 to 1 year and 3 months in prison for “disclosing” the findings of a study conducted by the Health Ministry concerning carcinogenic pesticides and other toxins found in agricultural products in Turkey. The accusation stemmed from an article series Şık had penned for Cumhuriyet daily in April 2018.


The appellate court held that the information Şık wrote about in his articles could not be deemed confidential or restricted by nature.


CHP’s Kaftancıoğlu ordered to pay TL 56,000 to President Erdoğan


Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul Provincial Chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu was ordered to pay TL 56,000 to President Erdoğan in non-pecuniary damages in a compensation case filed over her social media posts.


The final hearing of the lawsuit was held on 29 April 2021 at the Büyükçekmece 6th Civil Court. Ruling that Kaftancıoğlu’s social media posts involved “defamatory remarks,” the court ordered Kaftancıoğlu to pay TL 56,000 to Erdoğan in compensation.


Broadcasting watchdog RTÜK fines KRT and TELE1


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) fined KRT and TELE1 over commentary critical of the government by two politicians who recently appeared as guests on these opposition TV channels.


RTÜK fined KRT over CHP lawmaker Engin Altay’s remarks concerning President Erdoğan, the judiciary and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). TELE1 was fined over politician Rifat Serdaroğlu’s comments concerning the AKP, which, according to RTÜK, were “uttered in such fashion as if he were talking about a terrorist organization” and “could damage the AKP’s reputation.”


Journalist Mustafa Hoş summoned to prosecutor's office over latest book


Journalist Mustafa Hoş announced on his Twitter account this week that he was recently summoned to the courthouse to give his statement to a prosecutor in relation to a chapter in his latest book NeoTürkiye'nin Panzehiri Hafızadır (cure to NeoTurkey is memory) about the murder of Mehmet Mert Bayraktar in the 1990s.


The prosecutor's office claimed that statements in the book “put the complainant Özdemir Bayraktar and his family under suspicion.” Mehmet Mert Bayrakter was the nephew of Özdemir Bayraktar, the founder of the defense industry company that manufactures drones for the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).


Two Gezi Park trials merged


The trial against seven “Gezi Park trial” defendants whose files were separated at the final hearing in February 2020 because they did not attend hearings -- including exiled journalist Can Dündar -- resumed on 28 April 2021 at the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court.


The court decided to merge the file against Dündar, actors Memet Ali Alabora and Ayşe Pınar Alabora, writer Handan Meltem Arıkan and civil society employees Gökçe Yılmaz, Hanzade Hikmet Germiyanoğlu and İnanç Ekmekçi with the main trial, which was remanded to the trial court in January, when the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice overturned the acquittals of nine other defendants in the case, including imprisoned businessman and civil society leader Osman Kavala.


The “Gezi trial” is set to resume on 21 May 2021 at the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court.


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


BirGün editor Eren Tutel charged with “insulting public official”


Eren Tutel, an editor for BirGün newspaper, is charged with “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) in a new indictment, where the accusation stems from Tutel’s reports on corruption allegations concerning the Turkish Wushu Federation (TWF).


The case was launched based on a complaint filed by TWF Vice President Abdurrahman Akyüz and his daughter, Elif Akyüz. The first hearing of Tutel’s trial will be held on 30 September 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.


Security Directorate bans audiovisual recording during protests


The General Directorate of Security banned all audiovisual recording during public demonstrations in a circular issued this week. The circular, dated 27 April 2021, said legal action will be taken against anyone who records such footage during protests. The circular argued that “sharing audio and video recordings of citizens and police officers recorded during protests on social media would amount to a ‘violation of one’s private life’ and ‘illegal processing of personal data’.”


Five journalists stand trial for covering 2019 protest in Mardin


A trial where Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporters Ahmet Kanbal and Mehmet Şah Oruç, JinNews reporter Rojda Aydın and journalists Nurcan Yalçın and Halime Parlak are accused of “Violating Law no. 2911” got underway on 27 April 2021 at the Mardin 1st Criminal Court of First Instance.


All five journalists were taken into custody on 20 August 2019 in Mardin as they were covering demonstrations in protest of the government’s removal of the city’s mayor. They were released six days later.


An investigation launched against the five journalists and three protesters on the allegations of "membership in a terrorist organization" and "terrorism propaganda" was dismissed by the prosecution, which later charged all eight with “participating in an illegal demonstration without weapons and refusing to disperse despite a warning.”


At the beginning of the hearing, the journalists’ lawyers asked the court to acquit their clients as they were on trial for covering the protests as press members. The prosecutor demanded that the court reject the demands for acquittal, claiming that “the press cards the journalists held at the time were not valid.” The court rejected the demands and went on to hear the defense statements. The second hearing of the trial will be held on 13 October 2021.


Journalists covering public statements briefly detained; reporters barred from covering Kobani trial


Mezopotamya news agency reporter Muhammed Enes Sezgin, JinNews reporter Sena Dolar and Kızılbayrak reporter Kardelen Yoğungan were taken into custody by police along with 30 protesters in Istanbul on 27 April 2021. The journalists were covering a public statement against the ban on this year’s May Day celebrations. The journalists and the protesters were released later on 27 April after their statements were taken at the police station.


On 26 April 2021, Mezopotamya news agency reporters Diren Yurtsever and Selman Güzelyüz were barred from covering the first hearing of the Kobani trial against HDP’s former and current executives and members. Police officers forcibly removed the two journalists from the Sincan Prison complex in Ankara, where the hearing took place, and used physical violence against the reporters. Police officers also reportedly told the journalists that they had received orders from their superiors to not let Mezopotamya news agency anywhere near the courtroom.


Also on 26 April, Mezopotamya news agency reporter Muhammed Enes Sezgin and Artı TV cameraman Bilal Meyveci were briefly detained by police in front of the HDP’s Istanbul provincial branch as they were covering a press statement delivered by HDP politicians about the Kobani trial. The journalists were released after their statements were taken but Meyveci’s camera was broken by police in the scuffle.


Supreme Court of Appeals upholds Demirtaş’s “propaganda” sentence


A prison sentence of 4 years and 8 months given to the jailed former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” was upheld on 26 April 2021 by the Supreme Court of Appeals. The sentence was given by the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court. The accusation stemmed from a speech Demirtaş delivered during a Newroz celebration in Istanbul held on 17 March 2013.


Journalist Durket Süren’s trial to continue in September


The sixth hearing of journalist Durket Süren’s trial on the charges of “aiding a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held on 26 April 2021 at the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court.


Süren is accused over her Twitter posts and for selling the banned issues of the now-defunct Azadiya Welat and Özgür Gündem newspapers. Ruling to wait for the submission of the digital forensics report, the court adjourned the trial until 20 September 2021.


At least 68 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 30 April 2021, at least 68 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.