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 - 293

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 293

Prosecutor appeals Bülent Şık’s acquittal; jailed journalist İsmail Çoban sentenced over newspaper clippings; journalists covering May Day demonstrations targeted by police; PİRHA reporter Ersin Özgül briefly detained



PİRHA reporter Ersin Özgül briefly detained


Ersin Özgül, an Izmir-based reporter for Pir News Agency (PİRHA), was taken into custody on 5 May 2021.


Özgül, who was arrested on the allegation of “membership in a terrorist organization” as part of a Diyarbakır-based investigation into the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), was taken to the anti-terror branch of the Izmir Police Department. The journalist was released later on 5 May after giving his statement at the police department.


Access to JinNews and Mezopotamya news agencies blocked by court


Access to the websites of JinNews and Mezopotamya news agency (MA) was blocked this week by an order of the Diyarbakır 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace. JinNews was blocked twice this week. The second access ban order was issued by the Diyarbakır 4th Criminal Judgeship of Peace.


Regional Court prosecutor appeals academic Bülent Şık’s acquittal


The Istanbul Regional Court of Justice prosecutor has appealed the acquittal of dismissed academic Bülent Şık, whose 2019 conviction for “disclosing confidential information obtained by virtue of duty” under Article 258 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) over a 2018 article series published in Cumhuriyet daily was overturned last week.


The prosecutor appealed the regional court’s judgment with the Supreme Court of Appeals this week, seeking the reversal of Şık's acquittal.


Şık, who was dismissed from Akdeniz University’s Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center for signing the 2016 Academics for Peace declaration, was sentenced in September 2019 to 15 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.


HaberTürk TV Ankara representative dismissed as MHP targets news presenter


Ebru Baki, a news presenter who hosts a daily financial news show on HaberTürk TV, was targeted on social media by government ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman İzzet Ulvi Yönter after the policies of the far-right political party were criticized in a recent broadcast. MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli additionally launched a boycott campaign against the channel on social media.


HaberTürk TV Ankara Representative Bülent Aydemir, who reacted to Yönter's statements and stated that the MHP administration should apologize to Ebru Baki, was subsequently dismissed by the channel’s executives.


Jailed journalist İsmail Çoban sentenced for collecting newspaper clippings


İsmail Çoban, the jailed former managing editor of the shuttered Kurdish newspaper Azadîya Welat, was recently sentenced to 2 years in prison on the charge of “conveying prohibited items to a prison or place of arrest” (TCK 297).


Çoban has been in pretrial detention in the Tarsus No. 3 T Type Closed Prison since April 2018. He is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization.” The accusation in the case stemmed from clippings of the shuttered Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, which Çoban had subscribed to in prison. The clippings he collected were confiscated during a search conducted in the prison in July 2019. The second and final hearing of Çoban’s trial was held on 31 March 2021 at the Tarsus 8th Criminal Court of First Instance. The court sentenced the journalist citing a ban concerning the 1 January 2018 and 2 March 2018 issues of Özgürlükçü Demokrasi.


ECtHR: Broadcast ban on “17-25 December” probe violated freedom of expression


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on 4 May 2021 that a broadcast ban issued by Turkish courts concerning the Parliamentary inquiry into 2013’s “17-25 December” corruption scandal involving four former ministers violated freedom of expression. The application was filed by journalist Banu Güven and academics Yaman Akdeniz and Kerem Altıparmak.


The ECtHR unanimously held that there had been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention in respect of Banu Güven, stating that the impugned injunction, which had amounted to a preventive measure aimed at prohibiting any future dissemination or publication of information, had had major repercussions on the applicant’s exercise of her right to freedom of expression on a topical issue. The ECtHR ordered Turkey to pay Banu Güven 1,500 euros in court expenses.


The Court declared Akdeniz and Altıparmak’s application inadmissible since they did not demonstrate how the impugned prohibition had affected them directly.


ECtHR rules lifting of HDP MP Filiz Kerestecioğlu’s parliamentary immunity violated freedom of expression


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on 4 May 2021 that the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of HDP lawmaker Filiz Kerestecioğlu in 2016 violated her freedom of expression.


The ECtHR referred to its case-law from the 22 December 2020 Grand Chamber judgment in the application of Selahattin Demirtaş, where it had found that the constitutional amendment of 20 May 2016 removing the parliamentary immunity of lawmakers sought to restrict the political speech of parliamentarians. Confirming the Grand Chamber’s analysis in the Selahattin Demirtaş judgment, the ECtHR held by a majority that there had been a violation of Article 10 of the Convention. The Court ordered Turkey to pay Kerestecioğlu 5,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 4,000 euros in costs and expenses.


Journalists covering May Day demonstrations targeted by police


Journalists covering last weekend’s May Day demonstrations in Ankara and Istanbul were assaulted by the police.


Journalist Sultan Eylem Keleş, who was filming the police intervention against demonstrators headed to the Taksim Square, was removed from the area by the police. In Ankara, police officers grabbed Yol TV reporter Özge Uyanık’s mobile phone, threw it on the ground and tried to delete the footage she had been recording, citing the General Directorate of Security circular dated 27 April 2021.


On 5 May, Uyanık went to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, where she filed a criminal complaint against the General Directorate of Security and the officers who prevented her from covering the demonstration.


At least 68 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 7 May 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.