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 - 299

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 299

Court reverses decision to drop “propaganda” charge against Aslı Erdoğan; Oktay Candemir appears in court for new trial; Deniz Yücel charged with “insulting the president” in new indictment


Appellate court reverses decision to drop “propaganda” charge against Aslı Erdoğan


The decision to drop the “terrorism propaganda” charge against novelist and editorial advisory board member Aslı Erdoğan in the “Özgür Gündem main trial” was recently reversed by a regional court of justice in Istanbul. The appellate court sent the file to the trial court for a re-examination to determine whether the articles Erdoğan stood trial for were also published online.


At the final hearing of the trial, held on 14 February 2020, the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court had decided to drop the “propaganda” charge against Erdoğan citing the four-month statute of limitations prescribed in Turkey’s Press Law.


An excerpt from the appellate court’s judgment read: “According to the indictment, the articles in the case were also published on the [newspaper’s] website, in which case, it would not be possible to apply Article 26 of the Press Law to crimes committed via the Internet. … The court rendered its judgment in writing with insufficient examination and justification, without examining whether a judgment should be made according to the press law or general provisions.”


Erdoğan was jailed pending trial on 19 August 2016 as part of the Özgür Gündem main trial. She was released pending trial after spending more than 4 months behind bars. At the end of the trial, she was acquitted of “disrupting the unity and integrity of the state” (TCK 302) and “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2) charges while the “terrorism propaganda” (TMK 7/2) charge was dropped.


Levent Üzümcü gives statement over ellipsis in Twitter post


Actor Levent Üzümcü announced on 18 June 2021 that he was called in for questioning over a recent Twitter post. “I gave a statement at the Anadolu Courthouse because of an ellipsis (…) I added at the end of a tweet,” Üzümcü wrote. A week ago, Üzümcü was summoned to give his statement on the allegation that he “increased the value of the US dollar by speculating in a Twitter post” that he shared three years ago.


Local man faces investigation for criticizing AKP government


An investigation was launched against a man named Mehmet Ali Sancaktutan on the allegation of “insulting the president” (TCK 299) for criticizing Turkey’s economy and the AKP government in a street interview posted on the YouTube channel “Sokak Kedisi.” Sancaktutan, who lives in Rize, said he has also been receiving threats on social media ever since the interview.


Compensation case against Hazal Ocak adjourned until October


The second hearing of a compensation case filed by former Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak against Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak was held on 17 June 2021 at the Istanbul 8th Civil Court. Albayrak is seeking TL 200,000 in damages over Ocak’s report titled “Damat İşi Biliyor,” published on 20 January 2020.


P24 monitored the hearing, where Ocak’s lawyer Buket Yazıcı was in attendance. Albayrak’s lawyer did not attend.


Ocak stood trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” over the same report and was acquitted on 27 October 2020. Ruling to wait for the acquittal judgment rendered by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance to become final, the court adjourned the trial until 14 October.


Oktay Candemir appears in court for new trial


Journalist Oktay Candemir appeared before a criminal court in Van province on 17 June 2021 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”


Candemir is on trial for his social media posts and images on his digital equipment seized during a raid on his home in April 2019. Candemir, who was taken into custody during the raid, was later released under judicial control measures. An indictment was issued against Candemir two years later, accusing the journalist of “terrorism propaganda” based on a number of posts he shared on Facebook between 2014 and 2015 and news footage he took at meetings and demonstrations organized by the Democratic Society Party (DTP) in Ağrı, Kars and Iğdır between 2005 and 2009.


The trial is overseen by the Van 5th High Criminal Court. After hearing Candemir and his lawyer’s statements, the court decided to send the file to the prosecutor's office for the preparation of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 23 September 2021.


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


Journalist Lokman Gezgin imprisoned


Journalist Lokman Gezgin, who went to a hospital in Van province on 16 June 2021 to receive his Covid-19 vaccine, was detained by the police upon leaving the hospital on the grounds that he had a finalized prison sentence. Gezgin was brought to Van Courthouse following procedures at the police station. At the courthouse, he was arrested and sent to Van T Type Prison.


Alican Uludağ and Olcay Büyüktaş Akça acquitted


Journalists Alican Uludağ and Olcay Büyüktaş Akça were acquitted in a trial where they faced up to three years in prison over a news report claiming that the police had intelligence about a deadly ISIS attack in Ankara’s central train station in 2015, which killed 103 people preparing for a peace rally.


Uludağ, a former reporter for Cumhuriyet daily who penned the report, and Büyüktaş Akça, who is the responsible editor of the newspaper, were charged with “disclosing the identities of informants” under Article 6/3 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK).


The acquittal verdict came at the end of the fourth hearing in the trial, overseen by the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court on 15 June 2021.


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


ECtHR finds right violations in “insulting Erdoğan” and “Facebook like” cases


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Turkey violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the application filed by Ömür Çağdaş Ersoy, who was handed down a judicial fine in 2016 on the charge of “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) for a public statement he made in 2012, criticizing then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.


In the judgment issued on 15 June 2021, the ECtHR concluded that the right to freedom of expression was violated in Ersoy's case and decided that Turkey should pay Ersoy 4,000 euros in total for non-pecuniary damages and costs and expenses.


Also issuing its judgment in Selma Melike's application on the same day, the ECtHR ruled that the dismissal of a public employee for “liking” Facebook posts with political content violated Article 10 of the ECHR and ordered Turkey to pay the applicant 2,000 euros in non-pecuniary damage.


Trial against journalist Ayşe Kara gets under way


Journalist Ayşe Kara appeared before the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 15 June 2021 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2).


The indictment alleges that Kara participated in a 2016 demonstration in Mardin, which she covered as a journalist, that she was a member of the Kongreya Jinên Azad (KJA) and carried out activities within the Democratic Society Congress (DTK).


Ayşe Kara and her lawyer were present at the hearing. Addressing the court in Kurdish through an interpreter, Kara said she is a journalist, not a member of the DTK, and explained that she went to the DTK building as a journalist. The judge asked her if she holds a press card and which media outlet she works for. Kara told the court she does hold a press identification card and that she is currently a freelance journalist. Adding that she was detained while covering a rally organized by the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Mardin in 2016, Kara denied the accusation against her and demanded her acquittal.


Kara’s lawyer, Resul Temur, presented to the court a copy of his client’s press identification card. Temur also asked the court to lift the travel ban imposed on Kara because she has not been able to visit her family in Iraqi Kurdistan Region due to the ban. The prosecutor demanded the continuation of Kara’s travel ban.


In its interim ruling, the court rejected the request to lift the travel ban imposed on Kara. Ruling to send the case file to the prosecution, the court postponed the trial until 9 November 2021.


Cem Bahtiyar acquitted of “insulting the president”


The final hearing of journalist Cem Bahtiyar’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299) over a social media post was held on 14 June 2021 at the Bandırma 1st Criminal Court of First Instance. The court ruled for Bahtiyar’s acquittal. The journalist was on trial for replying, “Yeah, whatever” to a post by President Erdoğan.


Deniz Yücel charged with “insulting the president” in new indictment


Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel is charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) for calling President Erdoğan a “dictator” in an article published on 6 November 2016.


The new indictment has been merged with an upcoming trial in which Yücel is accused of “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation and the Turkish Republic” (TCK 301/1) over two articles he penned in October 2016 for Die Welt.


The first hearing of Yücel’s trial is set for 1 July 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.


Buse Üçer acquitted in trial over social media post


Buse Üçer, who was charged with “Threat with the intention of causing fear and panic among the public” (TCK 213) over a social media post in which she reacted to murders of women, was acquitted at the final hearing of her trial, held on 14 June 2021.


Üçer, who wrote “Soon we will set this city on fire!” in reaction to the murder of four women on the same day, was arrested in Ankara on New Year's Eve due to her social media post. The next day she was referred to court with a request for imprisonment pending trial. She was released by the court under judicial control measures.


At least 67 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 18 June 2021, at least 67 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.