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 - 300

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 300

AFP’s Bülent Kılıç taken into custody; at least two journalists assaulted in a week; prosecutor seeks sentence for Cumhuriyet journalists Ocak, Özbey, Akça and Arık; new investigation launched against Ahmet Kanbal, Yağmur Kaya and Eren Keskin


AFP’s Bülent Kılıç detained while covering Pride March in Istanbul


Agence France-Presse (AFP) photojournalist Bülent Kılıç was taken into custody and cuffed behind his back on 26 June 2021 in Istanbul as he was covering the Pride March in Taksim. Police intervened violently on people as they were gathering on Saturday in Beyoğlu for the Pride March. At least 25 people were arrested during the police intervention. Kılıç was released later on Saturday.


Prosecutor seeks sentence for 4 Cumhuriyet journalists


The third hearing of Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak, Managing Editor İpek Özbey, Responsible Managing Editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça and photojournalist Vedat Arık’s trial on charges of “violating the secrecy of one's private life” (TCK 134) and “marking officials involved in the fight against terrorism as targets” (TMK 6/1) was held on 24 June 2021 at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court.


Submitting their final opinion, the prosecutor demanded that all four journalists be convicted as charged. Granting the journalists time to prepare their final defense statements, the court adjourned the trial until 1 December 2021.


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


Kibriye Evren’s trial adjourned until November


The 13th hearing of Jin News reporter Kibriye Evren’s trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held on 24 June 2021 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court.


Ruling to wait for the outcome of its previous interim ruling concerning witnesses and to seek the Mersin 2nd High Criminal Court’s approval to merge both cases against Evren, the court adjourned the trial until 11 November 2021.


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


Can Dündar’s “Özgür Gündem” trial adjourned until December


The 14th hearing of a trial in which Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhurieyt daily, is charged with “publishing statements by terrorist organizations” (TMK 6/2) over his participation in a 2016 campaign in support of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, was held on 24 June 2021 at the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court.


Dündar’s lawyers submitted letters of excuse. The court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Dündar and the response to the letter rogatory issued for Dündar’s statement to be taken in Germany, and adjourned the trial until 23 December 2021.


Court issues arrest warrant for witness in Şerife Oruç’s trial


The 17th hearing of former Dicle news agency (DİHA) reporter Şerife Oruç’s trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 24 June 2021 at the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court.


Oruç did not attend the hearing. She was represented by her lawyer, Mesut Aydın. The lawyer told the court that they withdrew their request for a witness named Devran Çakır, who testified against Oruç, to be heard in court because the witness has still not been brought to court despite all the correspondence. Ruling to issue an arrest warrant for the witness, the court adjourned the trial until 11 November 2021.


Officers who arrested journalist Beyza Kural in 2015 go on trial


Three police officers who used violence against former Bianet reporter Beyza Kural in 2015 as she was covering a demonstration in Istanbul appeared before court on 23 June 2021 for the first hearing of their trial. The police officers are charged with “Violation of the freedom to work or labor by using force, threats or by any other unlawful act” (TCK 117/1).


The trial, overseen by the Istanbul 35th Criminal Court of First Instance, follows on the heels of a Constitutional Court judgment rendered in January 2021, which held that Kural’s arrest violated three provisions of the Constitution: freedom of expression, freedom of the press and prohibition of ill-treatment.


In an interim ruling, the judge ordered that the third officer who failed to attend the hearing be brought to court for the next hearing. The judge rejected Kural’s lawyer’s request for additional statements to be taken from the defendants on threat and assault charges since these charges are not in the indictment. The next hearing of the trial will be held on 24 September 2021.


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


Mustafa Sönmez acquitted of “insulting the president”


Economist and journalist Mustafa Sönmez’s trial on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299/1-2) over three social media posts he had shared in 2015 and 2016 concluded on 23 June 2021.


Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the Anadolu 26th Criminal Court of First Instance ruled for Sönmez’s acquittal on the grounds that the legal elements of the alleged offense were not present. Sönmez announced the acquittal verdict on Twitter.


İHA reporter Mustafa Uslu assaulted in Kocaeli


Mustafa Uslu, a reporter for İhlas news agency (İHA), was attacked on 22 June 2021 in Kocaeli province while he was covering demolition work carried out on a farm owned by İyi Party Group Deputy Chairman Lütfü Türkkan.


Uslu was severely beaten by the four assailants, who allegedly worked at Türkkan’s farm. Uslu was hospitalized following the attack, during which his camera and other equipment were also broken. The assailants were taken into custody.


Trial of Özgür Gündem’s Aykol and Çapan adjourned until November


A trial in which former Özgür Gündem Co-Editor-in-Chief Hüseyin Aykol, Responsible Editor Reyhan Çapan and several columnists of the shuttered newspaper are charged with “terrorism propaganda” (TMK 7/2) and “praising an offense or and offender” (TCK 215) resumed on 22 June 2021 at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.


P24 monitored the hearing, which marked the 20th since the beginning of the case. Çapan and Aykol’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç was in attendance. Kılıç requested that the court wait for the outcome of the Supreme Court of Appeals review of a previous ruling by the same court against his clients on the same charge.


In its interim ruling, the court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants issued for defendants Kemal Yakut and Hasan Başak and adjourned the trial until 3 November 2021.


“KCK Press trial” adjourned once again


The “KCK Press trial,” in which 46 journalists and media workers face various “terrorism” charges, resumed on 22 June 2021 at the Istanbul 3rd High Criminal Court. This was the 22nd hearing in the trial, which has been dragging on since 2012.


P24 monitored the hearing, where the lawyers representing the defendants were in attendance. The lawyers and the trial prosecutor demanded that the court wait for the submission of requested documents. Accepting the requests, the court adjourned the trial until 23 November 2021.


The 46 press members on trial were detained on 20 December 2011 in a sweeping raid targeting the Dicle news agency, Özgür Gündem, Azadiya Welat, and Demokratik Modernite newspapers, and the distribution company Fırat Dağıtım. Among them, 32 were jailed pending trial on 24 December. The jailed defendants have since been released. The indictment accuses the journalists over their work.


Yeniçağ reporter İbrahim Akkuş assaulted


İbrahim Akkuş, a local reporter for Yeniçağ newspaper based in Samsun province, who has been revealing the shortcomings of the local state hospital recently constructed in 19 Mayıs district, was beaten by the employees of the company that built the hospital.


Akkuş, who has been writing about the faulty points in the construction for the past three months, was previously threatened by the construction company’s employees due to his coverage. Akkuş filed a criminal complaint after the attack. The attackers were released after their statements were taken by authorities.


New investigation launched against Eren Keskin, Ahmet Kanbal, Yağmur Kaya


A new investigation was launched against Lawyer Eren Keskin, the co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD), and journalists Yağmur Kaya and Ahmet Kanbal on the allegation of “marking officials involved in the fight against terrorism as a target” based on a complaint by Deputy Commander General of Gendarmerie Lt. General Musa Çitil.


Eren Keskin is accused over a statement she made in response to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu’s remarks targeting HDP members regarding the rape case concerning Sergeant Musa Orhan. Keskin's post said: “Many years ago, before there was Musa Orhan, there was Musa Çitil. He was a commander in Mardin in the ’90s. He was tried without arrest for sexual assault against Ş.E. He was acquitted. Years later, he served as a commander in Diyarbakır 'Sur.'"


Journalist Yağmur Kaya is facing investigation for her interview with Eren Keskin, while Ahmet Kanbal, who was recently called in to the Mardin Police Department for questioning, is also accused over a social media post. The investigation was launched by the Aydın Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.


Contractors who attacked journalists Yılmaz and Akbaş appear in court


The trial of contractor Şahin Yağar and his relatives, who attacked journalists İdris Yılmaz and Erhan Akbaş in 2017 as they were seeking comment from the contractor on allegations of irregularities concerning a public tender organized by the trustee appointed to the Erciş Municipality in Van province, began on 21 June 2021.


The case, launched based on a complaint by journalists Yılmaz and Akbaş, is overseen by the Erciş 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Yılmaz was in attendance while the contractors Şahin Yağar and Mehmet Yağar, who have been imprisoned for embezzlement, addressed the court from the Erciş A Type Prison via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS.


Şahin Yağar claimed in his defense statement that Yılmaz and Akbaş had “threatened” him and “attacked him using their cameras.”


Responding to Yağar’s claims, İdris Yılmaz told the court that they wanted to contact the contractor, seeking their comment after finding out about the irregularities concerning the Erciş coastal road project and that the contractor called them “terrorists” when they asked him questions and that they were violently attacked by Yağar and 13 other people, who also broke their cameras and phones.


After hearing a short defense statement by Mehmet Yağar, the court adjourned the trial until 13 October 2021.


At least 67 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 26 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.