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 - 302

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 302

Prosecutor appeals Melis Alphan’s acquittal; Cem Şimşek sentenced for “insulting the president”; Erk Acarer assaulted; Artı TV reporter Nazım Fayık taken into custody; Halk TV fined over Grup Yorum song


“Bloomberg trial” postponed


The trial against Bloomberg journalists Fercan Yalınkılıç and Kerim Karakaya and 36 other people, including journalists Sedef Kabaş, Merdan Yanardağ, Orhan Kalkan and Mustafa Sönmez on the charge of "violating the Capital Market Law" over a report on Turkey’s 2018 currency crisis was scheduled to resume on 9 July 2021 at the Istanbul 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance. The trial has been postponed until a later date since the judge overseeing the trial was on leave.


Prosecutor requests further investigation in “RedHack trial”


The “RedHack trial,” in which journalists Ömer Çelik, Metin Yoksu, Tunca Öğreten, Eray Sargın, Derya Okatan and Mahir Kanaat stand accused for their coverage of former Minister Berat Albayrak’s emails leaked by RedHack, resumed on 9 July 2021 at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court.


This was the 12th hearing in the trial, where the journalists face various charges, including “terrorism propaganda” (TMK 7/2) “hindrance or destruction of a data processing system” (TCK 244/2), “aiding a criminal organization without being its member” (TCK 220/6) and “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2).


P24 monitored the hearing where Öğreten and lawyers representing the journalists were in attendance.


Submitting a request for further investigation, the prosecutor asked the court to inquire of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office about the outcome of the investigation against RedHack and to request a copy of the indictment against the hacker group if an indictment has been issued.


Accepting the prosecutor's request for further investigation and ruling for the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on the journalists, the court adjourned the trial until 9 December 2021.


Prosecutor appeals acquittal of Melis Alphan


The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office appealed the acquittal of journalist Melis Alphan in a recent trial, in which she was charged with “terrorism propaganda” for sharing a photo taken during the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır in 2015 on social media.


At her second hearing held on 21 May 2021, Alphan was acquitted by the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court on the grounds that the elements of the alleged offense were not present.


Man who attempted to shoot Can Dündar sentenced to 3 years, sentence deferred


The retrial of Murat Şahin, the assailant who attempted to shoot Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, on 6 May 2016 in front of the Istanbul Courthouse, concluded on 8 July 2021. Şahin had also injured NTV reporter Yağız Şenkal during the scuffle.


The Istanbul 28th Criminal Court of First Instance gave the assailant a combined sentence of 3 years and 15 days in prison and a judicial fine of TL 500 for threatening with a gun, intentional injury and carrying an unlicensed weapon. The court granted Şahin a reduction in his sentence for “good behavior” and deferred his sentence. Şahin will not go to prison.


“Insult and libel” case against Yetkin Yıldız adjourned until November


The 18th hearing of journalist Yetkin Yıldız’s trial on charges of “insult” (TCK 125) and “libel” (TCK 267) over an article published on 23 July 2015 on the news portal Aktif Haber was held on 8 July 2021. Yıldız was in attendance.


The trial, overseen by the Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance, was launched in 2016 based on a complaint filed by former Interior Minister Efkan Ala. The accusations stem from a news article titled “Fuat Avni Suruç patlaması ile ilgili Twitter’dan çarpıcı mesajlar paylaştı” (striking remarks by Fuat Avni concerning the Suruç bombing).


Based on a previous decision by the Bakırköy court, the sentence Yıldız was given in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” is a prejudicial question in this case. Yıldız told the court that his retrial has been adjourned until 26 October.


The prosecutor demanded that the court wait for the conclusion of Yıldız’s retrial. Ruling to inquire of the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court about Yıldız’s retrial, the court set 2 November 2021 as the date for the next hearing.


Evrensel’s Cem Şimşek sentenced for “insulting” Erdoğan


Evrensel daily’s News Director Cem Şimşek was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting the president” (TCK 299) at the sixth and final hearing of his trial, held on 8 July 2021 at the Bakırköy 27th Criminal Court of First Instance. The court suspended the sentence. Accordingly, Şimşek will be subject to supervision for one year.


The journalist was accused over a report published on 2 August 2015 about German cartoonists' depictions of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He was the responsible managing editor of the newspaper at the time.


Trial against cartoonist Öznur Kalender postponed


Cartoonist Öznur Kalender’s trial over a cartoon in which he depicted cult leader Ahmet Mahmut Ünlü was scheduled to resume on 8 July 2021 at the Anadou 14th Criminal Court of First Instance. Kalender is accused of “hurting religious values by insulting religious leaders” in the trial, launched following a complaint filed with the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER).


According to a social media post shared by Kalender earlier this week, the trial has been postponed until a later date.


Erk Acarer attacked by three men who broke into his home


Berlin-based Turkish journalist Erk Acarer was attacked by three men carrying guns and knives who broke into his home on the night of 7 July 2021. Acarer was hospitalized due to the blows he received on his head.


Recounting the attack to BirGün newspaper the next day, Acarer said that the three men punched him and kicked him while threatening that “worse things are going to happen” if he does not “stop writing about the families of people and their values.”


Halk TV fined, show suspended over Grup Yorum song


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) fined Halk TV over a live performance of the Grup Yorum song “Cemo” during a recent televised fundraising concert aimed at helping musicians in need due to the Covid-19 pandemic. RTÜK imposed an administrative fine and a three-episode broadcast suspension penalty on Halk TV on the grounds that the song “glorified and encouraged terrorism,” violating Article 8/1-d of Law No. 6112.


RTÜK rendered the 7 July 2021 decision through a majority vote, with İlhan Taşçı and Okan Konuralp voting against the penalties. The broadcasting watchdog also fined FOX TV, KRT, TELE1 and TV100 this week.


Journalists Ufuk Şanlı and Seyid Kılıç released from prison


Business journalist Ufuk Şanlı and former TRT reporter Seyid Kılıç, who were jailed pending trial in July 2016 on alleged ties with the Fethullah Gülen network and sentenced in 2018 to 7.5 years in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” as part of the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” were released from Silivri Prison on 7 July 2021 after completing the execution of their respective sentences.


The sentences given to Abdullah Kılıç, Bayram Kaya, Bünyamin Köseli, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Habip Güler, İbrahim Balta, Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammed Sait Kuloğlu, Murat Aksoy, Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı and teacher Davut Aydın were upheld in March 2020 by the Supreme Court of Appeals.


HDP’s Gergerlioğlu released based on Constitutional Court judgment


Former HDP lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu was released from Sincan Prison in Ankara on 6 July 2021 based on the Constitutional Court’s recent judgment finding violations of his right to engage in political activity and freedom of expression. The Kocaeli 2nd High Criminal Court ordered Gergerlioğlu’s release upon receiving the top court’s judgment.


Gergerlioğlu was imprisoned several weeks after he was stripped of his MP status in March after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld a 2.5-year sentence he was given on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” in a trial launched before he was elected. The charge stemmed from a news article Gergerlioğlu had shared on social media.


Issuing its judgment in Gergerlioğlu’s individual application on 1 July 2021, the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to be elected and to engage in political activity, enshrined in Article 67 of the Constitution, and freedom of expression (Article 26) had been violated.


The top court’s Gergerlioğlu judgment was published in the Official Gazette on 8 July 2021.


Artı TV reporter, Gergerlioğlu’s son detained during Justice Watch


One day before Gergerlioğlu’s release, on 5 July 2021, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) launched a Justice Watch for Gergerlioğlu in front of the Sincan Prison in Ankara, calling for his release based on the Constitutional Court’s judgment. Police violently intervened on those participating in the justice watch, detaining Gergerlioğlu’s son, Salih Gergerlioğlu, and four others, including Artı TV cameraman Nazım Fayık. Two other journalists covering the justice watch, Doğrusu Haber reporter Büşra Taşkıran and Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Berna Kişin were also threatened and assaulted by the police.


Salih Gergerlioğlu, İbrahim Demiryürek, Ali İmran Daskaya and Bahadır Demircan were released later on 5 July by the prosecutor’s office. Artı TV’s Nazım Fayık was released under judicial control measures by the criminal judgeship of peace he was referred to.


Prosecutor demands acquittal for Derya Okatan in “insult” case


The fourth hearing of journalist Derya Okatan’s trial on “insult” (TCK 125) charge over a report published in May 2016, when she was the responsible editor of the Etkin news agency (ETHA), was held on 6 July 2021 at the Istanbul 39th Criminal Court of First Instance.


Initially a decision of non-prosecution was issued in the investigation against Okatan. When the complainant, a lawyer mentioned in ETHA’s report, objected to the non-prosecution decision, the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecution should go ahead and an indictment was filed against Okatan in September 2019.


P24 monitored the hearing. The prosecutor submitted their final opinion, demanding Okatan’s acquittal because the news article should be deemed within the scope of press freedom. Okatan’s lawyer said they would make their final statement after the complainant’s lawyer presents their statement in response to the prosecutor’s opinion. The court set 16 December 2021 as the date for the next hearing.


Hayko Bağdat’s trial on “insulting the president” charge postponed


A trial in which journalist Hayko Bağdat is charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) resumed on 6 July 2021 at the Istanbul 51st Criminal Court of First Instance. The court postponed the trial until a later date as Bağdat’s lawyers submitted letters of excuse.


MA reporter Zeynep Durgut faces new investigation


Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Zeynep Durgut was called in for questioning on 6 July 2021 in connection with a new investigation on the allegation of “praising an offense or an offender.” Durgut is accused of covering a meeting organized on 1 July 2021 by the Cizre district branch of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).


Request for recusal of judge rejected in Boğaziçi trial


The trial against seven university students who are charged with “inciting hatred and hostility” (TCK Article 216/1) for putting on an exhibition on the Boğaziçi University campus to protest the school’s gov’t-appointed Rector Melih Bulu resumed on 5 July 2021 at the Istanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance.


P24 monitored the hearing. Campus security officers Alparslan Çep and Faruk Kardoğan testified as witnesses during the hearing.


The indictment accuses all seven students over a depiction of the Kaaba in an exhibition put together on 29 January on the Boğaziçi campus. The indictment cites excerpts from a report by the pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper about the exhibition as evidence against the students. Claiming that the exhibition was a “provocation,” the Yeni Şafak report wrote that a picture of the Kaaba “was placed on the ground with an LGBT rag thrown over it.”


During the hearing, the presiding judge asked Kardoğan if he knew the students and asked him to turn around and identify them. Despite objections by the students' lawyers that this was unlawful, the judge and the witness carried on.


Levent Pişkin, one of the lawyers representing the students, demanded that the judge recuse himself from the case on the grounds that he was clearly disturbed by the questions asked to the campus security officers who testified as witnesses, that he guided the witnesses when they could not answer the questions, and that therefore the court had lost its impartiality.


The prosecutor asked the court to reject the demand for the recusal of the judge, arguing that it was aimed at prolonging the proceedings.


Issuing an interim ruling following a brief recess, the court rejected the demand for the recusal of the judge. Ruling to send the decision to the High Criminal Court on Duty for review, the judge adjourned the trial until 17 November 2021.


Interior Minister files TL 1 mln lawsuit against Cumhuriyet daily


Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu filed a compensation case against Cumhuriyet newspaper, claiming a record TL 1 million in non-pecuniary damages, alleging that a number of articles published by the newspaper violated his “personal rights.”


In a written statement concerning the lawsuit, Soylu’s lawyer said: “A total of 313 news articles and columns, 254 of which directly targeted Süleyman Soylu, have been published by Cumhuriyet newspaper for the past 52 days. These news stories targeting my client's personal rights are completely fictional and untrue; they are insulting and libelous; and, considering the way they were written, they constitute an abuse of the right to inform the public, and this activity is not journalism.”


Top court: Temporary closure of Özgür Gündem violated freedom of expression, press freedom


The Constitutional Court has ruled that the Istanbul 8th Criminal Judgeship of Peace decision rendered on 16 August 2016 to temporarily close Özgür Gündem newspaper violated freedom of expression and freedom of the press, safeguarded in Articles 26 and 28 of the Constitution.


In another decision regarding the application filed on 26 September 2016 by lawyers Özcan Kılıç and Sercan Korkmaz on behalf of the newspaper’s owner, executives and staff, the Constitutional Court found claims by some of the applicants that their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press had been violated “inadmissible.”


At least 63 journalists and media workers in prison


Following Ufuk Şanlı and Seyid Kılıç’s release, as of 9 July 2021 at least 63 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.