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 - 304

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 304

Attacker sets fire to printing house of local newspaper; Gezi and Çarşı trials merged; media outlets, NGOs receiving foreign grants targeted in Odatv report; journalists covering demonstration in Kadıköy assaulted by police


Attacker sets fire to printing house of local paper in Zonguldak


The printing house of Pusula newspaper, published in Zonguldak province, was set on fire on the night of 29 July. People in the neighborhood helped put out the fire.


Journalist Ali Rıza Tığ, the owner of the newspaper, reported the arson to the police in the morning. After examining camera footage in the surrounding area, the police identified the arsonist. Tığ, who had been attacked before, received death threats and was assigned a police officer to protect him about a year ago.


Gezi and Çarşı trials merged


The case against the Beşiktaş football fan group Çarşı, in which 35 members of the group faced criminal charges for allegedly “organizing a plot against the government during the Gezi Park protests,” has been merged with the Gezi Park trial, in which 16 defendants, including imprisoned businessperson and civil society leader Osman Kavala, exiled journalist Can Dündar and actor Memet Ali Alabora, are charged with “attempting to overthrow the government” by allegedly “financing and orchestrating” the nationwide protests that took place in 2013.


The acquittals of nine defendants in the Gezi trial were reversed in January by a regional court of appeals, which also held that the trial court should consider merging the two trials on the grounds that the acts for which the defendants stood trial were “related.” The acquittal judgment rendered in the Çarşı trial, on the other hand, was overturned in April by the Supreme Court of Appeals.


On 15 June 2021, the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court, which oversees the Gezi trial, asked the court overseeing the Çarşı trial if they would assent to merging the two case files. The 13th High Criminal Court agreed to merge the two files on 28 July. Mahmut Başbuğ, the judge presiding over the Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court panel overseeing the Gezi trial, was also appointed to the temporary panel of the 13th High Criminal Court due to the judicial summer vacation and was on the panel that assented to the merging of the two trials.


Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief resigns


Cumhuriyet daily’s Editor-in-Chief Aykut Küçükkaya resigned on 29 July 2021. In a statement he shared on social media, Küçükkaya explained that Cumhuriyet Foundation President Alev Coşkun had asked him to “force union member journalists to resign” ahead of collective bargaining negotiations with the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS). Küçükkaya said he resigned due to Coşkun’s anti-union attitude.


Tele 1 and Bloomberg HT fined over commentary by program guests


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed administrative fines on Tele 1 and Bloomberg HT television channels at its weekly regular meeting on 28 July 2021.


RTÜK imposed a maximum penalty on Tele 1 over comments by public health expert Prof. Ahmet Saltık concerning President Erdoğan’s health condition. Bloomberg HT, which was also given a maximum penalty, was fined upon a complaint by the Turkish Football Federation. RTÜK said “the expressions in a dialogue between Fatih Altaylı and Emin Çağlar were humiliating and discrediting beyond criticizing institutions and individuals.”


Yeni Yaşam distributor says he was threatened by police


Resul Demir, who works as a distributor for Yeni Yaşam newspaper in the southern Mersin province, said that he was threatened by the police for distributing the pro-Kurdish newspaper.


Demir has been distributing the newspaper in the Akdeniz district for a month. He said that recently while he was delivering the newspaper to a coffee shop in the district, several policemen called him and asked him which newspaper he was distributing and whether the newspaper was banned or not.


A few days after this incident, while Demir was on his way home at night, officers in an armored vehicle stopped him and asked him if he was still delivering the newspaper. According to Demir’s account, the officers then told him: “As long as you distribute that newspaper, something will happen to you and you will be harmed. Are you aware of this? When something happens to you one day, don't tell us we didn’t warn you. Quit this newspaper job, it won’t end well.”


Media outlets, NGOs receiving foreign grants targeted in Odatv article


Odatv news portal ran an article on 21 July 2021 in which it listed a number of media outlets and NGOs, including P24, that received grants from the US-based Chrest Foundation.


In a statement to the state-run Anadolu Agency, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said the government was closely observing the “allegations that a foundation headquartered in the United States was funding some media outlets in Turkey.”


Noting that they “are aware that the media is an area of ​​interest for domestic and foreign tutelage groups,” Altun said: “In an environment where some foreign leaders have openly expressed their intention and efforts to design Turkish politics, we cannot regard any foreign state or institution providing funds to the media as having no connection with those interests and intentions. … We will not allow fifth column activities under new guises. There is a need for a regulation regarding media organizations operating in our country with grants from foreign states or institutions.”


Altun said, “We will complete work on required arrangements as soon as possible in order to protect public order and ensure the right of our people to correct news.”


On 23 July 2021, RTÜK also issued a statement regarding broadcasting institutions receiving foreign grants, claiming that “under the guise of media freedom, anti-Turkey codes are being generated and the society is being bombarded with negative propaganda through manipulation.”


Legislation against “disinformation on social media” to be introduced in Parliament in October


AKP Group Deputy Chairman Mahir Ünal made a statement on 17 July 2021, saying that the government is working on new legislation to curb “disinformation on social media platforms.” “Fake news shared on social media platforms [is] a form of terrorism through disinformation. We have to fight against this,” Ünal said.


On 21 July 2021, President Erdoğan explained that the government was planning on introducing the new social media regulation in the Parliament in October.


Pro-government Hürriyet daily reported on 26 July 2021 that the government was planning on including some provisions on social media in the new constitution. The report said the government was examining relevant legislation in Germany, France, the UK and other EU member states.


AKP MP Ali Özkaya told Hürriyet that new legislation could include penalties such as imprisonment between 1 to 5 years and being prohibited from using social media for a certain period for those who spread disinformation on social media.


8 journalists covering demonstration in Istanbul assaulted by police


At least eight journalists were assaulted by the police as they were covering a demonstration held on 20 July 2021 in Istanbul's Kadıköy district. Police in riot gear violently intervened in the demonstration that was organized to commemorate the victims of 2015's Suruç bombing, which killed 33 activists.


Dokuz8haber reporter Fatoş Erdoğan, freelance journalist Emre Orman, Agence France-Presse (AFP) photojournalist Yasin Akgül, Evrensel reporter Eylem Nazlıer, Gazete Fersude reporter Hayri Tunç, BirGün reporter Meral Danyıldız, European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) photojournalist Erdem Şahin and Özgür Gelecek reporter Taylan Öztaş were among journalists targeted by the police, who fired tear gas and plastic bullets on the journalists and punched them.


German police warn Celal Başlangıç of “execution list” targeting dissidents


On 16 July 2021, German police warned Artı Gerçek and Artı TV Editor-in-Chief Celal Başlangıç that his life was in danger, saying his name was on an “execution list” in which 55 dissident journalists and intellectuals from Turkey were listed.


Following the attack Artı TV programmer Erk Acarer suffered on 7 July in his Berlin home, a social media account with the handle “jitemkurt” claimed that there was an “execution list” of 21 dissident journalists, artists, intellectuals and writers from Turkey living in Europe and argued that they would be murdered.


Başlangıç told Artı Gerçek: “We knew the names on the list of 21 people. Then, rumors of another list where 43 people were named surfaced, but the names on that list were unknown. The German police officers who came to my house told me that there was a third list and that my name was among 55 people against Erdoğan living abroad on that list. From what the police told me, I understand an investigation on this matter is under way.”


Erk Acarer receives threat message


Berlin-based journalist Erk Acarer announced on his social media account on 20 July 2021 that he had received a threat message that was left in the garden of his house.


Acarer, who suffered a physical attack by three men earlier this month, said a boiled egg wrapped in a piece of paper inscribed, “Sen bekle” (wait and see), was left in his yard. He added: “The AKP-MHP government, its gangs and the German government, which I think are idle in terms of taking necessary measures, will be responsible if anything happens to me.”


ECtHR: Bulgaria violated the Convention by extraditing dissident journalist to Turkey


The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on 20 July 2021 that Bulgaria has violated Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention on Human Rights in a case filed by a Turkish dissident journalist who was extradited to Turkey in 2016.


According to a press release by the ECtHR, the case concerned the arrest at the border between Bulgaria and Romania of a Turkish journalist claiming to be fleeing from a risk of political persecution in his own country, and his immediate removal to Turkey. The events occurred three months after the 2016 coup attempt. The applicant complained that the Bulgarian authorities had refused to initiate asylum proceedings and had returned him to Turkey, thus exposing him to a real risk of ill-treatment. The Court held in particular that despite the fact that the applicant had expressed fears that he might face ill-treatment in the event of being returned to Turkey, the Bulgarian authorities had not examined his application for international protection.


The ECtHR said the applicant, D., previously worked for the now-defunct Zaman daily and the Cihan News Agency, both belonging to the Feza Media Group, which was viewed as “Gülenist” and as critical of the existing political regime in Turkey. After being handed over to the Turkish authorities, the journalist was jailed and in December 2017 he was convicted and sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The appeal against his sentence is still pending while D. is currently detained in Kandıra Prison in Kocaeli province.


The ECtHR ruled that Bulgaria should pay the journalist 15,000 euros in compensation.


At least 63 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 30 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.