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 - 305

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 305

Gezi trial, merged with retrial of 35 Beşiktaş fans, adjourned until October; Ahmet Kanbal to stand trial over social media post; 3 journalists taken into custody, dozens targeted in physical attacks in a week


Halk TV crew attacked during live broadcast in Marmaris


A group of at least five men attacked a live outdoor broadcast by Halk TV on 5 August 2021 in the southwestern town of Marmaris.


The forest fires in the region were being discussed in the broadcast, which got interrupted when the attackers approached the program host and told him that they wanted to talk. The presenter told the group that this would not be possible during a live broadcast and called a commercial break. During the break, the group verbally and physically attacked the network crew and program guests and blocked the live broadcast. “We will block you when you say wrong things,” they were heard shouting, while one of them also attempted to attack the crew using a glass bottle. Five attackers were taken into custody by the police. They were released after giving their statements at the prosecutor's office.


Journalists denied access to briefing held by ministers


Reporters from FOX, Halk TV, Reuters and Euronews were denied access to a press briefing held by ministers at the site of the Kemerköy power plant in Muğla province that was damaged during the wildfires in the region.


FOX TV reporter Gülşah İnce reported during the evening news on 5 August 2021 that her team was prevented by the gendarmerie from entering the site. She said they were not allowed to cover the press conference by the ministers because their network was not listed among the accredited media outlets.


AFP photojournalist Yasin Akgül was also prevented by the gendarmerie from covering the briefing. Akgül added that the pro-government networks A Haber and CNN Türk as well as the state-run Anadolu Agency and the TRT were among the accredited organizations on the list.


Ministry files complaint against volunteer firefighter over Instagram video


The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry filed a criminal complaint against Batuhan Onur Maz, a volunteer who participated in firefighting efforts in Marmaris and shared his observations on his social media account.


Claiming that Maz's posts “misled the public and brought public institutions under suspicion,” the ministry said they also filed an application with the Ankara Criminal Judgeship of Peace on Duty to prevent access to Maz’s post.


Maz claimed in his Instagram video that officials had prevented volunteer firefighters like himself from helping put out a forest fire near a village in Marmaris and removed them from the scene; that no firefighting helicopters or planes were sent to the scene for six hours; and that the authorities had told him, “We are waiting for this forest to burn.”


The ministry said that Maz’s post contained a concrete accusation that could offend or discredit the fire department and public officials and could also be deemed as an insult, and that it contained provocation in a way that may prevent compliance with the relevant legislation in the fight against forest fires.


Investigation launched against “Help Turkey” hashtag


The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation against social media posts shared with the hashtag “Help Turkey.” The hashtag campaign was aimed at calling on the international community to help put out more than 100 forest fires that raged across southern and southwestern regions of Turkey last week.


In a public statement issued on 5 August, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said: “Since the forest fires broke out on 28 July 2021, some individuals and groups have been trying to create fear and panic among the public and degrade the government through posts shared by real or automated bot accounts in an organized manner. In this respect, an ex officio investigation has been initiated by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office regarding the posts found to contain criminal elements.”


Interior Minister: Legal action initiated against 172 SM posts


Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced that legal action has been initiated against 172 recent social media posts about forest fires in Turkey. The minister said in a statement on 5 August that a total of 3,246 posts had been investigated and among them, 172 have been identified for further legal action.


Journalist Ahmet Kanbal to stand trial over SM post


Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Ahmet Kanbal is charged with “Marking a public official involved in the fight against terrorism as a target” (Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law) in a new indictment against him. The accusation stems from a social media post in which Kanbal shared a segment from an interview journalist Yağmur Kaya had conducted with Lawyer Eren Keskin, the co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD).


Following the interview, an investigation had been launched against Kanbal, Kaya and Keskin based on a complaint by Deputy Commander General of Gendarmerie Lt. General Musa Çitil, whom Keskin had mentioned in the interview published on Artı Gerçek news portal. The Aydın Chief Public Prosecutor's Office said the investigations against Keskin, Kaya and Kanbal have been separated.


The Aydın 3rd High Criminal Court recently accepted the indictment against Kanbal. The trial will get under way in December.


Journalists prevented from covering demonstration in Ankara


Journalists were prevented by the police from covering a demonstration against the murder of women, organized in Ankara on 3 August 2021. The police, who detained some of the protesters, also attempted to arrest JinNews reporter Sevim Sütçü and temporarily seized her press card. Büşra Taşkıran, a reporter for the news portal Doğrusu Haber, was also prevented from recording the demonstration and assaulted by the police.


BirGün news director Uğur Şahin briefly detained


BirGün daily’s news director Uğur Şahin was taken into custody by the police on the evening of 3 August 2021 in Istanbul. Şahin, who was recording a case of domestic violence, was detained on the allegation of “violation of privacy.”


Citing the circular by the General Directorate of Security, the police told Şahin that recording was “prohibited.” Despite presenting his press card, Şahin was taken into custody. Şahin was released later that night following the completion of procedures at the Kuştepe police station.


RTÜK sends wildfire coverage memo to network executives


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) sent a memo to the executives of TV networks on 3 August 2021, requesting networks to not air footage of wildfires raging across Turkey's southern and southwestern regions.


RTÜK warned the networks against causing “fear and concern among the public” in newscasts and carrying out “a broadcasting activity that will please those who are seeking chaos” by “persistently covering the regions where the fires are still raging and ignoring those that have been put out.” The RTÜK memo said networks refusing to abide by the principles laid out in the broadcasting law “will inevitably face the harshest penalties.”


In a statement issued last week, the broadcasting watchdog had urged broadcasters to “avoid a tone that could mislead the public, or exaggerated sounds and images in their newscasts” and asked them “not to broadcast footage that could cause fear and panic especially during the hours when children could be watching.”


Access to 141 reports by Bianet blocked by courts


Access to a total of 141 reports by Bianet has been blocked by various criminal judgeships of peace.


News reports about violence against women, journalism trials, 17-25 December corruption probes, the land former minister Berat Albayrak had purchased near the planned route of the Istanbul Canal, city hospitals and labor rights were among the online content blocked for access by courts, Bianet reported.


Bianet said it has received an email from the Access Providers Association (ESB), which requested the removal of the related content and that the ESB be informed about the removal. It also warned Bianet that a penalty would be imposed in case it fails to notify the ESB.


Gezi and Çarşı trials merged, next hearing set for 8 October


The Istanbul 30th High Criminal Court, which oversaw the Gezi trial, held an ex parte hearing on 2 August 2021, during which it officially ruled to merge the case with the Çarşı trial. The court also ordered the continuation of the detention of businessperson and civil society leader Osman Kavala, who has been behind bars for almost four years as part of the case.


İlkan Koyuncu, one of the lawyers representing Kavala, told Expression Interrupted that the court canceled the hearing that was originally set for 6 August and decided that the merged trials will be overseen by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. The next hearing of the merged trials is set for 8 October, when 35 members of the Beşiktaş football fan group Çarşı will go on retrial for allegedly “organizing a plot against the government during the Gezi Park protests.” Their acquittals were overturned in April by the Supreme Court of Appeals.


Last week, by a decision rendered by its temporary panel, the 13th High Criminal Court agreed to merge the two trials. Mahmut Başbuğ, the judge presiding over the panel that oversaw the Gezi trial, was also appointed to the temporary panel of the court overseeing the Çarşı trial due to the judicial summer vacation and was on the panel that assented to the merging of the two cases.


Four journalists covering wildfires in Marmaris assaulted


NTV Izmir representative Merih Ak and cameraman Burak Uygun and TRT Haber reporter Duygu Tuncer and cameraman Serhat Alabuğa were attacked by a group of civilians on 1 August 2021 in Marmaris as they were covering the forest fires in the region. The journalists were assaulted as they were preparing for broadcast in the Hisarönü neighborhood.


Journalists assaulted while covering protest against Konya murder


On 31 July 2021, reporters Derya Saadet and Ceylan Bulut, Özgür Gelecek reporter Taylan Öztaş, Mezopotamya news agency reporters Enes Sezgin and Rojin Altay and Gazete Fersude editor Hayri Tunç were violently attacked by a group of angry mob in Istanbul’s Kasımpaşa district as they were covering a protest against the murder of seven members of a Kurdish family in Konya province on 30 July.


Öztaş and Sezgin, who were injured during the attack, were taken into custody by the police at the hospital later that night. Both journalists spent the night in police custody. They were released by the court they were referred to the next day after a public prosecutor sought their imprisonment pending trial for “breaching the Law on Demonstrations” and “terrorism propaganda.”


In the eastern Van province, Voice of America reporter Arif Aslan and Gazete Aktüel reporter Fatma Polatcan were prevented by the police from covering the protest against the racist murder in Konya. Aslan's shirt was torn during the scuffle while the police attempted to arrest Polatcan.


Journalist Özgür Boğatekin faces new investigation


Özgür Boğatekin, the news director of the Adıyaman-based local newspaper Gerger Fırat, is facing the allegation of “inciting hatred and animosity” (TCK 216) in a new investigation. The allegation stems from Boğatekin’s comments in a Facebook post about the recent murder of seven members of a Kurdish family in Konya. Boğatekin gave his statement at the local police station on 1 August 2021.


At least 63 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 6 August 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.