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 – 308

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 308


New judicial year beginning on 1 September; writer Yavuz Ekinci faces lawsuit for social media posts from 8 years ago; top court issues judgment in defense of media freedom



Stage actor faces up to 4 years and 8 months in prison for “insulting president”


83-year-old stage actor Genco Erkal has been charged with “insulting the president,” carrying up to four years and eight months in prison, over three Twitter posts, two of which are from 2016.


The indictment was filed on the basis of an e-mail complaint against Erkal from 2016, which was ignored by the authorities for five years. In the tweets that are now subject to prosecution, Erkal brought up the allegations that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not have a university education, mocked the presidential system and criticized a planned urban transformation work in Ayder Plateau, a popular tourist destination in the Black Sea region.


The indictment, which seeks a prison sentence between one year and two months to four years and eight months for the actor, was sent to the Istanbul 16th Criminal Court of First Instance.


Writer Yavuz Ekinci to stand trial for tweets from 8 years ago


The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has drafted an indictment against writer Yavuz Ekinci for social media posts from 2013 and 2014 and a joint statement he had signed along with other writers to express support for Kobani, a Syrian Kurdish town when it was attacked by ISIS.  


The tweets subject to the lawsuit concerned the 2014 battle for Kobani between ISIS and Kurdish groups and the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır, Ekinci said on Twitter on 24 August. The first hearing of the case will be held on 9 September at the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court, he said.


Journalists to return to courtrooms as judicial recess ends


Turkish courts will be returning next week from a summer recess that began on 20 July to recommence trials, which include a large number of freedom of expression and the media cases where journalists, writers and others are in the dock.


The new judicial year begins as of 1 September. A full list of upcoming trials in the new judicial year can be viewed in our trial calendar.  


Top court rules conviction of journalist violated freedom of press


In a judgment published in the Official Gazette on 26 August, the Constitutional Court ruled that a 2013 verdict sentencing a journalist to more than two years in prison for "insulting" a plaintiff in two newspaper articles constituted a violation of the right to freedom of expression and the press. The verdict against the Hatay-based journalist, Halit Basık, was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2016.

The top court maintained in its judgment that it was essential in a democratic society that journalist inform the public. "Punishment of information and criticism, even if they are disturbing, can create a chilling effect and lead to the silencing of different voices in the society and the public. The fear of punishment can hinder sustaining a pluralist society," the court said. The Constitutional Court ordered that Basık be paid TL 13,500 (about 1350 euros) in damages.


Full text of the judgment (in Turkish) can be viewed here.


Journalist Derya Okatan faces trial over social media posts


Journalist Derya Okatan will stand trial for social media posts shared on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the Etkin News Agency (ETHA), where she previously worked as a managing editor. Okatan is charged with “systematically spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” on the basis of the posts. The first hearing in her trial will take place at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on 13 October 2021.


The social media posts included in the indictment include links to news reports about a military operation conducted by the Turkish military and the Free Syrian Army groups in Syria’s Afrin in 2018 and reactions against that operation.


Journalist Ozan Acıdere detained during protest against new Boğaziçi rector


Photographer and journalist Ozan Acıdere was detained on 23 August by the police while covering a protest against the presidential appointment of Professor Naci İnci as the new rector of Boğaziçi University.


The protest was held in front of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) district office in Sarıyer, Istanbul. Acıdere and seven other people were arrested for alleged violation of the law on public gatherings. They were released after giving their statements at a police station.


Ahmet Kanbal faces investigation for report on alleged police abuse


Prosecutors in the southeastern district of Nusaybin, Mardin province, have launched a criminal investigation against journalist Ahmet Kanbal, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency, for "exposing identities of those involved in combatting terrorism" in a news report published last year. 


Kanbal gave his statement to the police in Mardin as part of the investigation, denying any wrongdoing and claiming that he only reported on police officers who had committed a crime. He was reportedly questioned about his sources and asked how he had obtained the names of the police officers mentioned in the report.


The investigation is based on a report published by Mezopotamya on 19 November 2020, titled "30 arrests for 16-year-old in three years: Mother beaten up." Kanbal is accused for publishing the names of the police officers involved.


Imprisoned HDP politician faces disciplinary probe in prison for singing in Kurdish


The Elazığ Prison administration has launched a disciplinary probe into former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Leyla Güven and eight other female prisoners, reportedly for singing songs in Kurdish at a gathering on 15 August 2021.


Inspectors in charge of the investigation referred to singing in an “unidentifiable language” in their account of the 15 August event.



Gazeteci Fahri Öztoprak tahliye edildi; 61 gazeteci cezaevinde


Journalist Fahri Öztoprak, who last worked as the regional representative of the now-defunct Zaman newspaper in the eastern province of Erzurum, was released from prison after serving a 6-year-3-month term given on the charge of "membership in a terrorist group."

With his release, there are now at least 61 journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence. The full list can be accessed here.