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 - 310

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 310

Writer Yavuz Ekinci appears in court on “propaganda” charge; prosecutor seeks sentence for MA reporter Dindar Karataş; RTÜK fines Halk TV, Tele1 and TR35; TÜBİTAK files compensation case against BirGün daily


Trial against Aziz Oruç adjourned until December


The fifth hearing in the trial against journalist Aziz Oruç on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held on 10 September 2021 at the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court. Oruç and his lawyers submitted letters of excuse to the court. The court adjourned the trial until 8 December 2021.


Oruç was arrested in December 2019 in Doğubayazıt and released pending trial 11 months later.


Scientific research council files TL 100,000 compensation case against BirGün daily


The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) has filed a compensation case against BirGün daily’s publisher İbrahim Aydın and reporter İsmail Arı, seeking TL 100,000 in compensation for an article the newspaper published on 21 August 2021. The article was titled “TÜBİTAK damadın vakfına çalışıyor” (TÜBİTAK working for son-in-law’s foundation).


The case was accepted on 2 September 2021 by the Ankara 18th Civil Court of First Instance.


The article was about the TL 7.6 million budget TÜBİTAK allocated in 2021 to TEKNOFEST, which is organized by the The Turkish Technology Team Foundation (T3). President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar and his brother Haluk Bayraktar are the top level executives of the foundation. Haluk Bayraktar is also on TÜBİTAK’s Executive Board.


Court to hear columnist Hüseyin Gülerce as witness in retrial of Zaman columnists


The second hearing in the retrial of former Zaman columnists Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Mümtazer Türköne and editor Mehmet Özdemir was held on 9 September 2021 at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. The retrial was ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeals, which reversed Alpay, Bulaç and Türköne’s sentences and Özdemir’s acquittal.


P24 monitored the hearing. Türköne, Alpay and Bulaç, who are currently charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” were in attendance with their lawyers. Özdemir, who is now charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” did not attend.


The court heard two witnesses, academics Binnaz Toprak and Zekeriya Tüzen, who both testified regarding Şahin Alpay. Professor Toprak told the court that Alpay wrote columns for Zaman daily and had no other ties with the newspaper’s management or the Fethullah Gülen network. Tüzen also told the court that he knew Alpay as an academic and had no information to support the accusation against Alpay.


Türköne addressed the court next, demanding the lifting of his international travel ban, citing his medical condition.


Bulaç told the court that he will submit the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment issued on 8 June 2021, which held that Bulaç’s detention as part of the “Zaman trial” violated his right to liberty and security (ECHR 5/1) and his freedom of expression (Article 10). Additionally, Bulaç demanded that his digital equipment seized by the authorities be returned.


In its interim ruling, the court refused to lift Türköne’s international travel ban. Deciding to return Bulaç’s digital equipment after taking a copy of their content, the court also ruled to seek the Turkish translation of the ECtHR’s Ali Bulaç judgment. Also ruling to issue subpoenas for former Zaman columnist Hüseyin Gülerce and another witness requested by Alpay’s lawyer Aynur Tuncel Yazgan, the court adjourned the trial until 11 January 2022.


Yavuz Ekinci appears in court for “propaganda” trial


Novelist and short story writer Yavuz Ekinci appeared before a criminal court in Istanbul on 9 September 2021 for the first hearing of his trial over his social media posts from eight years ago. Ekinci is charged with “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) for eight tweets he shared in 2013 and 2014 and for signing a joint statement against the ISIS attack on the Syrian town of Kobani.


The Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court did not allow spectators in the courtroom due to Covid-19. Ekinci and his lawyers were present in the courtroom. Addressing the court for his defense statement, Ekinci rejected the accusation and demanded to be acquitted.


After hearing Ekinci and his lawyers’ defense statements, the court decided to send the case file to the prosecutor’s office for the preparation of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 11 January 2022.


Our report about the hearing can be accessed here.


Three trials against journalist Ahmet Sever adjourned until December


Three separate trials against journalist Ahmet Sever, a former press advisor for President Abdullah Gül, resumed on 9 September 2021 at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Sever is charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) in one of the trials and “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) in the remaining two. The accusations, based on complaints filed by President Erdoğan, Speaker of Parliament Mustafa Şentop and Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank, stem from remarks in Sever’s 2018 political memoir İçimde Kalmasın: Tanıklığımdır.


P24 monitored the hearing, where Sever’s lawyer Filiz Aydın was in attendance. Deciding to wait for the response to letters rogatory issued for Sever’s statements to be taken in his current country of residence, the court adjourned all three trials until 23 December 2021.


Court sends case file to prosecutor in trial of former TV10 employees


The ninth hearing of the trial against Kemal Demir and Kemal Karagöz, two former employees of TV10, which was closed by the government in 2016, was held on 9 September 2021 at the Istanbul 28th High Criminal Court. Demir and Karagöz are charged with “membership in a terrorist organization.”


P24 monitored the hearing. Demir’s lawyer Bertan Öztunç was in attendance. The lawyer requested that the court forgo its previous decision to hear the witness Şükrü Yıldız, who lives abroad and has yet to testify in court. The lawyer explained that waiting for Yıldız’s testimony prolonged the proceedings. Öztunç also requested that the court lift the travel ban imposed on the defendants.


In its interim ruling, the court decided not to hear the witness Şükrü Yıldız. REfusing to lift the travel ban imposed on Demir and Karagöz, the court decided to send the case file to the prosecutor’s office for the preparation of their final opinion and adjourned the trial until 28 October 2021.


Deniz Yücel’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned until November


The fourth hearing in German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) over his remarks in a Twitter post was held on 9 September 2021 at the Istanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance. Yücel is accused of “insulting” former deputy chief public prosecutor of Istanbul, Hasan Yılmaz.


P24 monitored the hearing, where Yücel’s lawyer Veysel Ok was in attendance. The prosecutor requested additional time to prepare their final opinion. Granting the prosecutor a continuance, the court adjourned the trial until 30 November 2021.


RTÜK fines Halk TV, Tele1 and TR35


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) fined Halk TV due to remarks by journalist İsmail Saymaz during a live broadcast in which he criticized the aggressive behavior of a local woman in Çorum province against main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.


In its regular meeting held on 8 September 2021, RTÜK also imposed three separate administrative fines on Tele 1. Commentary by Merdan Yanardağ on three separate shows aired on Tele1 were held as the grounds for the fines.


RTÜK also fined TR 35 for remarks by Manisa Mayor Cengiz Ergün, who recently appeared as a guest on the network’s show titled “8. Gün.”


Prosecutor seeks sentence for MA reporter Dindar Karataş


The third hearing in the trial of Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Dindar Karataş on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 7 September 2021 at the Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court.


Karataş addressed the court from the Van 4th High Criminal Court via the judicial video-conferencing network SEGBİS. The prosecutor submitted their final opinion during the hearing, demanding that the court sentence Karataş under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code. Granting Karataş and his lawyer İrfan Sarı time to prepare their final defense statement, the court adjourned the trial until 16 November 2021.


Karataş was jailed in November 2020 in Van. He was released pending trial by the court at his first hearing, held on 9 February 2021.


Trial against journalist İdris Yayla and 27 others to continue in November


The fifth hearing of a trial where journalist İdris Yayla, the publisher of the Batman-based local news portal Jiyan Haber, is among 28 defendants charged with “violating the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations” was held on 7 September 2021 at the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance. Yayla is on trial for covering a 2016 demonstration in Batman province against the appointment of trustees by the government to replace the elected mayors in the region. Yayla did not attend the hearing. The court postponed the trial until 9 November 2021.


Trial of journalist Selman Keleş adjourned until January


The trial against self-exiled journalist Selman Keleş on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” resumed on 7 September 2021 at the Van 5th High Criminal Court. Keleş’s lawyer submitted a letter of excuse. The court set 11 January 2021 as the date for the next hearing.


Keleş, a former reporter for the now-defunct news agency Dihaber, was arrested in March 2017 for shooting photos of the barriers placed in front of the Van City Hall along with fellow journalist Arif Aslan. Both journalists were released pending trial at the first hearing of their trial, held on 21 November 2017. Later, Keleş settled in Switzerland, where he was granted asylum. His file was separated at the hearing held on 3 September 2020.


Investigation against MA staff members Akdeniz and Çelik dismissed


An investigation launched last year against Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Lezgin Akdeniz and Responsible Managing Editor Ferhat Çelik on the allegation of “inciting hatred and animosity” has been dismissed by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, MA reported this week. The investigation was launched due to an article dated 14 March 2020, in which Akdeniz reported that while mosques in Diyarbakır were sanitized against the spread of Covid-19, churches and other places of worship were not.


Fashion designer Barbaros Şansal handed down 3-month sentence


Fashion designer Barbaros Şansal was sentenced to 3 months and 22 days in prison in a case where he was charged with “publicly degrading the government of the Republic of Turkey” (TCK 301/1) for a Twitter post he shared in 2017.


The final hearing of the case, launched upon a complaint by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was held on 7 September 2021 at the Istanbul 52nd Criminal Court of First Instance. The sentence was not suspended or commuted to a judicial fine.


Access to JinNews blocked again


Access to the website of the all-female news agency JinNews was blocked by a decision of the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, rendered on 6 September 2021. The court cited “the protection of national security and public order” as the grounds for its decision.


Journalists prevented from covering demonstrations in Istanbul and Diyarbakır


At least five journalists were prevented by the police from covering a “Peace Day” demonstration in Istanbul’s Tünel quarter last week. Evrensel reporter Eylem Nazlıer was assaulted by the police during the intervention as she was recording a high ranking officer from the Istanbul Police Department insulting a woman who was among the demonstrators. Police officers tried to confiscate Nazlıer’s mobile phone. Another journalist, Gazete Yolculuk reporter Buse Söğütlü, who was filming the assault against Nazlıer, was pushed by the police.


In Diyarbakır province, police officers prevented Mezopotamya news agency reporters Ergin Çağlar and Mehmet Erol from covering a public statement demonstrators wanted to read out in the Ofis district to mark “Peace Day.”


Local journalist in Aydın attacked by vendor during street interview


Erman Çetin, the chief editor of the local newspaper Aydınpost, and a fellow photojournalist were threatened and attacked by a vendor as they were conducting street interviews at the farmers’ market held in the town of Didim on 4 September 2021. Çetin received a medical report from the state hospital following the assault. Both parties filed complaints against each other, local media reported.


At least 60 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 10 September 2021, at least 60 journalists and media workers are still in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.


The full list can be accessed here.