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 - 313

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 313

Court files complaint against Abdurrahman Gök; Nurcan Kaya handed down 15-month sentence; BirGün's Eren Tutel appears in court; Baransel Ağca charged with “insulting religious values” in new indictment; İdris Yayla receives death threat


Actress Ezgi Mola handed down judicial fine in “insult” case


Actress Ezgi Mola was handed down a judicial fine of TL 5,200 for “insulting” Musa Orhan, a sergeant who is currently on trial for “sexual assault.” The charge stemmed from a social media post in which Mola reacted to Orhan’s release pending trial by the court overseeing his trial. The indictment accused the actress of “insult by means of an audio, written or video message” and “insult” under Article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The Ankara 31st Criminal Court of First Instance, which applied the “simple trial procedure” in the case, deferred the sentence.


Musician Kadir Çat acquitted at this second hearing


The second hearing of musician Kadir Çat’s trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Mersin 7th High Criminal Court on 1 October 2021.


In their final opinion, presented at the previous hearing, the prosecution demanded that Çat be acquitted of “membership in a terrorist organization” but sentenced for “terrorism propaganda.”


The prosecutor reiterated his final opinion. After hearing Çat and his lawyer’s final defense statements, the court issued its judgment, acquitting Çat of both charges. The accusations stemmed from photos Çat had taken in Kobani and his social media posts.


Retrial of Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin to continue in February


The retrial of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu, Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Committee President Şebnem Korur Fincancı and journalist Ahmet Nesin resumed on 30 September 2021 at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.


This was the second hearing of the retrial, ordered by an appellate court that reversed the acquittals of Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin. All three are accused of “terrorism propaganda” (TMK 7/2) “incitement to commit an offense” (TCK 214) and “praising a criminal offense or an offender” (TCK 215) for symbolically editing Özgür Gündem for one day in 2016 in an act of solidarity with the pro-Kurdish newspaper before it was permanently closed by the government.


P24 monitored the hearing. Fincancı, Önderoğlu and their lawyers were in attendance. Nesin, who lives abroad, did not attend. Önderoğlu and Fincancı reiterated their previous statements.


In its interim ruling, the court decided to issue a letter rogatory for Nesin’s statement to be taken in his current country of residence and to hear Özgür Gündem’s former Responsible Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya, who could not attend the hearing due to being in Coid-19 quarantine, at the next hearing, scheduled for 1 February 2022.


Court files new complaint against journalist Abdurrahman Gök


The third hearing of the trial in which journalist Abdurrahman Gök is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 30 September 2021. Gök, best known for his photos capturing the murder of Kemal Kurkut by police during the 2017 Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır, is on trial for his journalistic work, facing a prison sentence of 7 to 20 years in the trial.


The prosecutor, who was expected to submit their final opinion of the case, requested that two separate posts Gök shared on his social media accounts in 2017 and 2018 in the research report included in the file be examined because they “could constitute a crime.” The prosecutor demanded that a criminal complaint be filed with the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” against Gök.


Issuing an interim ruling, the court decided to file a criminal complaint against Gök with the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The court also decided to request the file concerning a previous case against Gök, which resulted in acquittal, and adjourned the trial until 20 January 2022.


A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.


BirGün editor Eren Tutel appears in court for new trial


The first hearing of the trial against BirGün newspaper sports editor Eren Tutel on the charge of “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) was held at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 30 September 2021. Tutel is on trial for his reports about the Turkish Wushu Federation (TWF).


The lawyer representing Abdurrahman Akyüz and Elif Akyüz requested to join the lawsuit. Tutel’s lawyer Kalan requested time to prepare a defense statement. The court accepted the complainants’ requests to join the case and adjourned the trial until 1 February 2022.


A report on the hearing, followed by P24, can be accessed here.


Berkin Elvan’s parents charged with “insulting the president”


Gülsüm and Sami Elvan, the parents of Berkin Elvan, who died after being hit by a gas canister fired by the police during the Gezi Park protests in 2013, are charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) in a new indictment. The charges stem from the statements the Elvans made following court hearings of the trial into their son’s murder.


Two separate criminal investigations launched against a statement Sami Elvan made on 23 September 2020 and another statement the couple made on 29 January 2021 at the Istanbul Courthouse have been merged. The indictment was recently accepted by the Istanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance, which will hold the first hearing of the case on 20 January 2022.


Trial against Tunahan Turhan and Taylan Öztaş adjourned until March


The fourth hearing of a trial in which Özgür Gelecek reporter Taylan Öztaş and Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Tunahan Turhan are among 38 people charged with “violating the Law on Assemblies and Demonstrations” was held on 30 September 2021 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 13th Criminal Court of First Instance. The court decided to wait for the submission of the requested documents and adjourned the trial until 8 March 2022.


Öztaş and Turhan were detained by police two days after covering a protest held in Kadıköy in August 2019 against the appointment of trustees to municipalities. They were released under judicial control measures after spending two days in custody.


Prosecutor seeks sentence for journalist Nurcan Yalçın


The latest hearing of the trial against journalist Nurcan Yalçın on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court on 29 September 2021.


Yalçın, who did not attend the hearing, was represented in court by her lawyer Resul Temur. The presiding judge said the court has received response to its previous inquiry about Jin News, where Yalçın is claimed to be working. The report submitted to the court by the Diyarbakır Police Department claimed that Jin News “produces news content in praise and support of the PKK and KCK.”


The prosecutor then submitted their final opinion. Arguing that Yalçın was “part of the organizational hierarchy” and that a photo she had shared on social media “legitimized the organization’s aims and methods,” the prosecutor asked the court to convict the journalist for the alleged crimes.


Yalçın’s lawyer addressed the court next. Noting that Jin News is a legitimate media outlet, Temur explained that his client does not work for Jin News, but for JİNHA [Jin Haber Ajansı] and reminded the court that relevant documents and testimony proving his client’s employment have already been submitted to court. The lawyer also requested a continuance for Yalçın’s final defense statement. Granting Yalçın’s lawyer additional time, the court adjourned the trial until 22 November 2021.


Kenan Kırkaya’s trial adjourned once again


Journalist Kenan Kırkaya appeared before the Ankara 14th High Criminal Court on 28 September 2021 for the latest hearing of his trial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2).


The hearing began with the prosecutor reiterating their final opinion, first submitted to the court at the 10th hearing of the case, on 31 March 2020, and demanding Kırkaya’s acquittal of the alleged offense.


Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court decided to wait for the submission of the digital forensics report concerning one of the defendants, and to inquire about the other case files against the defendants in the case, including Kırkaya, and adjourned the trial until 7 December 2021.


A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.


BİK implements ad penalties imposed on Cumhuriyet, Sözcü, Birgün


The Press Advertising Agency (BİK) has started implementing public advertisement penalties it gave at its 2019 board meeting as of September, media reported this week. BİK implemented a 22-day ban on BirGün; 74 days on Cumhuriyet; and 4 days on Sözcü in September.


Evrensel reported that Sözcü was given a 4-day penalty for columnist Saygı Öztürk’s articles on the career of Ali Ayvazoğlu, who was promoted after marrying an AKP MP. The report said that BİK went ahead and implemented the fine despite two separate court decisions dismissing two cases filed against Öztürk because his articles were within the scope of press freedom.


Two Dutch journalists detained in Edirne


Dutch journalists Olaf Koens and Pepijn Nagtzaam were detained in the northwestern province of Edirne on 27 September 2021 on the grounds that they “entered a forbidden military zone.” Koens, a reporter for RTL, and his cameraman Nagtzaam were in Edirne to cover the refugees in the region. They were released after their statements were taken.


Asserting that there was no warning sign that the area was a military zone, lawyer Erselan Aktan told reporters that the two journalists remained in detention for one day and their car and their equipment were temporarily seized.


New indictment issued against journalist Baransel Ağca


Journalist Baransel Ağca is charged with “publicly insulting religious values adopted by a section of the society” (TCK 216/3) in a new indictment, issued by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The indictment, issued on 16 September 2021, accuses Ağca due to a Twitter post he shared on 25 December 2020.


Another indictment against Ağca, in which he is charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) in a social media post he shared in 2016, was accepted by a court earlier in September.


Lawyer and columnist Nurcan Kaya sentenced for social media post


The fourth and final hearing of lawyer and columnist Nurcan Kaya’s trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) was held on 27 September 2021 at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court. The accusation stemmed from several social media posts Kaya shared in 2014.


Kaya and her lawyers Veysel Ok, Diyarbakır Bar Association President Nahit Eren and Mehmet Emin Aktar were in attendance. The police took intense security measures both inside and outside the courtroom and let journalists and others who wanted to observe the hearing in the courtroom after a body search.


In the previous hearing, the prosecutor submitted their final opinion, asking the court to sentence Kaya for “terrorism propaganda” for one Twitter post she had shared in October 2014 about the resistance against ISIS in the Syrian town of Kobani.


After hearing Kaya and her lawyers’ statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court issued its judgment, sentencing Kaya to 1 year and 3 months in prison for “terrorism propaganda.” The court deferred the sentence. Accordingly, Kaya will be subject to probation for the next five years.


A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.


Journalist İdris Yayla receives death threat


Journalist İdris Yayla, the publisher of the news portal Jiyan Haber, was threatened by an unidentified person who called him on his phone.


Yayla told reporters last week that on 3 September he received a message followed by a WhatsApp call from a phone number beginning with the country code of Greece. Recounting the call he received, Yayla said: “They told me I should stop reporting and close the newspaper. They told me they would cut off my ears and kill me and throw my body in the street. They told me to close the newspaper and get an ordinary job.” Yayla added that he heard five gunshots in front of his house the same night after the phone call.


Man sentenced to 15 months for sharing news article


The Diyarbakır 4th Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Mehmet Şah Tekiner to 1 year, 3 months and 16 days in prison for “insulting the president” (TCK 299) over a news article he shared on his social media account. The article, published on the news portal Diken, was about the German tabloid newspaper Bild’s 5 November 2016 headline story on political developments in Turkey. The court deferred the sentence.


At least 59 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 1 October 2021, at least 59 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.