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 - 314

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 314

Osman Kavala remains behind bars as Gezi and Çarşı cases resume following joinder; photographer Mehmet Özer, filmmaker Veysi Altay sentenced for “propaganda”; Gökhan Yavuzel faces new indictment; prosecutor seeks sentence for journalist Ayşe Kara


Administrative court blocks RTÜK penalty on Halk TV


The Ankara Regional Administrative Court has ruled for a stay of execution concerning a 3-episode program suspension penalty the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed on Halk TV in July.


The penalty was given because of a live performance of the Group Yorum song Cemo on Halk TV during a televised fundraising concert it aired this summer, aimed at helping musicians in need due to the Covid-19 pandemic. RTÜK had imposed the penalty on the grounds that the song “glorified and encouraged terrorism,” violating Article 8/1-d of Law No. 6112.


The administrative court rendered its judgment unanimously. Whether the remaining two penalties for Halk TV will be implemented will be determined once the court renders its judgment on the merits.


Demirören group files complaint against Reuters


The Demirören Group filed a criminal complaint against Reuters due to its reports claiming that the group had been negotiating with banks seeking the restructuring of loans it used for purchasing media, energy and other companies.


Demirören purchased Doğan Media in 2018 with a loan from Ziraat Bank. Following allegations that Demirören Group did not pay its debts, Reuters reported that there were negotiations between Demirören Group and Ziraat Bank for the restructuring of debts, and that a new formula was being discussed for debts amounting to 2 billion dollars.


Osman Kavala remains behind bars as Gezi and Çarşı cases resume following joinder


The “Gezi trial,” in which 16 civil society figures, including the jailed businessperson Osman Kavala, are being retried for allegedly “organizing and financing” the nationwide Gezi protests that took place in 2013, resumed once again on 8 October 2021 after the trial courts ruled this summer to merge the case with the retrial of defendants in the “Çarşı case.”


With the addition of 35 defendants who are members of the Beşiktaş football fan group “Çarşı,” who are accused of “organizing a plot against the government during the Gezi Park protests,” there are now 52 defendants in the case, now overseen by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court.


Before hearing the defendants’ statements on the charges, the presiding judge asked if any of the defense lawyers had anything to say on procedure. Lawyers representing Çarşı and Gezi defendants then addressed the court, explaining that the joinder decision was unlawful and requesting the separation of the two files. The court rejected the requests.


Issuing an interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court ruled by a majority to keep Osman Kavala behind bars and adjourned the trial until 26 November 2021. One of the judges on the panel, Kürşad Bektaş, wrote a dissenting opinion concerning the decision for Kavala’s continued detention, saying he should have been released pending trial considering the available evidence and the time he has spent in detention and arguing that one or more judicial control measures should be sufficient to replace the detention measure.


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


Hasan Cemal faces “insulting the president” allegation in new investigation


The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has launched a new investigation against T24 columnist and P24 Founding President Hasan Cemal on the allegation of “insulting the president.”


Cemal was called in to the Beşiktaş Police Station for questioning on 8 October 2021. There, he was asked about three Twitter posts he shared. One of the posts was dated 19 July 2016 and the remaining two were retweets of posts by other users, including Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Mithat Sancar.


Asserting that none of the posts included insults or were meant as insults, Cemal said all three Twitter posts were within the scope of freedom of expression.


In his 19 July 2016 post, shared several days after the 15 July coup attempt, Cemal wrote: “The criterion of democracy is not only to oppose the military coup attempt, but also to say no to the intensifying ‘Erdogan coup.’”


Musician Ferhat Tunç’s trial adjourned until April


The sixth hearing of a trial in which exiled musician Ferhat Tunç is charged with “terrorism propaganda” an account of his social media posts was held on at the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court on 8 October 2021.


The prosecutor requested that the court wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Tunç. Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant, the court adjourned the case until 29 April 2022.


Photographer-poet Mehmet Özer sentenced for “propaganda”


Photographer and poet Mehmet Özer appeared before the Ankara 2nd High Criminal Court on 8 October 2021 for the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”


At the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Özer to 1 year and 3 months in prison for “terrorism propaganda.” The court suspended the sentence.


Özer was on trial for several social media posts he shared between 2012 and 2014, in which he shared photos from an exhibition called “The Museum of Shame,” put together by The Revolutionary 78'ers Federation.


Journalist Engin Eren’s trial adjourned until November


A trial in which Engin Eren, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), is among 76 defendants charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” “violating Law no. 2565” and “violating Law no. 2911,” resumed on 8 October 2021 at the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court. This was the 25th hearing in the case.


Eren is on trial for covering a “human shield” demonstration organized in Batman province in 2015.


Ruling to bring defendants whose files have been merged with the ongoing case to the courtroom by force at the next hearing, the court adjourned the trial until 19 November 2021.


Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar acquitted


The sixth and final hearing of journalists Canan Coşkun, Can Uğur and Ali Açar's trial on the charge of “disclosing the identities of public officials involved in the fight against terrorism” under Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) was held at the Istanbul 34th High Criminal Court on 7 October 2021.


Rendering its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Coşkun, Uğur and Açar’s acquittal on the grounds that the alleged offense was not prescribed in the law.


The journalists were on trial for two articles published in March 2016 in Cumhuriyet and BirGün newspapers about the investigation into the murder of Berkin Elvan during 2013’s Gezi Park protests.


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


Ali Sönmez Kayar’s trial adjourned until February


A case in which Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Ali Sönmez Kayar is among nine defendants charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” resumed on 7 October 2021 at the Istanbul 32nd High Criminal Court.


The court heard a witness who previously testified against Kayar’s co-defendant Sıtkı Güngör. The witness told the court that he did not know Güngör. Güngör and his lawyer Önder Alçiçek demanded that the court ignore the contradictory and false statements by the witness, who was apparently trying to avoid being sentenced.


Ruling to wait for the submission of the requested documents, the court adjourned the trial until 10 February 2022.


Journalists covering Boğaziçi University protests blocked by police


Journalists covering police intervention in a protest staged by Boğaziçi University students on 7 October 2021 against the detention of two students from the school were prevented by the police. Police officers in riot gear surrounded the journalists with their shields and kept them under a blockade, preventing them from approaching the protesting students. During the intervention, Halk TV reporter Erdinç Yılmaz was severely beaten while Artı Gerçek reporter Yağmur Kaya’s press card was confiscated by the police.


Journalist Fatoş Erdoğan assaulted by police


Dokuz8Haber editor Fatoş Erdoğan was physically assaulted by police officers on 5 October 2021 as she was covering Boğaziçi University students being arrested by the police for staging a protest on the campus. An officer who approached Erdoğan as she was recording footage of the police intervention on her camera attempted to push the journalist to the ground.


Veysi Altay and Dicle Anter sentenced for “propaganda” in retrial


The retrial of filmmaker Veysi Altay, the director of the documentary feature Nû Jîn, and Dicle Anter, the former manager of the Yılmaz Güney Movie Theatre in Batman, where the film was shown in 2015, concluded at the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court on 7 October 2021.


The court sentenced Altay to 1 year and 15 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda” and suspended the sentence. The court sentenced Anter to 10 months in prison on the same charge and commuted the sentence to a judicial fine of TL 6,000. The court also lifted the international travel ban imposed on Altay and Anter.


Altay and Anter were on trial for the movie’s poster. At the end of the initial trial, in February 2019, the court had sentenced Altay to 2.5 years and Anter to 2 years and 1 month in prison for “terrorism propaganda.” Their sentences were overturned in 2020 by a regional court of appeals, which held that the posters for the movie were “not suitable for inspection.”


Can Dündar’s trial on “espionage” charges adjourned until December


The second hearing of a trial in which exiled journalist Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, is charged with “Obtaining and disclosing information that must be kept confidential for political or military espionage purposes” under Articles 328 and 330 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), was held on 6 October 2021 at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court.


The charges stem from a video by Dündar, dated 1 March 2017. The indictment alleges that Dündar's video breached a gag order issued by the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor's Office concerning the 2014 “MİT trucks” investigation.


The hearing was closed to the public. The court accepted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s request to join the case due to the “possibility of being harmed by the offense.” Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant it issued for Dündar and his extradition from Germany, the court adjourned the trial until 29 December 2021.


Prosecutor seeks sentence for Yılmaz Odabaşı at first hearing


Poet and writer Yılmaz Odabaşı appeared before a criminal court in Yalova province on 6 October 2021 for the first hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299) in a Twitter post he had shared on 2 May 2018. In his post, Odabaşı wrote: “Turkey is holding elections so that Erdoğan can say, ‘I am not a dictator, I was elected by the will of the people.’ I don't think there is any other reason.”


Making his defense statement, Odabaşı asserted that his Twitter post did not constitute a criminal offense and requested to be acquitted. The prosecutor then presented their final opinion, asking the court to sentence Odabaşı as charged.


The Yalova 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance granted Odabaşı time to prepare his statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion and adjourned the case until 3 November 2021.


Broadcasting watchdog launches investigation against Fox TV


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) launched an investigation against Fox TV due to a show that aired on 6 October 2021, in which Başak Demirtaş, the wife of jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, appeared as a guest. In a statement, RTÜK said the investigation was initiated “within the framework of Law No. 6112 due to the remarks and statements of guest Başak Demirtaş during a program that aired today on Fox TV.”


Case against Ruken Demir adjourned until January


The eighth hearing of journalist Ruken Demir’s trial on “membership in a terrorist organization” charge was held at the Izmir 19th High Criminal Court on 5 October 2021.


Demir did not attend the hearing. She was represented in the courtroom by lawyer Zafer İncin. The presiding judge told those in attendance that the court has still not received the digital forensics report on equipment confiscated during the investigation against Demir. Lawyer İncin said the digital equipment in question did not belong to Demir and therefore the report will not contribute to the case. İncin requested his client’s acquittal.


The court decided to wait for the submission of the report and adjourned the trial until 12 January 2022.


Prosecutor seeks sentence for journalist Ayşe Kara


The prosecutor in journalist Ayşe Kara’s trial over her alleged ties with the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) has submitted their final opinion to the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court, seeking the journalist's conviction for “membership in a terrorist organization.”


In the final opinion, the prosecutor argued that Kara’s name was on the DTK delegates list in 2017 and that she was a member of the shuttered Congress of Free Women (KJA) and the Free Journalists Association (ÖGC), which proved that the journalist “committed the alleged offense.” The next hearing of Kara’s trial is scheduled for 9 November 2021.


Writer Gökhan Yavuzel charged with “inciting hatred” in new indictment


A new indictment has been issued against Kurdish writer Gökhan Yavuzel, a PEN International member, on the allegation of “inciting hatred and enmity” (TCK 216) for an article he wrote. The indictment has been sent to the Ankara 7th Criminal court of First Instance. Yavuzel announced the new case against him on his Twitter account on 4 October 2021.


Yavuzel, who lives in Wales, is already charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) in a separate case that got underway on 14 September 2021 at the Şanlıurfa 4th Criminal Court of First Instance.


At least 59 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 8 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.