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 - 317

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 317

Appellate court rules journalist Çetin Kurşun should be charged with “membership in a terrorist organization”; prosecutor demands sentence for former TV10 cameraman Kemal Demir; judicial control measures lifted for 7 journalists in retrial of “FETÖ media case”


Non-prosecution decision for police officers who blocked journalists lifted


A decision of non-prosecution issued in response to a criminal complaint filed by the Ankara Branch of the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) against police officers from the Ankara Police Department who prevented journalists from performing their duty has been lifted by the Ankara 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace, paving the way for a criminal investigation against the officers.


The complaint filed on 25 March 2021 by TGS claimed that the police had abused their duties and their authority to use force in 10 separate incidents. The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the complaint on 27 April on the grounds that TGS was “not a victim of the offense” and that “only victims of the offense can file a complaint.”


Reviewing an objection filed by TGS lawyers Meliha Selvi, Beste Dönmez Gedik and Ülkü Şahin against the decision, the Ankara 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace ruled on 15 October 2021 to lift the non-prosecution decision.


If the prosecutor’s office deems the acts of the police “an abuse of authority to use force,” it will press charges against the officers without having to seek permission for investigation. If the prosecutor's office considers the acts “abuse of duty,” it will have to seek permission from the Ankara Governor’s Office to investigate the officers and to press charges.


Cumhuriyet, Fox TV, Anka reporters denied entry to Anıtkabir


Reporters and photojournalists from Cumhuriyet newspaper, FOX TV and Anka News Agency were denied entry to Atatürk’s mausoleum in Ankara to cover the official ceremony marking the 29 October Republic Day. The ban stemmed from the Directorate of Communications’ new media accreditation policy.


Local man detained on “propaganda” allegation


Cemil Taşkesen, a local shop owner in Siirt province, was taken into custody on 29 October 2021 on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” one day after he told Good Party (İYİ Parti) leader Meral Akşener, “Our language is being denied, our identity is being denied. You are in Kurdistan,” in a video widely shared on social media. Taşkesen, who was detained within the scope of an investigation launched by the Siirt Kurtalan Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, was released later that evening following procedures at the police department.


Prosecutor demands sentence for former TV10 staffer Kemal Demir


The 10th hearing of a trial in which Kemal Demir and Kemal Karagöz, two former employees of TV10, which was closed under a statutory decree in 2016, are charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” was held at the Istanbul 28th High Criminal Court on 28 October 2021.


The prosecutor, who submitted their final opinion to the court one day ahead of the hearing, demanded Karagöz’s acquittal for lack of sufficient and conclusive evidence while asking the court to sentence Demir for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” pursuant to Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The prosecutor argued that Demir, “while not being a member of the PKK/KCK-PYD/YPG armed terrorist organization, personally assisted in the procurement of studio equipment for a TV channel to be established on behalf of the organization.”


Granting Demir’s lawyer additional time for their final defense statement, the court adjourned the trial until 16 December 2021.


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


HaberTürk TV reporter attacked while covering protest


HaberTürk TV correspondent Kübra Demir announced that she suffered a verbal attack while she was covering a protest staged by taxi drivers against the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s new taxi project on 28 October 2021. Demir said one of the taxi drivers participating in the protest charged towards her and insulted her.


Appellate court: Çetin Kurşun should be charged with “membership in a terrorist organization”


The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice has overturned a 3-year prison sentence given on 30 May 2019 to journalist Çetin Kurşun, a former reporter for the shuttered Kurdish newspaper Azadiya Welat, on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.”


Kurşun, who was jailed pending trial in Mardin in February 2018, stood trial on “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” charges. At the final hearing of his trial, the Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court acquitted Kurşun of “membership in a terrorist organization” but sentenced him to 3 years in prison for “terrorism propaganda” citing content published on the website Ciwannews and ruled for his release. The prosecutor appealed the judgment.


Mezopotamya News Agency reported on 27 October 2021 that the appellate court, which recently adjudicated on the case, reversed the 3-year sentence given to Kurşun and ordered a retrial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The appellate court argued that content published on the website Ciwannews, allegedly published by Kurşun, “supported the PKK.”


“Insult” case against Caner Taşpınar to continue in January


The third hearing of the case against Odatv editor Caner Taşpınar on the charge of “insult” (TCK 125) for his 2020 book Damat: Fethullahçıların AKP'li Kayınpederleri (The groom: The AKP-member fathers-in-law of Fethullahists) was held at the Istanbul 11th Criminal Court of First Instance on 27 October 2021. The case was launched upon complaints filed by Former Speaker of the Parliament İsmail Kahraman, and AKP Deputy Ali İhsan Arslan.


P24 monitored the hearing. Taşpınar’s lawyer Ruşen Gültekin and a lawyer representing Arslan were in attendance.


The prosecutor appointed to the case ahead of the previous hearing was expected to submit their final opinion during this week’s hearing. However, the presiding judge stated that yet another prosecutor was appointed to the case last week and that therefore the case file had yet to be sent to the prosecutor’s office for the final opinion.


The lawyers said they will make their statements after the prosecutor submits their final opinion. The court adjourned the trial until 6 January 2022.


RTÜK fines Halk TV and Tele1 TV


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), at its regular meeting on 27 October 2021, imposed an administrative fine on Halk TV on the grounds that in four different programs the channel recently aired, the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) was “humiliated, denigrated and slandered.” Halk TV was given an additional fine upon a complaint by the Press Advertising Institution (BİK) regarding televised discussions on the pressure faced by media companies from RTÜK and BİK.


During the same meeting, the council also decided to fine Tele1 for televised commentary on a recent statement by former Speaker of Parliament İsmail Kahraman, who is currently a member of the Presidential High Advisory Board.


Judicial control measures lifted for 7 journalists in retrial of “FETÖ media case”


The third hearing of the retrial of journalists Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin, Yetkin Yıldız and musician Atilla Taş, who was a newspaper columnist between 2015 and 2016, was held on 26 October 2021 at the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court.


All eight were convicted in 2018 in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial,” in which 26 defendants faced “terror” charges over alleged ties with the Fethullah Gülen network. Their convictions were overturned in 2020 by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which held that Memiş, Kalyoncu, Çulhaoğlu, Tanık, Çetin and Yıldız should be charged with “aiding a terrorist organization without being a member” (TCK 220/7) and that Taş, who was convicted of “aiding a terrorist organization,” should be charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) and “publicly degrading the institutions and organs of the state” (TCK 301).


P24 monitored the hearing, during which the court heard five witnesses who testified for Akkuş, Tanık, Çetin and Yıldız. Taş’s lawyer, who submitted the Turkish translation of the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) Atilla Taş judgment to the court, requested her client’s acquittal based on the Strasbourg court’s judgment. The presiding judge reminded that the Justice Ministry’s approval for Taş to be prosecuted on the TCK 301 charge was still pending and that therefore Taş had yet to make his statement regarding that charge.


In an interim ruling, the court lifted the judicial control measures imposed on all defendants except Taş and adjourned the trial until 17 February 2022.


Trial against Osman Akın and Veysi Sarısözen to continue in February


The eighth hearing of a trial in which Yeni Yaşam newspaper’s former responsible editor Osman Akın and columnist Veysi Sarısözen are charged with “terrorism propaganda” for a number of articles published in the newspaper was held at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 26 October 2021.


Akın’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç requested that Sarısözen’s statement be taken in his current country of residence. The prosecutor demanded that the court wait for the execution of the arrest warrant issued for Sarısözen.


Ruling to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants issued for Sarısözen and a third defendant in the case, the court also decided to issue letters rogatory for Sarısözen’s statement to be taken in his country of residence and adjourned the case until 2 February 2022.


Pınar Gayıp faces investigation for her article about Musa Orhan


An investigation has been launched against Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Pınar Gayıp based on a social media post and a news article she penned on 30 May 2021 about sergeant Musa Orhan, who is currently on trial for sexual assault. Gayıp is facing the allegation of “marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as a target” in the investigation, launched by the Aydın Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.


Access to ETHA website blocked twice in a month


Access to the website of Etkin News Agency (ETHA) has been blocked by a decision of the Diyarbakır 2nd Criminal Judgeship of Peace, issued on 26 October 2021. The court cited “national security and the protection of public order” as the grounds for its decision.


This was the second access ban decision issued this month for ETHA, which was also blocked for access by a decision of the Diyarbakır 3rd Criminal Judgeship of Peace issued on 14 October 2021.


Retrial of Ramazan Akoğul adjourned once again


The ninth hearing in the retrial of former Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Ramazan Akoğul on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court on 26 October 2021.


Akoğul did not attend the hearing. He was represented in the courtroom by his lawyer Resul Temur.


The court decided to wait for the submission of the investigation file against Akoğul that was launched by the Dicle Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office five years ago and adjourned the case until 25 January 2022.


Akoğul was detained and subsequently released in 2015 in Diyarbakır while he was covering a protest by a group wearing masks. In 2018, Akoğul and the protesters were acquitted of all charges in a case filed against them based on testimony by a secret witness. The prosecutor appealed the acquittal, demanding that Akoğul be sentenced for “membership in a terrorist organization,” claiming that the protesters who made a blockade “trusted” the journalist. Based on the prosecutor’s appeal, the 18th Criminal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice overturned the acquittal and ordered a retrial.


Former TRT newscaster Hamza Günerigök released from prison


Hamza Günerigök, a former news presenter for the Turkish state broadcaster TRT, was released from prison earlier this month upon completing a sentence of 6 years and 3 months he had been given on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”


Günerigök, who was dismissed from the TRT under a statutory decree, had been in prison since January 2017, when he was placed in pre-trial detention over alleged ties with the Fethullah Gülen network. The Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court, which oversaw the “TRT FETÖ trial” against Günerigök and other former TRT staffers, convicted 39 defendants in the case, including Günerigök, on 25 February 2019.


At least 58 journalists and media workers in prison


Following the release of Hamza Günerigök, as of 30 October 2021, at least 58 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.