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 - 322

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 322

Eren Keskin’s house raided by police; Hasan Köksoy arrested for street interview; prosecutor demands sentence for Deniz Yücel; Oktay İnce, Zeynep Altıok sentenced for “insulting” President Erdoğan; Çiğdem Toker’s articles blocked for access


Rights defender Eren Keskin’s home raided by police


Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chairperson Eren Keskin’s home was raided by the police on the night of 3 December 2021. Keskin was not home during the raid. The police called Keskin on her phone later that night, telling her that she was supposed to give her statement within the scope of an investigation on the allegation of “terrorism propaganda” in connection with a speech she had delivered during a panel discussion in Tunceli. Keskin told reporters that she will give her statement on Tuesday, 7 December.


Case filed by Mehmet Altan against judges who refused to implement top court judgments sent to Supreme Court


A compensation case filed by academic and writer Mehmet Altan against the former judges of the 26th and 27th high criminal courts of Istanbul, who refused to implement the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments that found violations in Altan’s case, got underway at the Istanbul 40th High Criminal Court on 2 December 2021.


The plaintiff Mehmet Altan and his lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu were in attendance while the defendant judges Seval Alaçam, Kemal Selçuk Yalçın and Mehmet Akif Ayaz, and the lawyers for the Ministry of Treasury and Finance were not present.


The court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the case and sent the case file to the 4th Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals. In the event that the Chamber accepts the case, the case against judges Alaçam, Yalçın and Ayaz will be merged with the case Altan filed against judge Orkun Dağ, also overseen by the Supreme Court of Appeals.


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


Prosecutor demands acquittal for journalist Mehmet Aslan


The prosecutor of the case against Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Mehmet Aslan has demanded the journalist’s acquittal. Aslan is charged with membership in a terrorist organization” on account of his reporting.


In their final opinion submitted to the court in between public hearings, the prosecutor wrote that Aslan’s seized digital equipment, books and magazines and his news reports held as evidence for the accusation did not constitute the alleged offense and requested Aslan’s acquittal due to lack of sufficient evidence, MA reported on 2 December 2021.


Aslan was taken into custody in January in Istanbul. He was subsequently sent to Antalya, where he was jailed pending trial by a criminal judgeship of peace. The journalist was released pending trial at the end of his first hearing, held on 26 May 2021, after spending four months behind bars. The Istanbul 24th High Criminal Court will hold the next hearing of Aslan’s trial on 16 December 2021.


Prosecutor demands sentence for Zekine Türkeri at first hearing


The first hearing of a trial in which journalist Zekine Türkeri is charged with “terrorism propaganda” for her social media posts was held at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 2 December 2021.


Türkeri and her lawyer Erselan Aktan attended the hearing. After the court heard the statements by Türkeri and her lawyer, the prosecutor submitted their final opinion, asking the court to sentence Türkeri as charged. Accepting Türkeri and her lawyer's request for a continuance to prepare their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 15 March 2022.


Zeynep Altıok Akatlı sentenced for “insulting the president”


Zeynep Altıok Akatlı, a columnist for BirGün daily and a former main opposition CHP lawmaker, appeared before Izmir’s Urla 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 2 December 2021 for the final hearing of her trial on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299). She was on trial for her social media posts. Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Akatlı to 11 months in prison and deferred the sentence.


Trial against four Cumhuriyet journalists adjourned until March


The fourth hearing of a trial in which Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak, responsible managing editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça, managing editor İpek Özbey and photojournalist Vedat Arık are charged with “marking an official assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” (TMK 6/1) and “violating the secrecy of one’s private life” (TCK 134) for an April 2020 report by Ocak was held at the Istanbul 26th High Criminal Court on 1 December 2021.


Ocak’s report claimed that the Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun had commissioned illegal construction work on a plot of land near his residence in Istanbul that he had rented from the General Directorate of Foundations.


The journalists’ lawyer Turan Karakaş requested that the court inquire of the Interior Ministry and the Presidency about whether the Communications Director Altun was assigned a duty in the fight against terrorism. The court rejected the request and adjourned the trial until 31 March 2022.


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


Journalists following court hearing assaulted by defendant’s relatives


Journalists were blocked from following a courtroom hearing held in Ankara on 1 December 2021. The photographs taken by journalists in front of the courtroom were deleted by the police. The relatives of the accused, who is on trial for violence and threats against women, threatened the lawyers and the journalists who wanted to observe the hearing. The elder brother of the accused verbally attacked the journalists and called them “terrorists.” He also threatened that he would file a complaint against the women journalists covering the hearing.


Trial against Reyhan Çapan to continue in March


A trial in which the shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper’s former responsible managing editor Reyhan Çapan is charged with “terrorism propaganda” (TMK 7/2) and “publishing or printing statements by terrorist organizations” (TMK 6/2) resumed at the Istanbul 2nd High Criminal Court on 30 November 2021. This was the 20th hearing of the case, in which 18 separate indictments against Çapan have been merged.


P24 monitored the hearing. Çapan, who did not attend, was represented by her lawyer Özcan Kılıç. The court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrants for three other defendants in the case and adjourned the trial until 16 March 2022.


Prosecutor demands sentence for Deniz Yücel


The fifth hearing of a trial in which Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel is charged with “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) for his Twitter posts was held at the Istanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance on 30 November 2021.


P24 monitored the hearing. Yücel, who lives in Germany, was represented by his lawyer, Merve Kurhan. Submitting their final opinion, the prosecutor argued that the posts shared on Yücel’s Twitter account about the plaintiff Hasan Yılmaz, who is currently the deputy minister of justice, “offended the plaintiff’s honor and dignity” and asked the court to sentence Yücel as charged.


Yücel’s lawyer requested a continuance to prepare their statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. Granting Kurhan a continuance, the court adjourned the case until 28 December 2021.


Trial against Aziz Oruç and Ersin Çaksu postponed until March


A trial in which journalists Aziz Oruç and Ersin Çaksu are charged with “publicly denigrating the state of the Turkish Republic, the government, the Parliament, judicial bodies and security forces” (TCK 301) for a number of news reports published in October 2016 in the now-defunct newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi resumed at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 30 November 2021. Since defense lawyers submitted letters of excuse, the court did not hold a public hearing. Ruling for the continuation of the arrest warrant issued for Çaksu, the court postponed the trial until 24 March 2022.


The file against Oruç and Çaksu was separated from main file in November 2019, when the court sentenced their co-defendants Selman Keleş, Özgür Paksoy, Kenan Kırkaya and İshak Yasul.


Two people jailed for street interview broadcast on YouTube


Hasan Köksoy, an Antalya-based individual who broadcasts street interviews on his YouTube channel “Kendine Muhabir,” was detained on 30 November 2021 due to a recent interview he made. Köksoy, who was referred to the court with a request for arrest after his statement to the prosecutor's office, was jailed pending trial on 1 December. The person with whom Köksoy made the latest interview was also jailed, according to news reports. There was no information on the charges against Köksoy and the person he spoke to.


Video-activist Oktay İnce sentenced for “insulting the president”


Documentary maker and video-activist Oktay İnce appeared before the Izmir Kemalpaşa 1st Criminal Court of First Instance on 30 November 2021 for the final hearing of his trial on the charge of “insulting the president” (TCK 299).


İnce and his lawyers Arif Cangı, Doğu Işık and Ali Aydın attended the hearing. İnce reiterated his previous defense statements. His lawyers objected to the prosecutor’s final opinion, arguing that the evidence in the case file was not conclusive and was unlawful.


Issuing its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced İnce to 1 year, 2 months and 17 days in prison. The court deferred the sentence.


İnce, a member of the “Seyri Sokak” video and documentary collective, was taken into custody in a police raid on his home on 16 October 2018 as part of an investigation launched on the allegation that posts shared on the collective’s social media account made “terrorism propaganda.” During the search, the police confiscated İnce’s entire video archive as well as digital equipment belonging to his family. İnce was released after giving his statement at the police department. The indictment accusing İnce of “insulting the president” was issued after he began staging public protests seeking the return of his seized video archive.


Access to two news websites blocked


Access to the websites of Umut Gazetesi and Kızıl Bayrak were blocked by two decisions issued by the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 30 November 2021. The court cited “national security and the protection of public order” as the grounds for the decisions.


MA editor faces investigation for September 2020 report


The Kahramanmaraş Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation against the Mezopotamya news agency for a report it dispatched on 24 September 2020. The report was about rights violations in the Türkoğlu No. 1 L Type Closed Prison.


The agency’s managing editor Ferhat Çelik was recently called in for questioning within the scope of the investigation, which was launched following a complaint by the prison warden. Giving his statement at the Taksim Police Station in Istanbul, Çelik asserted that they did seek comment from the prison administration regarding the claims in their article and that the report was within the scope of the right to inform the public.


Compensation case against Ceren Sözeri and Evrensel postponed until April


A lawsuit filed by the pro-government Turkuvaz Media Group against academic and Evrensel columnist Ceren Sözeri, seeking TL 200,000 in compensation for an April 2019 article by Sözeri, resumed at the Istanbul 2nd Commercial Court of First Instance on 29 November 2021. The court adjourned the case until 13 April 2022.


Sözcü columnist Çiğdem Toker’s articles banned for access


Journalist Çiğdem Toker, a columnist for Sözcü newspaper, announced that an access block has been imposed on her article on the public tender for the Kocaeli tram line. Toker wrote on 29 November 2021 that 118 other news articles published on other websites that quoted her various articles have also been blocked.


Jin News Ankara correspondent Öznur Değer briefly detained


Jin News reporter Öznur Değer was taken into custody in Ankara on 28 November 2021 as she was covering a protest against the government’s economic policy. A total of 25 people, including Değer, were violently detained by the police. Değer’s hands were cuffed behind her back and her camera was seized. The detainees were charged with “violating the Law No. 2911 on Assemblies and Demonstrations” and “resisting an official to prevent them from performing their duty.” All 25 were released later that day after giving their statements at the police department.


At least 58 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 4 December 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.