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 - 323

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 323

Hasan Cemal charged with “insulting the president” in new case; three YouTubers detained for street interviews; Gülşen Koçuk sentenced for “propaganda”; arrest warrant issued for Cihan Ölmez; İleri Haber chief editors to stand trial


Three journalists taken into custody while covering protest in Ankara


Journalists were blocked from covering police intervention against a group of university students who wanted to stage a protest in Ankara against high rents and insufficient accommodation in state-run dormitories on 12 December 2021. During the intervention, freelance journalist Nebiye Arı and journalists Yağmur Kaya and Hilal Işık were taken into custody by the police. Arı said she was detained on the grounds that she did not have a press card. The journalists were released towards midnight.


Three YouTubers including Hasan Köksoy detained for street interviews


Hasan Köksoy, an Antalya-based individual who broadcasts street interviews on his YouTube channel “Kendine Muhabir,” was taken into custody during a dawn raid on his home on 12 December 2021. Köksoy was released earlier this week after remaining in pre-trial detention for six days following his arrest on 1 December due to a recent interview, broadcast on his YouTube channel. Köksoy’s wife wrote on Twitter: “At 7 a.m. in the morning the police raided our house and took our computer and all our digital devices. My husband, Hasan Köksoy, is now in the detention vehicle and is being taken away by the police. Reason for arrest warrant, Mücahit Birinci.”


Two other YouTubers who broadcast street interviews on their channel “İlave TV,” Arif Kocabıyık and Turan Kural, were also taken into custody on 12 December. Mehmet Koyuncu, another YouTuber who broadcasts street interviews on his channel “Sade Vatandaş,” announced on Sunday that his house was also raided by the police based on an arrest warrant. Koyuncu said he was not taken into custody because he was in Istanbul.


Köksoy, Kural and Kocabıyık were brought to the Antalya Courthouse on Monday morning. The court they were referred to released all three under judicial control measures in the form of house arrest and international travel ban.


Hasan Cemal charged with “insulting the president” for two tweets


T24 columnist and P24’s Founding President Hasan Cemal is charged with “insulting the president” (TCK 299) in a new indictment.


The accusation stems from two Twitter posts Cemal shared in 2016 and 2020. In his 19 July 2016 post, shared several days after the 15 July coup attempt, Cemal wrote: “The criterion for democracy is not only to oppose the military coup attempt, but also to say no to the intensifying ‘Erdogan coup.’” In his second Twitter post held as evidence against him, Cemal quoted an article by fellow T24 columnist Murat Belge, published on 15 July 2020, and wrote: “If the caliphate is to be brought back, the caliph will probably be Tayyip Erdoğan.”


The indictment, dated 18 November 2021, was accepted by the Istanbul 41st Criminal Court of First Instance, which set 12 April 2022 as the date for the first hearing.


Trial of police officers who violently detained Beyza Kural to continue in March


The third hearing in the trial of three police officers who violently detained former Bianet reporter Beyza Kural as she was covering a demonstration in Istanbul in 2015 was held on 10 December 2021. The officers are charged with “Violation of the freedom to work or labor by using force, threats or by any other unlawful act” under Article 117/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).


The trial, overseen by the Istanbul 35th Criminal Court of First Instance, follows on the heels of a January 2021 Constitutional Court judgment which held that Kural’s arrest violated freedom of expression, freedom of the press and prohibition of ill-treatment.


Ruling to issue a new subpoena for the third police officer who has yet to attend a hearing, the court adjourned the case until 11 March 2022.


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


Prosecutor demands sentence for journalist Ahmet Kanbal at his first hearing


The first hearing of a trial in which Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporter Ahmet Kanbal is charged with “marking an official assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” (TMK 6/1) and “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) was held at the Aydın 3rd High Criminal Court on 10 December 2021.


Kanbal is on trial for sharing an interview with Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chair Eren Keskin on his Twitter account. The case was launched upon a complaint by Lt. General Musa Çitil, the deputy commander of the Gendarmerie.


Kanbal and his lawyer Erdal Kuzu addressed the court from Mardin via the judicial videoconferencing network SEGBİS. Çitil and his lawyer did not attend.


Kanbal’s lawyer asked the court to issue a non-jurisdiction decision for the case to be transferred to a court in Mardin. The court rejected the request.


Addressing the court for his defense statement, Kanbal rejected the accusations and said his post was not intended as insult. His lawyer told the court that his client is a journalist and that he quoted a report by a fellow journalist in his post. The lawyer requested his client’s acquittal. The lawyer also asked the court to hear Çitil.


Submitting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Kanbal pursuant to Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law and requested a maximum sentence. Accepting Kanbal and his lawyer’s requests for additional time for their statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court adjourned the trial until 2 February 2022. The court rejected the lawyer’s request for Çitil to be heard by the court.


Court increases compensation fine given to Canan Kaftancıoğlu


The 4th Civil Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, has decided to increase a TL 56,000 fine given to main opposition CHP’s Istanbul Provincial Chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media. Vacating the Büyükçekmece 6th Civil Court’s judgment, the appellate court ruled that Kaftancıoğlu should pay a sum of TL 290,000 in non-pecuniary damages to Erdoğan for seven posts she shared on various dates.


Kaftancıoğlu was originally sued for 14 social media posts. The President sought a total of TL 700,000 in non-pecuniary damages -- TL 50,000 for each post. The appellate court ruled unanimously that Kaftancıoğlu should pay TL 50,000 for one of the posts and TL 40,000 for six other posts.


Prosecutor demands conviction for 6 journalists in “RedHack trial”


The “RedHack trial,” in which journalists Ömer Çelik, Metin Yoksu, Tunca Öğreten, Eray Sargın, Derya Okatan and Mahir Kanaat face various charges for news coverage of former Minister Berat Albayrak’s emails leaked by RedHack, resumed at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court on 9 December 2021.


This was the 13th hearing of the case, in which the journalists are charged with “terrorism propaganda” (TMK 7/2), “hindrance or destruction of a data processing system” (TCK 244/2), “committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization without being its member” (TCK 220/6) and “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2).


The prosecutor, who submitted their final opinion to the court two days ahead of the hearing, requested that all six journalists be convicted of “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” (TCK 136/1). The prosecutor sought additional sentences for Okatan, Sargın, Yoksu and Çelik for alleged “terrorism propaganda.”


Granting the journalists’ lawyers additional time for the final defense statements and ruling for the continuation of the judicial control measures, the court adjourned the trial until 31 December 2021.


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


Retrial of journalist Çetin Kurşun to continue in January


The first hearing of former Azadiya Welat reporter Çetin Kurşun’s retrial on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” (TCK 314/2) was held at the Mardin 2nd High Criminal Court on 9 December 2021.


Kurşun and his lawyer, who submitted letters of excuse, did not attend the hearing. The court’s temporary panel adjourned the case until 27 January 2022.


In October, the 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice overturned a 3-year sentence given to Kurşun in May 2019 on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” and remanded the case to the trial court, ruling that the journalist should stand trial for alleged “membership in a terrorist organization.”


Case against journalist İsmail Saymaz to continue in March


A trial in which journalist İsmail Saymaz is charged with “illegally obtaining personal data” (TCK 136) for reporting on allegations that public prosecutor İlker Vural had threatened a doctor was held at the Niğde 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 9 December 2021.


Saymaz and his lawyers Aslı Kazan and Serdar Laçin were present at the hearing. The court decided to file a criminal complaint against Saymaz for his reaction to the prosecutor's failure to appear in court and the court’s decision rejecting the request to have camera footage of the day of the incident sent to court. The case was adjourned until 29 March 2022.


Journalist Gülşen Koçuk sentenced for “propaganda”


Jin News editor Gülşen Koçuk appeared before the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court on 8 December 2021 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” for two posts she had shared on social media in 2016.


Koçuk and her lawyer Resul Temur were present at the hearing. In her defense statement, Koçuk explained that in one of her posts she mocked fake news in pro-government media about the murder of PKK member Bahoz Erdal. Koçuk asserted that the other post held as evidence against her was shared with the purpose of informing the public of the news about the capture of the Syrian city of Manbij from ISIS in 2016.


Submitting their final opinion, the prosecutor argued that the social media posts in question legitimized the force, threat and violence used by PYD and YPG and requested that the court sentence Koçuk for the alleged crime.


After hearing Koçuk and her lawyer’s statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, the court issued its judgment and sentenced Koçuk to 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda.” The court deferred the sentence.


Trial against Aziz Oruç and 3 others adjourned until March


The sixth hearing of the trial in which journalist Aziz Oruç is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court on 8 December 2021.


Oruç was arrested on 11 December 2019 on the Doğubayazıt-Ağrı highway. HDP Doğubayazıt District Co-Chair Abdullah Ekelek, who was with Oruç when he was being arrested, and Muhammet İkram Müftüoğlu were also jailed pending trial for “aiding and abetting.” Ekelek and Müftüoğlu were released at the end of the first hearing, held in July 2020, while Oruç was released pending trial in November 2020.


None of the defendants attended the hearing. Ruling to wait for the submission of the digital forensic reports, the court adjourned the case until 9 March 2022.


RTÜK launches investigation against show aired on Exxen


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has launched an investigation against a show titled “Konuşanlar,” hosted by Hasan Can Kaya on the digital platform Exxen. RTÜK Chairman Ebubekir Şahin said the investigation was launched due to “dialogues that are not suitable for Turkish family structure and moral standards.”


Halk TV reporter Hazar Dost detained in Antalya reporter Hazar Dost was taken into custody at the Antalya airport on 8 December 2021 shortly after his plane landed. Dost was detained under an arrest warrant issued based on a complaint filed by Ankara Deputy Police Chief Volkan Er, who reportedly accused the journalist of “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” and “libel” in a previous news report. Dost was released after his statement was taken by the prosecutor at the Antalya Courthouse.


Trial of Kenan Kırkaya and 8 others adjourned again


A trial in which journalist Kenan Kırkaya, a columnist for Yeni Yaşam newspaper and the former Ankara representative of the now-defunct Dicle news agency (DİHA), is among nine defendants charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” resumed at the Ankara 14th High Criminal Court on 7 December 2021. This was the 16th hearing of the case.


The court decided to wait for the defendants who have yet to make their statements and adjourned the case until 20 January 2022.


Kırkaya was detained in Ankara on 12 December 2016. The indictment issued on 15 May 2017 charged Kırkaya and eight other people with “membership in a terrorist organization.” In their opinion on the merits presented at the hearing held on 31 March 2020, the prosecutor requested acquittal for Kırkaya of all charges.


Case against Kurdish writer Gökhan Yavuzel adjourned until March


A new case filed against Kurdish writer Gökhan Yavuzel, a PEN International member, on the allegation of “inciting hatred and enmity” (TCK 216) for an article he wrote was heard by the Ankara 7th Criminal Court of First Instance on 7 December 2021. The court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant issued for Yavuzel, who lives abroad, and adjourned the case until 17 March 2022.


Court issues arrest warrant for journalist Cihan Ölmez


The second hearing of the trial against journalist Cihan Ölmez on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 7 December 2021. Ölmez, a former reporter for DİHA, is charged due to statements he made to the press regarding the curfews imposed in 2015 and 2016 in Diyarbakır.


Ruling to issue an arrest warrant for Ölmez, who is currently studying abroad, the court adjourned the case until 1 March 2022.


Trial against BirGün editor Kurnaz to continue in March


The second hearing of BirGün newspaper editor Mehmet Emin Kurnaz’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” (TCK 125) and “insulting the president” (TCK 299) was held in Istanbul on 7 December 2021. The case was filed on the allegation that a supplement the newspaper published on 25 May 2021 insulted MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.


Kurnaz and his lawyer Tolgay Güvercin were present at the hearing. After hearing Kurnaz and his lawyer’s statements, the court adjourned the case until 17 March 2022.


Journalists Ergün and Sezer to stand trial for reporting on bribery allegations


Journalists Doğan Ergün and İzel Sezer, the former and current chief editors of the news portal İleri Haber, respectively, will stand trial for reporting on allegations of bribery concerning President Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal in two reports published on 2 December 2020 and 16 December 2020.


The journalists are accused of “insult” (TCK 125), “libel” (TCK 267) and “illegally disclosing information obtained through recording private conversations between persons” (TCK 133). The first hearing of their trial will be held at the Istanbul 33rd Criminal Court of First Instance on 23 December 2021.


Journalists covering “Kobani case” not allowed in courtroom


Journalists were not allowed to cover the 7 December 2021 hearing of the “Kobani case,” in which 108 people, including the jailed former co-chairs of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and members of its Central Executive Board are on trial. The trial is overseen by the Ankara 22nd High Criminal Court. The hearing was held at the Sincan Prison Campus in Ankara. Journalists who requested to follow the hearing in the courtroom were told by the police that “under new instructions,” press members who do not hold “turquoise press cards” would not be allowed in the courtroom.


Trial against journalists Sema Karakurt and Eylem Sonbahar adjourned


The 13th hearing of a trial in which journalists Sema Karakurt and Eylem Sonbahar and 17 other defendants are charged with “resisting an official to prevent them from performing their duty” and “insult” was held at the Antalya 25th Criminal Court of First Instance on 7 December 2021. Karakurt and Sonbahar are on trial for covering demonstrations protesting the G20 summit held in Antalya on 15-16 November 2015. The court adjourned the case to a later date because the defendants did not attend the hearing.


ECtHR: Sentence given for social media posts violated freedom of expression


The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that a Turkish citizen's conviction after the 2016 coup attempt for his social posts in 2015 violated freedom of expression, enshrined under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Strasbourg Court issued its judgment in Yasin Özdemir’s application on 7 December 2021.


Özdemir was sentenced to 7 months and 15 days in prison on the charge of “praising a crime and a criminal offender” (TCK 215) at his final hearing by a criminal court of first instance in Isparta province in November 2016. The sentence was deferred. The individual application Özdemir filed with the Constitutional Court was rejected on the grounds that domestic remedies were not exhausted.


Investigation into MA report dismissed


A criminal investigation launched against Mezopotamya News Agency’s Responsible Managing Editor Ferhat Çelik on the allegation of “inciting hatred and enmity” due to a report titled “Jandarma Kürtçe mevlidi kesti” (Gendarmerie interrupts mawlid in Kurdish) has been dismissed by the prosecutor’s office.


Van-based newspaper distributor detained by police


Van-based newspaper distributor Özgür Ali Ağaoğlu was detained by the police on 5 December 2021, while he was distributing papers in the İpekyolu district. Ağaoğlu, who was taken to the Van Police Department, was held in the police station for hours despite the absence of a detention order. Ağaoğlu was questioned about the newspaper distribution work. Ağaoğlu was released after his statement was taken. Police seized 200 copies of Yeni Yaşam and Xwebûn newspapers, which Ağaoğlu was distributing.


Local journalist Mimar Kaya briefly detained in Hakkari


Journalist Mimar Kaya, the owner of the news portal Colemerg Haber, was taken into custody while filming a police officer and a shuttle driver who were arguing on the road in Hakkari on 5 December 2021. Kaya was told by the police that he was not allowed to shoot footage. The police also told the journalist that his press card was invalid. Kaya, who was taken to the police station, was released after giving his statement.


PİRHA reporter barred from shooting interview with locals


PİRHA Tunceli correspondent Cihan Berk was blocked by the police from conducting an interview with a local woman in the Nazımiye district of Tunceli. According to news reports dated 4 December 2021, the police told Berk he needed permission from local authorities for shooting videos in the region.


At least 58 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 12 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.