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 - 326

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 326

Five journalists sentenced in “RedHack trial”; top court rejects Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu’s application; RTÜK fines three TV networks; Evrim Kepenek to stand trial for “insulting” child abuse suspect


Five journalists sentenced in “RedHack trial”


The “RedHack trial,” in which journalists Ömer Çelik, Metin Yoksu, Tunca Öğreten, Eray Sargın, Derya Okatan and Mahir Kanaat were 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) for news coverage of former Minister Berat Albayrak’s emails leaked by RedHack, concluded at the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court on 31 December 2021.


P24 monitored the hearing, which marked the 14th in the case. Reiterating their final opinion, the prosecutor requested that all six journalists be sentenced for “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” (TCK 136/1) and that Okatan, Sargın, Yoksu and Çelik be additionally sentenced for “terrorism propaganda.”


Delivering its verdict after hearing the final defense statements of the journalists and their lawyers, the court ruled for Okatan’s acquittal of all charges while it sentenced Öğreten, Yoksu, Çelik, Sargın and Kanaat to 1 year and 8 months in prison for “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” (TCK 136/1). The court suspended the sentences and lifted the judicial control measures imposed on all six journalists.


Constitutional Court rejects Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu’s application


The Constitutional Court rejected the individual application of journalist Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, who was imprisoned for 3 years and 10 months as part of the trial publicly known as the “FETÖ media case.” Kalyoncu’s application was filed on 15 February 2018.


The Second Section of the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that the claims in Kalyoncu’s application that his right to liberty and security and his freedom of expression and freedom of the press had been violated due to his unlawful detention were “inadmissible” on the grounds that they were “manifestly ill-founded.”


The judgment, dated 8 September 2021, was published in the Official Gazette on 31 December 2021.


Kalyoncu was arrested on the charge of “membership in an armed terrorist organization” within the scope of an investigation launched on the allegation that he “had ties with the media structure of FETÖ/PDY” following the coup attempt of 15 July 2016. At the end of the trial, he was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison in 2018. Kalyoncu was released on 15 June 2020 after his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals. The retrial of Kalyoncu and seven other defendants is still pending before the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court.


Habertürk columnist Sevilay Yılman faces investigation for two articles


Habertürk columnist Sevilay Yılman is facing an investigation on the allegations of “insulting a public official” and “libel” for her comments on mob boss Sedat Peker’s YouTube videos in two articles she wrote in her regular column on 27 May 2021 and 11 June 2021. The investigation was launched upon a complaint by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.


In her statement to the prosecutor conducting the investigation, Yılman reportedly said that her articles did not contain any criminal elements and that the Interior Minister’s name was not mentioned in her articles.


Broadcasting watchdog RTÜK fines three TV networks


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) imposed administrative fines on Halk TV, FOX TV and Tele 1 at its final regular meeting of the year, held on 29 December 2021. İlhan Taşcı, a member of RTÜK elected from the opposition CHP quota, announced the latest penalties on his social media account.


Through a majority vote, RTÜK fined Halk TV for “humiliating” former Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak through an audit report read out by journalist Barış Terkoğlu on a recent political discussion show; FOX TV for criticizing a statement concerning gas prices by the Energy Market Regulatory Board (EPDK) on a recent evening newscast; and Tele 1 for Retired Admiral Türker Ertürk’s comments criticizing the government on a recent political discussion show presented by Uğur Dündar.


Can Dündar’s trial on “espionage” charges to continue in June


The third hearing of a trial in which Cumhuriyet newspaper’s former Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar 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 at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on 29 December 2021.


The charges stem from a video Dündar aired on his website on 1 March 2017 while reporting on the latest developments in the “MİT trucks case” against him. The indictment claims that the video breached a gag order issued by the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office concerning the 2014 “MİT trucks” investigation.


Accepting a letter of excuse submitted by Dündar’s lawyer, the court adjourned the trial until 23 June 2022.


Evrim Kepenek to stand trial for allegedly “insulting” child abuse suspect


Bianet editor Evrim Kepenek will stand trial on the charge of “insult” (TCK 125) for two reports in which she wrote about a man who was arrested last year for allegedly abusing his six-year-old child.


Kepenek penned two reports on Refik Y., who was later released under judicial control measures. Following Kepenek’s report published on 9 June 2021, Refik Y., who was in prison back then, filed a complaint against the journalist on allegations of “insult” and “violation of privacy.” Kepenek said at the time that Refik Y. had also filed for an access ban on her reports and that additionally bianet had received a phone call seeking the removal of Kepenek’s articles.


Kepenek announced the new case on her social media account on 28 December 2021. Bianet reported that in the indictment, the prosecution argued that since Kepenek’s articles have also been published online, the case did not fall within the scope of the Press Law.


Deniz Yücel’s trial on “insult” charge adjourned until February


The sixth 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 28 December 2021.


Yücel, who lives in Germany, was represented by his lawyer, Veysel Ok. In their final opinion submitted to the court during the previous hearing, 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.


Lawyer Ok told the court that his client’s statement regarding the deferral of the sentence during his statement taken in Germany was missing in the case file and asked that this information be added.


The prosecutor reiterated their final opinion, asking the court to sentence Yücel as charged. Granting a continuance for Yücel’s final defense statement, the court adjourned the case until 8 February 2022.


Banking watchdog files complaints against 26 people


Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) has filed a criminal complaint against 26 people for allegedly violating Article 74 of the Banking Law due to their comments on the recent developments regarding Turkey’s economy.


Based on the BDDK’s complaint, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against 26 people, including journalists Şeref Oğuz, Alican Uludağ, Emin Çapa, economist and broadcaster Selçuk Geçer, economist and journalist Mustafa Sönmez, and former Central Bank Governors Rüşdü Saraçoğlu and Durmuş Yılmaz.


Article 74 of Turkey’s Banking Law stipulates: “No real or legal person shall intentionally damage the reputation, prestige or assets of a bank or disseminate inaccurate news either using any means of communication defined in the Press Code No. 5187 or radio, television, video, internet, cable TV or electronic data communication devices and similar tools.”


At least 58 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 31 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.