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 – 356

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 356

Supreme Court orders retrial of former Zaman and Samanyolu executives; Constitutional Court rules against conviction of journalist Boğatekin over news report; local journalist imprisoned pending trial for “incitement” after reporting on refugees



Supreme Court of Appeals overturns life imprisonment for journalists Karaca, Kaya


The 3rd Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned a verdict sentencing former executives of the now-defunct Zaman newspaper and the Samanyolu group, Hidayet Karaca and Alaeddin Kaya, to aggravated life imprisonment on the charge of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” in connection with the 15 July 2016 coup attempt. 


According to news reports published on 28 July 2022, the Supreme Court of Appeals has concluded that there was no evidence that Karaca and Kaya, who had been in prison for about a year at the time of the coup attempt, had taken part in the “planning, preparation and execution of the attempt to carry out a coup.”


The supreme court ruled, however, that the two journalists should be convicted on the charge of “leading a terrorist organization” and given a prison term close to the highest penalty foreseen by the law. Under Article 314 of the Turkish Criminal Code, “leading a terrorist organization” is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. 


The Supreme Court of Appeals’ judgment means Kaya and Karaca will now be retried. The Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, which oversaw the original trial, announced its verdict on 8 June 2018. Kaya, the former publisher of Zaman, and Karaca, the former president of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Network, were on trial along with a number of other defendants accused of participating in the attempted coup as members of the Fethullah Gülen network.  


Constitutional Court rules against conviction of journalist Boğatekin over news report


The Constitutional Court ruled on 25 May 2022 that a court verdict sentencing journalist Hacı Boğatekin to pay compensation over a news article titled “İmamın şehit rüyası fos çıktı” (Imam’s dream about martyr comes up dry) was a violation of the freedom of expression and the press. The news article was published on the website of the local Gerger Fırat newspaper in July 2012. 


The judgement was announced by lawyer Hüseyin Boğatekin, who represents Hacı Boğatekin, on his social media account on 26 July 2022.


Journalist Balcılar imprisoned “for covering escapes from refugee camp”


Far-right Victory Party Chairman Ümit Özdağ announced on his Twitter account on 26 July 2022 that journalist Hasan Tolga Balcılar was arrested over a news about the refugee camps in the southern province of Osmaniye. 


Özdağ posted, “Journalist Hasan Tolga Balcılar has been imprisoned for reporting on Afghan fugitives fleeing the refugee camp in Osmaniye. This arrest is a threat [with a message saying] ‘don’t expose the crimes that asylum seekers and fugitives commit against the Turkish Nation and the Turkish State'."


Media reports said Balcılar, the publisher of the news website Sondakika Osmaniye, was arrested and imprisoned pending trial on the charge of “inciting people to hatred and enmity.” He reportedly started a hunger strike to protest his detention. 


Police violence against journalists covering İstanbul Convention demonstration


Police broke up a demonstration that was held on 26 July 2022 at Ankara’s Sakarya Square by the Women Platform of the Ankara branch of the Confederation of Public Laborers’ Unions (KESK) in protest of Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.


Turkey had withdrawn from the Istanbul Convention by a presidential decree on 20 March 2022, which was followed by many NGOs, women’s organizations and bar associations lodging an objection with the Council of State for the withdrawal decision to be reversed. The 10th Chamber of Council of State had rejected the objection on 19 July 2022.


The police did not allow the demonstrators to read out a press statement at the Sakarya Square and took the journalists away from the area to prevent them from taking photos. While removing the journalists, the police held PİRHA reporter Melis Ciddioğlu by her arm and threw her on the ground. In another instance, ARTI TV cameraperson Kadir Devir told a police officer that he would file a complaint against him, to which he responded saying “If you want I can give you my number so we can text each other at night. I do not care with whom you file a complaint.” Mezopotamya Agency reporter Emel Vural was also thrown to the ground by the police while she was trying to take pictures of the demonstrators. 

Journalist says he was slapped by AKP mayor 


Local journalist Kerem Kırpaç said on 26 July 2022 that he was hit and slapped by the mayor of the Birecik district in Southeast Turkey in two different occasions.


In a social media post, Kırpaç said Mayor Mahmut Mirkelam of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had earlier hit him in the hand with a stick in front of a crowd of people and humiliated him. In the latest incident, Mirkelam slapped the journalist because he covered a press statement issued by the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) that was criticizing the Birecik Municipality over an unfinished road building work. “At the same time, he humiliated me by swearing at me. I have epilepsy. I strongly condemn the injustice I have suffered,” Kırpaç wrote.


Journalists assaulted by company employees when covering news in Adana 


Journalists Vedat Örüç and Elif Kurttaş have been assaulted in the southern province of Adana by an executive and employees of private firms as they were trying to gather information for a report on the imported plastic waste. 


Announcing the attack on 27 July 2022 on his Twitter account, Örüç said: “Me and my colleague @elif_kurttas were detained, subjected to verbal harassment and battered by the boss and employees of the companies Akbulut G.D. and Akgül G.D. in the Adana Recycling Industrial Area, where we visited to investigate the issue of imported waste.”


The journalists received medical report documenting their injuries after the incident and stated that they filed a complaint against the assailants.  


At least 68 journalists, media employees behind bars in Turkey


Following the imprisonment of local journalist Hasan Tolga Balcılar in Osmaniye, there are now at least 68 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey. 


The full list can be accessed here.