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 – 357

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 357

Journalist Mehmet Gündem arrested near the border with Greece; Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül dies of heart attack in Silivri Prison; Center for Combating Disinformation established; Interior Minister Soylu targets BirGün, Tele1

Journalist Mehmet Gündem arrested near the border with Greece

Journalist Mehmet Gündem and his wife Mine Gündem were arrested in the northwestern province of Edirne on 3 August 2022 as they were trying to cross into Greece. 

Gündem, who is subject to an international travel ban, was reportedly arrested for "violating the Law on the Military Forbidden Zones and Security Zones." He was later placed under pre-trial detention and sent to a prison.

Gündem was first arrested in November 2017 as part of a probe launched by the İstanbul Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against the executives, members and employees of the now-defunct Journalists and Writers Association. On 9 July 2019, he was sentenced to 7 years 7 months and 15 days in prison by the İstanbul 35th High Criminal Court on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.”  The court then ruled for the release of Gündem, who had been behind bars for 21 months by then, under an international travel ban. His file is still pending before a regional court of appeals.

Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, imprisoned pending trial in Altans Trial, dies of heart attack

Former Police Academy lecturer Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, who stood trial along with the journalists Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak in the "Altans Trial," died of heart attack in İstanbul's Silivri Prison on 30 July 2022. Özşengül was buried in Küçükyalı Graveyard in Maltepe district.

Özşengül had previously suffered a heart attack during his imprisonment and had blood pressure issues. He had repeatedly demanded his release during the trial on health grounds but a medical report submitted to the court claimed that his condition did not constitute an obstacle for his continued imprisonment. 

Özşengül was sentenced to 12 years in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” as part of the trial. His file is still pending before the General Assembly of Criminal Chambers of Supreme Court of Appeals.


Center for Combating Disinformation established under Presidency’s Directorate of Communications


Presidential Communication Director Fahrettin Altun announced on his Twitter account on 5 August 2022 that the Center for Combating Disinformation was established as an autonomous unit under the the Directorate of Communication to fight against “systematic disinformation campaigns against Turkey.”

Altun stated that the center will be coordinated by İdris Kardaş, a columnist for pro-government A Haber and Aktüel media outlets. 

The government, along with its governing ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), submitted a comprehensive bill to "fight disinformation" in May. The bill, which introduces up to three years in prison for "spreading false information," already cleared Parliament's Justice Commission and is expected to be taken up by the General Assembly when Parliament returns from its summer recess in October.


Journalist Alican Uludağ acquitted


Journalist Alican Uludağ has been acquitted in a trial where he was charged with “insulting a public official” for criticizing the imprisonment of journalists Barış Pehlivan and Barış Terkoğlu on his Twitter account on 5 May 2022.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkish announced the decision on its Twitter account on 3 August 2022, saying the trial court ruled that constituents of the crime did not exist.


Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu targets BirGün daily , Tele1 channel


Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has slammed BirGün newspaper and Tele 1 television over their coverage of allegations that the questions in this year's Public Personnel Selection Examination (KPSS) were "stolen." A passing KPSS grade is a prerequisite for placement in the state jobs.    

In a Twitter post published on 5 August, Soylu called BirGün a "PKK outlet" for publishing a photo suggesting that he had visited a publishing house at the heart of the allegations. He also called opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) politician Bülent Tezcan an "immoral liar" for his comments during a Tele 1 TV show on the same issue. 


Assault attempt on BirGün reporter Arı

BirGün reporter İsmail Arı has faced an assault attempt by private security guards while he was covering a press statement held in front of the Çekmeköy Barracks, whose status changed into available for housing.

A group 15-20 private security guards working with the Emlak Konut, a real estate investment company, came at Arı who was waiting for Republican People’s Party (CHP) Vice Chair Ali Öztunç to read out his press statement in front of the barracks. The guards verbally harassing Arı said, “İsmail Arı you are making fake news.” The assault was prevented by the police forces who were deployed in the area for the press statement.

Arı was threatened also by the Çekmeköy District Security Directorate Deputy Chief of Police while he was taking pictures of Çekmeköy’s residents who were protesting the park area’s being made available for housing on 2 August.

Person threatening Prof. Dr. Esin Davutoğlu Şenol targets journalists

Journalists Zafer Arapkirli and Ayşenur Arslan as well as President of the Central Council of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Şebnem Korur Fincancı were threatened on Twitter on 3 August 2022 by a person who introduced himself as Op. Dr. Mustafa Yücel. He had also threatened Prof. Dr. Esin Davutoğlu Şenol previously by putting a calf tongue in front of her door.

Yücel targeted Arapkirli by stating, “All enemies of [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and Islam are gathered around the devil right now...28 FEBRUARY enthusiasts, Sabetay’s offspring, Greek remnants coming to İzmir...You are drooling like rabid dogs against Islam, the State and the Muslim state...I feel pity for you...”

As for Fincancı, Yücel said the following: “You, as the head of TTB admiring PKK and HDP’s (Peoples’ Democratic Party) ŞEBO, go to bed with this dream...You will greet the Turkish state, our President, who killed the creepy PKK in their lairs!”

Yücel also threatened Aysegül Arslan by posting, “How do you know this woman? As an enemy of Erdoğan, at odds with Islam, fierce secularist, spiritual sister of Thessaloniki crew and Kaftancıoğlu...Wait for the 2023 election...” Arslan announced that she would file a complaint against Yücel’s threats.

Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) issued the following statement on 4 August 2022 with respect to Yücel’s posts: "Journalists are being threatened again but those who are responsible for taking action are merely watching."

Access ban on news over illegal water consumption fine imposed on AKP member

Access ban was imposed on 4 August 2022 on news about AKP Mersin Metropolitan Municipality Council member İsmail Yerlikaya being fined 236 thousand TL for illegal water consumption in three workplaces.

The Mersin 4th Criminal Court of Peace cited “violation of personal rights” as the ground for the decision of access ban.

Yerlikaya had filed a complaint against the news on the grounds of "damage on his commercial reputation."

The news websites whose content related to the news articles in question were blocked are as follows: Evrensel, Güney newspaper, BirGün, Sözcü, Duvar, Cumhuriyet, T24, kronos35, Mersin Political Management,

Rıza Çimen taken into custody while distributing newspaper in Tunceli

Rıza Çimen was taken into custody as he was distributing the Atılım newspaper in Turkey’s eastern district of Ovacık, Tunceli on 1 August 2022. Police seized 12 newspapers on Çimen.

Taken to the Ovacık police station, Çimen was released after he gave his statement.

Journalists imprisoned in Diyarbakır deprived of basic facilities

15 journalists and a media worker who were imprisoned pending trial in Diyarbakır on 16 June 2022 on the charge of “membership of a terrorist organization” have not been provided a refrigerator, TV or books.

Ömer Çelik, one of the imprisoned journalists who is held in the Diyarbakır High Security Closed Prison No. 2, stated that the books sent to them are yet to be delivered in the course of their two-month imprisonment. Çelik said that they have not been provided a refrigerator, which is highly crucial in Diyarbakır, located in the southeastern Turkey with the approximate summertime temperature of 42 degrees, nor a television despite their requests.

The lawyers of the journalists announced that they would lodge an application with the prison administration regarding the issue.

At least 69 journalists, media employees behind bars in Turkey

Following the imprisonment of journalist Mehmet Gündem, there are now at least 69 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 8 August 2022.

The full list can be accessed here.