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 – 359

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 359

YouTube journalists attacked by armed assailants; Fatih Tezcan imprisoned; appellate court orders retrial against Ferhat Parlak; Mezopotamya Agency editor Diren Yurtsever detained


YouTube journalists attacked by armed assailants


Journalist Ebru Uzun Oruç and cameraman Barış Oruç were attacked on 13 August 2022 by two armed assailants on Istanbul’s Bağdat Street after publishing a program on Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the government ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).


The two journalists publish street interviews on their YouTube channel “Sokak Kedisi” and they were reportedly receiving threats after publishing an episode focusing on Bahçeli earlier this month. Uzun Oruç, who is also the head of the Rize branch of the Progressive Journalists Association (ÇGD), said preliminary investigation based on examination of CCTV footages showed that four, not two, people had been involved in the attack. “This organized and intentional attack does not only target us but the rights and liberties of the whole public,” she wrote on Twitter. She also said that the perpetrators of the attack were detained by the police and released after initial interrogation.


Appellate court orders retrial against journalist Ferhat Parlak


The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Court of Justice overturned a lower court verdict in December 2020 that dismissed the prosecution of journalist Ferhat Parlak on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization,” ordering a retrial. The first hearing of the retrial will be held on 3 October 2022.


The Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court ruled on 7 December 2020 to dismiss the trial, saying that Parlak had been previously acquitted in a separate trial where he had been charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” based on the same evidence. The prosecutor in the case appealed the verdict to not pursue the trial on 8 December 2020 at the Diyarbakır Regional Court of Justice, claiming that it was against law and procedure.


Fatih Tezcan says he goes into prison


Pro-government commentator Fatih Tezcan wrote on his Twitter account on 18 August 2022 that he was “going into prison,” after he was given a prison term of 2 years and 2 months for “insulting Kemal Atatürk,” the founder of the Turkish Republic.


Tezcan wrote in a separate tweet that he was going to prison for “insulting [Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu,” the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and “exposing the Samandağ connections” of what he called the “Hatay Liberation Organization,” without elaborating.


Mezopotamya Agency editor Diren Yurtsever arrested


Mezopotamya Agency Responsible Managing Editor Diren Yurtsever was detained on 15 August 2022 at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport in İstanbul on account of an arrest warrant. The journalist was released on the condition that she give her statement within the next two days.


The warrant was reportedly issued by the Bingöl Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office as part of an investigation launched on the charge of “inciting hatred and enmity” over her social media posts in 2021. Yurtsever went to the İstanbul Courthouse with her attorney Özcan Kılıç on 16 August 2022. Stating that the social media posts in question remain within the scope of the freedom of expression, Yurtsever denied the allegations. Yurtsever was released after she gave her statement.


Journalist Çelebi to stand trial for “insulting the flag”


Gazete Kadıköy Responsible Managing Editor Semra Çelebi will appear before a court on the charge of “Insulting the Turkish Flag” over a social media post she shared last year.


The trial stems from a complaint filed by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) İstanbul Provincial Board Member Aydoğan Ahıakın against Çelebi over her social media post, which concerned the 2014 Pride March.


Investigation launched against journalists Ersan Atar, Sezgin Kesim


An investigation has been launched against Kısa Dalga news portal reporter Ersan Atar and Managing Editor Sezgin Kesim upon a complaint by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal.


The investigation, launched by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, stems from a news article penned by Atar and published on 11 August 2022. The article, which contains allegations of links between mafia and the state bureaucracy in the southeastern province of Gaziantep, was removed by Kısa Dalga after a court order banning access to it upon a complaint from İnal. The prosecutor’s office claims that the article in question contains “baseless slanders and accusations against İnal’s personal rights.”


RTÜK fines Halk TV, HaberTürk, TELE1, Netflix, Spotify


The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) issued on 17 August 2022 administrative fines against Halk TV, Haber Türk, Tele 1 TV, Netflix and Spotify.


RTÜK issued the administrative fine on Netflix for broadcasting “Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous” series, which was already the subject of a complaint filed by the Ministry of Family and Social Policies for including LGBTI+ characters. RTÜK said the series was “against the broadcasting principles.” The penalty on Spotify stemmed from titles of some of the music lists, which RTÜK deemed to be “against the national and moral values of the society.”


Tele 1 TV was fined on the grounds of “acquiring illegal income through collecting donations from the viewers” and not complying with a court-imposed broadcast ban; while Halk TV was fined for two shows that RTÜK said contained “insults against the national and moral values, the President, the Interior Minister and bureaucrats of the Ministry.” RTÜK fined HaberTürk TV on account of a talk show, in which the guest Celal Şengör was deemed to have made remarks that “insult religious values.”


Cumhuriyet fined over report on MP Kavakçı


The Personal Data Protection Authority imposed an administrative fine on Cumhuriyet newspaper for a news report that contained allegations that the AKP İstanbul Deputy Ravza Kavakçı Kan received salaries from institutions other than Parliament.


Cumhuriyet newspaper was imposed a fine of 30 thousand TL (1.650 Euros) for publishing the reporter Miyase İlknur's reports titled “Kavakçı için de çift maaş iddiası” (Double salary allegations against Kavakçı as well), published on 6 August 2019, and “Sözde mühendislik ve vekillik yapan Kavakçı’ya sorular” (Questions to Kavakçı who is supposedly both an engineer and deputy), published on 10 August 2019. Metro İstanbul company, affiliated to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, was also imposed an administrative fine of 40 thousand TL (2.200 Euros) on the grounds that it failed to fulfill its obligation to protect Ravza Kavakçı Kan's personal data.


Imprisoned journalists told to pay for electricity


Journalist Zeynel Abidin Bulut, who is among the 16 journalists imprisoned pending trial in Diyarbakır on 16 June 2022, has said in a letter he sent from Diyarbakır No. 2 High Security Prison that they were asked to pay for the electricity.


“After a month we spent in this prison, a guard came to our ward with a bill in his hand and asked us to pay for the electricity bill,” according to excerpts from the letter published by Mezopotamya Agency. “First, we got surprised, then asked him ‘Are you kidding?’ However, he told us that we used TL 212 of electricity in a month. We told him that we did not come here by our own will but were imprisoned unlawfully, so we are not going to pay for the electric bill. The guard told us that similar incidents occurred in the past and nothing has changed and showed us a letter issued by the Ministry of Justice in response to previous objections. The letter read, ‘Heating and lighting costs are covered by the institution, however, any cost other than these should be covered by the inmates.’ We told the guard once again that we are not going to pay the bill. The guard said that in case we do not pay the bill, the amount would be charged from our bank accounts,” Bulut wrote.


At least 69 journalists, media employees behind bars in Turkey


There are at least 69 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 19 August 2022.


The full list can be accessed here.