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 - 362

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 362

Journalists Eser and Topaloğlu sentenced to more than 6 years in jail; top court upholds conviction of Uğur Yılmaz; 20 journalists blacklisted in police document; journalists face trial for reporting on torture case


Journalists Sadiye Eser, Sadık Topaloğlu sentenced to 6 years in prison


The ninth hearing of the trial of former Mezopotamya Agency employees Sadiye Eser and Sadık Topaloğlu on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organisation” was held at the İstanbul 22nd High Criminal Court on 8 September 2022.


Eser and Topaloğlu’s attorneys demanded their release on grounds that the criminal act and criminal intent had not been established.


The court sentenced Eser and Topaloğlu each to 6 years and 3 months of imprisonment for the crime of “membership in a terrorist organisation.”


For more details from the court hearing, monitored by P24 click here.


Top court upholds prison sentence against imprisoned journalist  


The Supreme Court of Appeals has approved a 10-month imprisonment sentence on the charge of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” ruled in 2015 for Uğur Yılmaz, who is being held at Elazığ Karakoçan Prison.


Yılmaz, who was sentenced to 6 years, 10 months and 15 days on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organisation” and “terrorism propaganda" in a separate trial, has been behind bars since 2017. He was expected to be released in March 2023 but with the latest sentence approved, Yılmaz’s release might be postponed to August 2023.


Journalists reporting on the torture case in Çatak facing court case

Journalists Ferhat Çelik and İdris Yayla will go on trial on 22 November 2022 as part of a new court case brought against them in connection with their coverage of a torture case in Çatak district of the eastern province of Van.

Villagers Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban were severely beaten after being arrested by soldiers during a military operation in Çatak in September 2020. The villagers were allegedly thrown off a helicopter during their detention and one of them, Servet Turgut, died after more than 20 days at a hospital. Çelik, the publisher of Mezopotamya Agency, wrote in a subsequent news article that the prosecutor who ordered the arrests of Turgut and Şiban had also ordered the arrests of local journalists who reported on the torture of the villagers.

Çelik and Yayla, the broadcaster of Jiyan TV who shared Çelik's report on the prosecutor on social media, will stand trial on the charge of "exposing the identities of those involved in anti-terror efforts." The trial will be overseen by the Van 2nd High Criminal Court.

Police blacklist 20 journalists


News reports revealed on 5 September that the police had blacklisted 20 journalists in relation to their writings for the online magazine Journalist Post, a periodical run by journalists living in exile. No legal proceedings have yet been initiated against them.

The confidential document containing the blacklist was disclosed during the trial of Mezopotamya News Agency editor Dicle Müftüoğlu on terrorism charges. According to media reports, the list was prepared based on intelligence information collected against the Fethullah Gülen movement for use by anti-terrorism police departments. Based on this intelligence information, the Foreign Relations Department of the Turkish Police classified Journalist Post as being run by a Fethullah Gülen-linked network.

The list includes the name of the journalists who have been involved in running the magazine or contributing to it, their ID numbers, their positions, and whether they have an entry with their ID numbers on the National Judiciary Network (UYAP). Among them are Müftüoğlu, who also chairs the Dicle Fırat Journalists' Association (DFG), along with two executives of the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), Gökhan Durmuş and Mustafa Kuleli. The other listed journalists are Engin Sağ, Şemsi Açıkgöz, Mustafa Kılıç, Yüksek Durgut, Ramiz Kılıçarslan, Necdet Çelik, Hasan Cücük, İsmail Muhammet Sağıroğlu, Enes Cansever, Basri Doğan, Türkmen Terzi, Vedat Demir, Rabia Yavuz Türe, Yunus Erdoğdu, Naciye Nur Kılıç, Erkan Pehlivan and Erkin Emet.


Journalist Onur Öncü acquitted


Journalist Onur Öncü, who was on trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” over comments on Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, has been acquitted. Öncü made the comments in a political commentary video published on Özgürüz news portal's YouTube channel on 3 May 2021.


The Küçükçekmece 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance, which concluded the case that proceeded according to the simple trial procedure on 26 July 2022, decided that the elements of impugned crime did not exist and ruled for Öncü's acquittal.


ETHA reporter detained, MA reporter assaulted as police break up protest


The police broke up a demonstration organized by families of inmates in İstanbul on 3 September 2022, preventing demonstrators from marching towards İstanbul's Kartal Square and reading out a press statement there. 


Meanwhile, police officers prevented reporters from filming the intervention and forced them off from the area. Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Elif Bayburt who was trying to film the police intervention was detained by the police who handcuffed her behind her back. Police officers also assaulted Mezopotamya Agency reporter Doğan Kaynak by twisting his arm behind his back and forced him away from the area.



Investigation begins against journalist Oktay Candemir

Authorities in the eastern province of Van have launched a criminal investigation against journalist Oktay Candemir on allegations of "insult" and "slander" in connection with a report that contained allegations of corruption by the Van Metropolitan Municipality. 

As part of the investigation overseen by the Van Prosecutor’s Office, Candemir gave a statement at the police station on 6 September. Candemir later said: “Under normal circumstances, the investigation should be into irregularities in tenders, but now journalists are being tried. It is not me who should be on trial but those robbing the people’s municipalities. We are journalists, which makes us public auditors at the same time.”


Investigation launched against Can Dündar for “insulting the President”


The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has launched an investigation against exiled journalist Can Dündar for "insulting the president" and "denigrating judiciary" under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) over a Twitter post. 


The tweet, posted on 31 August 2022, featured the cover of political satire magazine Leman and included a link to a YouTube recording of Dündar's comments on judicial independence in Turkey. Referring to the Leman's cover, Dündar wrote “Boşuna beklemeyin: O süper savcı gelmeyecek” (Do not wait in vain: That super-prosecutor is not coming) in the tweet. 


Indictment seeks aggravated life sentences for 3 suspects in murder of journalist Güngör Arslan


The Kocaeli Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has prepared an indictment into the February killing of journalist Güngör Arslan in his office in Kocaeli.


The indictment seeks aggravated life imprisonment for three of the defendants imprisoned pending trial on the charge of “premeditated murder.” 14 defendants are on trial for the murder, of which 10 are imprisoned pending trial. 


Efkan Bolaç appears in court for “insulting the President”


The first hearing of the case filed against lawyer Efkan Bolaç on the charge of “insulting the President” for social media posts featuring cartoonist Carlos Latuff’s drawings on the 2014 Soma mine explosion and Berkin Elvan, a teenager who was killed after being hit by a gas canister fired by the police during the 2013 Gezi protests, was held at the İstanbul 52nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 6 September 2022.

Addressing the court, Bolaç’s attorney Kemal Aytaç made a statement on procedure. Aytaç said that while the cartoons subjected to the charge were shared on social media in 2014, the indictment put the date of the alleged crime as 2022 and added that in 2014 Erdoğan was not president.

Stating that the case had been filed in breach of legal procedure, Aytaç requested the immediate acquittal of his client. The prosecutor, on the other hand, demanded that Aytaç’s request for acquittal be rejected due to the early stage of the case. The court rejected the request for immediate acquittal on the ground of the defendant’s inadequate defence.

In his statement to the court, Bolaç said Article 299 of the Turkish Criminal Code, criminalizing insults against the president, was misused as the article was intended to protect an impartial president, while Erdoğan is currently the chairman of a political party. 

The court refused the defense's request for acquittal and postponed the trial to 24 January 2023.

For details from the hearing, which was monitored by P24, click here.


Journalist Abdullah Kaya’s trial postponed to November


The 19th hearing in journalist Abdullah Kaya’s trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organisation” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court on 6 September 2022.


The hearing, which Kaya and his attorney presented an excuse not to attend, was held summarily and the next hearing was set for 15 November 2022.


Mehmet Emin Kurnaz’s trial postponed to October


The fourth hearing of BirGün newspaper politics editor Mehmet Emin Kurnaz on charges of “insulting a public official” and “insulting the President” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 8 September 2022.


Kurnaz, who is standing accused of insulting Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his column “Çetelerin İktidarı (“Government of Gangs”) which appeared on BirGün on 25 May 2021, and his attorney Ali Deniz Ceylan were present at the hearing, which P24 monitored. Erdoğan’s attorney was also present at the hearing.


The prosecutor had delivered the final opinion of the prosecution at the previous hearing and sought Kurnaz’s conviction. Delivering his defence against the final opinion, Kurnaz reiterated his previous statements and said that he had reported on the news for the public good. Kurnaz requested his acquittal. Laywer Ceylan reminded the court of the Vedat Şorli decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and said “An acquittal ruling should be issued as a matter of procedure and the basis should not be discussed at all.”


President Erdoğan’s attorney said, “Insulting the President falls within the category of crimes committed against the state. This article protects the office of the president. The ECtHR’s Vedat Şorli decisions is advisory. Lawmakers implementing ECtHR rules without exhausting domestic remedies means that the provisions of our domestic law are considered inadequate. We demand sentencing for the defendant.”


Speaking again after Erdoğan’s attorney, Ceylan reminded the court of Article 90 of the Constitution on the precedence of international conventions over domestic law and emphasized that the ECtHR decision was not advisory. Ceylan further said, “Turkish Penal Code Article 299 is intended to protect an impartial president. However, with the constitutional amendment, the president is now the member of a political party” to oppose the arguments of Erdoğan’s attorney.


The court decided to examine the file to reach a decision and set the date for the next hearing to 20 October 2022.


Journalist Ziya Ataman imprisoned pending trial: “I was subjected to strip searching”


Reporter Ziya Ataman of the Dicle News Agency (DHA), which was shut down by statutory decree has said that he was subjected to strip searching at Erzurum Dumlu High Security Prison No. 2, to which he was transferred from Van High Security Prison and that later he was placed in solitary confinement.


Ataman had been taken into custody in Van on 10 April 2016 and arrested the next day on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization.” Ataman was not released despite the only person testifying against him during the investigation withdrawing their testimony and the indictment for his trial was submitted 20 months after his arrest, in December 2017.


Access blocked to reporting on Serhat Albayrak


A removal of content decision has been issued for news items on “bribery” allegations by crime ring leader Sedat Peker, which name Serhat Albayrak, CEO of Turkuvaz Media Group and older brother of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak.


The Anadolu 3rd Criminal Court of Peace has ruled on the removal of content for reports on Serhat Albayrak upon the application of Albayrak’s attorney Fatih Savaş. The court ruled that the reports were damaging to Serhat Albayrak’s personal rights and that the claims were not based on any documents.


Access blocked to reporting on the “Hürriyet raid”


A decision to block access to a series of news items, videos and comments has been issued on the Hürriyet newspaper raid in 2015 upon an application of Abdurrahim Boynukalın, the then AKP Youth Branch president and a former AKP MP for İstanbul .


In the 2015 incident, Boynukalın had gone to the Hürriyet building with a group of AKP supporters and was present when the building was attacked with sticks and stones in protest of a news report that was published on Hürriyet's online edition. 

According to a report on 6 September, the Anadolu 3rd Criminal Court of Peace decided to block access to many news items published during and after the incident upon Boynukalın’s application.

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 13 September 2022.

The full list can be accessed here.