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 - 371

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 371

Prosecutors dismiss investigation against journalists under “disinformation” law; former Cumhuriyet employees fined for “insulting” Bilal Erdoğan; RTÜK investigates TV5 for hosting Hakan Şükür; journalist Velat Öztekin acquitted


Prosecutors dismiss investigation against journalists under “disinformation” law

The Tunceli Chief Prosecutor’s Office has issued a decision not to prosecute Tunceli Emek newspaper’s publisher Hüsniye Karakoyun and managing editor Mahmut Karakoyun for “publicly disseminating information misleading to the public” and “insult” in a news report under the so-called “disinformation” law.

The prosecution established that the law had not yet entered into force on 12 October 2022, when the news item titled “Tunceli’de Beş Adet Portatif Tuvalet için Resmi Açılış Töreni Düzenlendi” (“Official Opening Ceremony Held for Five Portable Toilets in Tunceli”) was published. The Chief Prosecutor's Office also maintained that publication of the said report was “of public interest and benefit.” In its decision, the prosecutor’s office wrote “The news item was written in a striking style of expression to attract the attention of the reader. However, as stated in European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence, especially journalists have the right to exaggerate to a degree. The expressions in the news item fall within the scope of criticism.”

The Law on Amendments to the Press Law and Some Other Laws, which the government has claimed was designed to “combat disinformation” and press organizations have described as the “censorship law,” was approved by Parliament on 13 October 2022.


Former Cumhuriyet journalists fined for "insulting" President Erdoğan's son

An İstanbul court has convicted four former employees of Cumhuriyet daily of "insulting" President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan in two news reports that contained allegations of tender fraud and ordered them to pay fine.

The İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance ordered journalists Hazal Ocak, Serkan Ozan, Olcay Büyüktaş Akça and Ozan Yurtoğlu to pay a fine of TL 2180 each. The sentence is final because it is under TL 3000.

The decision came at the end of the fourth hearing held on 8 November, monitored by P24. Prior to announcement of the verdict, the prosecutor requested conviction of the journalists for "repeatedly insulting" Bilal Erdoğan in the news reports titled "The lucky friend of Bilal Erdoğan" and "The friend rich off of tenders."

You can acces the full report here


RTÜK investigates TV5 for hosting Hakan Şükür

Ebubekir Şahin, President of the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) has announced an investigation against TV5 for hosting Hakan Şükür, former football player and a former ruling AKP lawmaker who is now a defendant in a “FETÖ” case, on a program.


Posting a statement on social media, RTÜK President Şahin said “We will not allow an individual who openly supports a sinister terrorist organization that has targeted the very survival of our country and not let him carry out propaganda for the terrorist organization he is a member of. The Supreme Board has launched the necessary investigation against TV5.”


Journalist Velat Öztekin acquitted in the “insulting the President” case

Velat Öztekin, a reporter for the now-defunct Azadiye Welat newspaper, has been acquitted in a trial where he was charged with "insulting the president" over two cartoons he shared on social media. 

Öztekin was on trial at the Diyarbakır 7th Criminal Court of First Instance. At the third hearing which was held on 8 November, the prosecutor asked the court to acquit Öztekin saying the elements of the impugned crime did not exist.

The court ruled in line with the prosecution’s request and acquitted Öztekin.


Mehmet Acettin, Serdal Işık given prison term


The fourth hearing in the trial of Etkin News Agency (ETHA) managing editor Mehmet Acettin and former editor for the news agency Serdal Işık on charges of “terrorism propaganda” over accusations that they were using the social media accounts of the agency was held at the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court on 1 November 2022.


Acettin and Işık were sentenced to 30 months and 22 days of imprisonment each for carrying out “terrorism propaganda” on social media, and the sentence was deferred.


Prosecution requests conviction for Can Ataklı

The third hearing in the trial of journalist Can Ataklı on charges of “publicly denigrating a segment of the society” over what he said on the “Gün Başlıyor” program aired on Tele 1 upon a complaint by the Federation of Rize Associations was held at the İstanbul 16th Criminal Court of First Instance on 10 November 2022.


The hearing, which Ataklı and his lawyers excused themselves from attending, was held summarily. Presenting their final opinion on the case, the prosecutor requested Ataklı be convicted for the impugned crime. The prosecutor further requested Ataklı’s sentence to be increased by half for committing the crime through the press.


The court ruled to allow Ataklı and his lawyer time until the next hearing to set up a counterstatement against the prosecutor’s opinion, and adjourned the trial until 24 November 2022.


On the TV program subject to the accusations, Ataklı had criticized the incidents that occurred during İYİ Party Chairperson Meral Akşener’s visit to Rize on 20 May 2022.

Erdoğan asks Sweden to deport exiled journalist Bülent Keneş


President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to deport exiled former chief editor of the shuttered English-language Turkish daily Today’s Zaman Bülent Keneş back to Turkey on 8 November 2022.


Erdoğan met with Kristersson in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, on Tuesday and told him that the deportation of Keneş, whom he called a terrorist, is “very important” to Turkey, reports said. In an interview with U.S. news site Al-Monitor, Keneş, denied Erdoğan’s claims.


The Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement, warning Sweden to not to set a dangerous precedent by endangering Keneş’ safety: “Under no circumstances can Sweden fulfill Turkey’s demand to deport exiled Turkish journalist Bülent Keneş and continue calling itself a democratic nation governed by the rule of law. Swedish officials should not use exiled journalists as bargaining chips in their dealings with Turkey,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “Sweden must not give in to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s blackmail and set a precedent that would endanger exiled Turkish journalists worldwide.”


Keneş was arrested on charges of “insulting the President” in 2015.

Association of European Journalists condemns social media threats against journalist Amberin Zaman


The Association of European Journalists-United Kingdom (AEJ-UK) issued a statement over online threats and smears by Turkish officials against journalist Amberin Zaman after she posted a photo of herself with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.


In its statement delivered on 7 November, the association highlighted that “Amberin Zaman has been subjected to massive wave of shocking online abuse, harassment and death threats on social media platforms since 3 November.”


The statement went on as follows: “Turkish pro-government newspapers and other influential media have spread malicious misinformation, falsely calling her a supporter of terrorism, inciting popular hostility. The widespread dissemination of death threats and explicit warnings of rape and sexual violence, accompanied by lurid and unfounded attacks on her reputation, raise acute fears for the journalist’s personal safety.”


Kılıçdaroğlu had come together with Amberin Zaman during his visit to Britain in the first week of November. Zaman had posted a photo of the meeting with a note reading, “It is really encouraging to meet and speak with Mr. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in London. Everything is going to be all right.”


Journalist Rüstem Batum’s trial adjourned until February

The ninth hearing in the trial of journalist Rüstem Batum on charges of “insulting the President” and “provoking the people to hatred and enmity” over 20 Twitter posts from 2016 to 2018 was held at the İstanbul 5th Criminal Court of First Instance on 10 November 2022.


The court decided to await the execution of the order Batum’s arrest and adjourned the trial until 28 February 2023.


Trial of Demokratik Modernite’s employees, contributors adjourned

The first hearing in the trial of Demokratik Modernite magazine managing editor Ramazan Yurttapan, editor Haydar Ergül and contributors Cihan Doğan, Musa Şanak and Nazan Üstündağ on charges of “denigrating the Turkish nation, the state of the Republic of Turkey, institutions and organs of the state” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 8 November 2022.


Yurttapan, Ergül and their lawyer Özcan Kılıç attended the hearing, which P24 monitored. Magazine contributor Şanak attended the hearing through the judicial videoconferencing system (SEGBİS) from Bolu Prison, where he is imprisoned pending trial.


Refusing the charges in his defense statement, Ergül said “Demokratik Modernite is a magazine of ideas and theory. For this reason, contributors may write harsh commentary. As the editor, I have not intervened in these articles in any way. I request my acquittal.” Also refusing the charges and requesting acquittal, Yurttapan said the following in his defense statement: “The articles subject to the indictment contain no criminal expressions. Alleged crimes are being brought up by taking expressions out of context and over intangible expressions.” Ergül and Yurttapan requested an exemption from attending hearings. Şanak, whose article is subject to the charges said “I wrote the article in question in Kurdish. Some of the meaning may have lost in translation. My article contains no elements of crime. I request my acquittal.”


The court ruled to await the execution of the order for arrests of Nazan Üstündağ and Cihan Doğan, and exempted Yurttapan, Ergül and Şanak from attending hearings.


The trial was adjourned until 16 March 2023.


The expressions in eight articles published in issue 37 of the magazine have been cited as evidence of the charges brought up against Yurttapan, Ergül and contributors.


Trial of İsminaz Temel, Havva Cuştan adjourned until March

The 19th hearing in the trial ETHA editor İsminaz Temel and reporter Havva Cuştan on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court on 8 November 2022.


Temel and Cuştan did not attend the hearing, which P24 monitored. Defendants’ lawyers requested the lifting of judicial control measures on their clients.


The court ruled to keep the judicial control measures in place and adjourned the trial until March 2023.


At least 76 journalists and media workers in prison

With nine journalists being imprisoned pending trial on 29 October, there are now at least 76 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 12 November 2022.

The full list can be accessed here.