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 - 372

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 372

Social media restricted, broadcast ban imposed after deadly bomb attack in İstanbul; Beritan Canözer given prison term; Cypriot journalist Başaran Düzgün denied entry to Turkey; ETHA reporter Elif Bayburt detained

Social media restricted, broadcast ban imposed after deadly bomb attack in İstanbul 

Access to social media platforms was restricted and the broadcasting watchdog RTÜK imposed a broadcast ban after a deadly bomb attack in İstanbul's İstiklal Street on Sunday afternoon.

Social media and communications platforms Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and some Telegram servers were restricted from Sunday afternoon, according to Internet freedom observatory NetBlocks. The restriction lasted 10 hours before access was restored to all platforms early on Monday morning.

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) confirmed that social media restrictions had been imposed, stating that they were in place to prevent the publication and circulation of images from the scene of the incident.

The government's policy of restricting access to social media has been widely criticized for curtailing media freedom and freedom of information in times of emergency. Experts have also been pointing out that such large-scale restrictions imposed without due process and a court order are unlawful. 

In addition to the restriction of social media platforms, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) also imposed a broadcast ban on coverage of the attack soon after the explosion, which killed six people and injured more than 80. The broadcast ban was imposed upon an application by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. 

Fahrettin Altun, head of the Presidency's Directorate of Communications, said the broadcast ban was aimed to "prevent broadcasts that could create fear, panic and turmoil in the society and serve purposes of terrorist organizations."

Authorities have also taken steps to prosecute social media users in the aftermath of the attack. The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into “negative social media posts” concerning the attack, while the Security General Directorate announced that legal steps have been taken against 25 social media users for “spreading fear and panic” and “inciting the people to hatred enmity.”

Journalist Beritan Canözer given prison term

The fourth hearing in the trial of JinNews reporter Beritan Canözer on charges of “successive terrorism propaganda” over her social media posts was held at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court on 17 November 2022.

While Canözer did not attend the hearing, her lawyer Resul Temur was present. Delivering a counterstatement against the opinion of the prosecution, lawyer Temur emphasized that his client had been detained by the police as part of another investigation, that the police had investigated her social media accounts despite bearing no relevance to the investigation and this was a violation of due process. Temur requested the removal of evidence obtained without due process from the case file. Stating that his client was on trial over four separate social media accounts, Temur presented documents showing that news items had been posted on the account named “Beritan Sarya” while Canözer was in custody. Temur requested his client’s acquittal.

The court sentenced Canözer separately to imprisonment of 1 year and 12 months and 15 days and 1 year and 3 months on two counts of “terrorism propaganda."

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Prosecution requests conviction for Eren Tutel

The fourth hearing in the trial of BirGün newspaper sports editor Eren Tutel on charges of “insulting a public official” due to his reporting on the Turkish Wushu Federation (TWF) was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

Lawyers for the sides excused themselves from the hearing, which P24 monitored.

The prosecutor pesenting their final opinion on the case requested sentencing for Tutel for the impugned crime. Requesting that Tutel be sentenced on two counts for the impugned crime against co-plaintiffs Elif Akyüz and Abdurrahman Akyüz, the prosecutor also demanded an increased sentence due to the crime being committed “publicly and repeatedly.”

Accepting the excuses presented by the lawyers of both sides, the court adjourned the trial until 14 February 2023.

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Sentencing requested for BirGün Managing Editor Mustafa Kömüş

The 18 November 2022 hearing in the trial of daily BirGün Managing Editor Mustafa Kömüş on charges of “insulting a public official” brought upon a complaint by former treasury and finance minister Berat Albayrak was held at the Anadolu 1st Criminal Court of First Instance.

Kömüş and his lawyer Tolgay Güvercin were present at the hearing.

In their defense statement, Kömüş and his lawyer Güvercin said that claims about the “loss of 128 billion dollars of Central Bank reserves” had been voiced frequently at the time the news item was prepared, that there was no intention of insulting anyone and that as a government minister, Albayrak had to put up with severe criticism. Lawyer Güvercin also said that while the news item was approximately 200 words in length, the part about the “128 billion dollars” was limited to a single sentence, which showed that there was no intention of insulting anyone.

Presenting their final opinion on the case, the prosecutor requested sentencing for Kömüş. Lawyer Güvercin requested additional time to set up a written statement following the prosecution’s opinion.

The court accepted this request and adjourned the trial until 28 March 2023.

Investigation launched against journalists Ferhat Çelik, Osman Akın upon complaint by Serhat Albayrak

An investigation was launched against daily Yeni Yaşam Editor-in-Chief Ferhat Çelik and Managing Editor Osman Akın on suspicion of “insult” and “defamation” (TPC 267) over the news item they prepared on the claims by crime ring leader Sedat Peker concerning Serhat Albayrak, owner of Turkuvaz Medya media group.

Akın gave a statement at the prosecutor’s office at the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan on 15 November 2022 as part of the investigation launched following a complaint by Albayrak. Akın was asked about the news items titled “Sedat Peker’den ifşalar,” (“Sedat Peker’s disclosures”) “Peker rüşvet belgelerini yayınladı” (“Peker releases bribery documents”) and “Albayraklar da dahil” (The Albayrak’s are in on it”) which were published in the newspaper.

Akın said that the claims had been posted by Peker and that the newspaper had reported on them. Stating that journalistic activities are not crimes, Akın denied the allegations.

ETHA reporter Elif Bayburt detained

Special operations police forces raided the Kaktüs Young Women’s Association’s premises on 17 November 2022, where the Socialist Women’s Assemblies (SKM) and Free Young Women (ÖGK) held an event as part of their work on 25 November International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Elif Bayburt was detained during the raid on the association’s premises in Kadıköy, İstanbul.

Cypriot journalist Başaran Düzgün denied entry to Turkey

Başaran Düzgün, Editor-in-Chief of the Havadis Gazetesi newspaper which is published in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was denied permission to enter Turkey on 16 November 2022 on grounds of code N-82.

With the refusal of permission to Düzgün, eight Turkish Cypriots have now been denied entry to Turkey due to code N-82, which requires foreigners to get prior permission to enter Turkey.

Previously, permission to enter Turkey had been denied to former Presidential Press Coordinator Ali Bizden, researcher Ahmet Cavit An, former MP Okan Dağlı, Chairperson of Basın-Sen press labour union Ali Kişmir, Left Movement Secretary General Abdullah Korkmazhan, former BRTK manager Aysu Basri Akter and Independence Path Secretary General Münür Rahvancıoğlu.

Investigation launched against journalists Fatih Gökhan Diler, Altan Sancar

An investigation was launched against Diken news website Managing Editor Fatih Gökhan Diler and Ankara correspondent Altan Sancar upon a complaint by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP for Ankara Ali İhsan Arslan due to the news item titled “Adli yıl açılış töreninin yayıncılığını ‘kapan’ AKP’ye yakın şirket Sağkan’ı sansürledi” (“Sağkan censored by company with ties to AKP that ‘landed’ the broadcasting of the judicial year opening ceremony”)

Sağkan announced that he had been called into the prosecutor’s office to give a statement in a Twitter post on 16 November 2022.

While speeches by President of the Supreme Court of Appeals Mehmet Akarca and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered at the judicial year opening ceremony held at the Supreme Court of Appeals on 1 September 2022 were broadcast live, the speech by President of the Union of Bar Associations of Turkey (TBB) Erinç Sağkan was censored.

After the news item was published, Arslan’s lawyers filed a criminal complaint against Altan Sancar and managing editor Fatih Gökhan Diler with the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office on 15 September 2022.

AKP, MHP vote down proposal for investigation into bandwidth throttling

The parliamentary proposal by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for an investigation into the Information and Communication Technologies Authority’s (BTK) practice of bandwidth throttling in terms of electoral security was voted down by AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) MPs on 15 November 2022.

HDP MP for İstanbul Ali Kenanoğlu said that bandwidth throttling carried out upon a request by the BTK after the bomb attack in Taksim, İstanbul on 13 November was unconstitutional, an abuse of authority and an obstacle to communication.

Kenanoğlu emphasized that the throttling justified on grounds of preventing the spread of “lies and misinformation” itself led to the spread of lies and misinformation.

The Council of State rules the Presidency of Communications’ authority to annul press cards unlawful

The 10th Chamber of the Council of State has stayed the execution of some amendments to the Press Card Regulation that the Presidency of Communications had made on 21 May 2021.

The Chamber ruled that some amendments such as that authorizing the Presidency of Communications for the annulment of press cards instead of the Press Card Commission and that allowing for press cards to be issued to employees of RTÜK and public bodies to be unlawful. The Council of State had previously ruled to stay the execution of some other articles of the regulation, upon which the Presidency of Communications had amended the regulation. With the new ruling, the execution of some items in the second amendment have been halted.

While the 10th Chamber of the Council of State ruled to keep some articles of the Press Card Regulation in place, it denied requests to stay the execution of some other articles.

Lawyer-at-law Onur Can Keskin had filed a case with the Council of State on behalf of the Association of Modern Journalists and the DİSK Press Labor union for the stay of execution and annulment of some articles of the Regulation on Changes to the Press Regulation.

Victory Party Chairperson Ümit Özdağ threatens to “shut down Rûdaw”

On 15 November 2022, far-right Victory Party Chairperson Ümit Özdağ responded to a question by a Rûdaw reporter about lawyer Jiyan Tosun with the threat of banning Rûdaw.

Following the bomb attack in Taksim, İstanbul on Sunday,13 November, Victory Party Vice Chairperson Adem Taşkaya had targeted lawyer Jiyan Tosun by claiming Tosun was “the person who planted the bomb.” Later, Syrian citizen Ahlam Albashir was identified as the perpetrator and captured alive, according to official statements.

Özdağ, who later visited İstiklal Avenue in Taksim, where the attack took place, was asked about the targeting of Tosun by a Rûdaw reported. To the question “Will you expel [Adem Taşkaya] from your party” Özdağ responded, “This is what we will do; under a Victory Party government, Rûdaw TV will have no place within the borders of Turkey.”

Retrial of Çağrı Sarı, Arif Koşar adjourned

The second hearing in the retrial of former managing editor Çağrı Sarı and former licensed publisher Arif Koşar of the Evrensel newspaper on charges of “denigrating the military and security organization of the state” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 15 November 2022.

Sarı and Koşar’s lawyer Devrim Avcı were present at the hearing, which P24 monitored.

Lawyer Avcı requested the acquittal of Sarı and Koşar in line with the appellate court’s decision to overturn the verdict in the previous trial.

The court ruled to submit the case file with the prosecutor’s office for the preparation of the final opinion on the case. The trial was adjourned until 22 November 2022.

Sarı and Koşar had been sentenced to five months of imprisonment each over the news item titled “Polis Nusaybin’de halkı taradı: 3 yaralı” (“Police fire on the people in Nusaybin: 3 wounded”) that was published in Evrensel on 15 March 2016. The 3rdCriminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals had overturned the verdict in March 2022 on the grounds that elements of the impugned crime did not exist.

Trial of Hüseyin Aykol, Reyhan Çapan adjourned until February 2023

The 25th hearing in the trial of former co-editor-in-chief Hüseyin Aykol, former managing editor Reyhan Çapan and some contributors of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was shut down by statutory decree (KHK) on charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “praising an offense or an offender” was held at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 15 November 2022.

Aykol and Çapan’s lawyer presented an excuse not to attend the hearing. At the summarily held heating, the court decided to await the execution of the order for the detention of some of the defendants. The trial was adjourned until 16 February 2023.

Journalist Engin Eren’s trial adjourned

The 33rd hearing in the trial of former reporter Engin Eren of DİHA, which was shut down by statutory decree (KHK) on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization, ”violation of Law no. 2565 on Military Forbidden Zones and Secure Zones” and “opposition to Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” was held at the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court on 16 November 2022.

Some of the defendants and their lawyers attended the hearing, which P24 monitored. Eren and his lawyer did not attend the hearing.

Accepting the request for additional time and the excuses presented by some defendants’ lawyers, the court decided to separate the case file for Ahmet Tekin, who has not been located despite the order for his arrest. 31 people, including journalist Engin Eren, now remain as defendants in the case file. The trial was adjourned until 30 November 2022.

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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 20 November 2022.

The full list can be accessed here.