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 - 376

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 376

Sinan Aygül becomes the first journalist to be imprisoned pending trial under the “disinformation” law; Constitutional Court rules for retrial of convicted journalist Erdal Süsem, Supreme Court of Appeals overturns jail term for journalist Mehmet Güleş, four people released in the GÖÇİZDER trial


Sinan Aygül becomes the first journalist imprisoned under “disinformation” law

Bitlis-based journalist Sinan Aygül was placed in pre-trial detention on charges of “spreading false information" as per a new article added to the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) supposedly to counter "disinformation."


Aygül's detention is the first known case of imprisonment of a journalist under Article 217/A of the TCK, which foresees up to three years in prison for those who "spread false information concerning the internal and external security, public order and public health of the country with the sole intention of creating anxiety, fear or panic among the public, and in a manner likely to disturb public peace." The clause is part of a 40-article bill that was enacted by the votes of the ruling coalition of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputies on 13 October, despite the criticism by opposition parties, journalists’ organizations and freedom of expression groups that it was set to deepen censorship.


Aygül was arrested and then placed in pre-trial detention on 14 December over a Twitter post on 13 December about the alleged sexual abuse of a 14-year-old child in Bitlis' Tatvan district. He said the suspected perpetrators were police and military officers. He, however, later retracted the claim, saying it was denied by the Bitlis governor and that he rushed to publish it without fully verifying the facts.


Constitutional Court rules for a retrial for convicted journalist Erdal Süsem

In its unanimous decision on 13 September 2022, the Constitutional Court ruled that the right to a fair trial ensured by article 26 of the constitution of Eylül magazine editor Erdal Süsem, who has been imprisoned since March 2011 for the offense of “overthrowing the constitutional order by force of arms” had been violated.

The Constitutional Court ruled to return the case that resulted in life imprisonment for Süsem to the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court for a retrial and for Süsem to be paid TRY 20,000 in compensation.


Erdal Süsem was arrested during an ID check in Kartal, İstanbul on 21 March 2000 on the allegation that he was a member of the Workers and Peasants Salvation Army (TİKKO) and put in pre-trial detention on 25 March 2022. On 26 December 2005, the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court convicted Süsem to life imprisonment by delivering its verdict on the case filed for “overthrowing the constitutional order by force of arms.” On 12 July 2016, the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the ruling, pointing out errors of procedure based on merits and stating that the ruling could not be based on present evidence. The retrial then began.

On 13 June 2007, the 12th High Criminal Court reached the same verdict in opposition to the Co Supreme Court of Appeals’ ruling and released Süsem pending approval of verdict. On 7 April 2008, the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the verdict for Süsem on the grounds that the “verdict was not adequately justified.”

After another retrial the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court repeated its former verdicts and sentenced Süsem to life imprisonment once more on 20 April 2020.

Süsem, who was placed in Tekirdağ Prison in 2006, began publishing the Eylül magazine with four friends on 1 April 2007. The magazine aims to publish the “artistic and literacy works by convicts.” On 1 February 2010, Süsem was arrested for “membership in a terrorist organization” over the articles published in Eylül and was imprisoned pending trial by the İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court on 5 February 2010. Journalist Süsem was initially placed in Metris Type T Closed Prison and later in Edirne Type F Prison and a confidentiality order was issued on his case.

The confidentiality order was lifted five months later, the indictment was delivered and the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court was assigned to the case.

The Supreme Court of Appeals took up the previous case after Süsem’s imprisonment. The 9th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which had overturned the verdict in the case twice before on merits this time approved the verdict with its decision on 24 February 2011. Following this ruling, Süsem’s lawyer Fazıl Ahmet Tamer took the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on 23 July 2011, on grounds that a fair trial had not been held.

On 6 September 2018, Turkey delivered a unilateral declaration to the ECtHR, in which it stated that it accepted articles 3 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) that guarantee the right to a fair trial had been violated and that EUR 500 had been offered to Süsem in compensation for rights violations. The declaration argued that domestic law could rectify the violations and a request was made for the ECtHR to drop the case from its list of cases to be considered. On 23 May 2019, the ECtHR decided to drop the case from the list.

Süsem’s lawyer requested a retrial from the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court on 8 July 2019 and 16 July 2019 based on the ECtHR decision. In its decision on 16 January 2022, the court denied the request for a retrial on grounds that Süsem’s committing the impugned crime was established. The İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court then denied the objection that the promise made by the government to the ECtHR had not been upheld on 4 March 2020. Upon this, the case was taken to the Constitutional Court on 3 June 2020.

Supreme Court of Appeals overturns jail term for journalist Mehmet Güleş

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned the imprisonment sentence of 4 years and 8 months for journalist Mehmet Güleş who was arrested in December 2016 and convicted on World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2017 over his social media posts.

Güleş had been sentenced to 6 years and 3 months of imprisonment for “membership in a terrorist organization” and to 3 years 1 month and 15 day for “terrorism propaganda.”

The Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice had approved the local court’s verdict upon appeal. Recourse to the Supreme Court of Appeals had been closed off for the jail term for the offense of “terrorism propaganda,” as the sentence was less than five years.

While Güleş stayed in prison for almost five years due to 6-year jail term that was approved by the Supreme Court of Appeals upon appeal, he gained recourse to the Supreme Court of Appeals for the imprisonment sentence of 3 years 1 month and 15 days with a new regulation introduced in 2019. Güleş then filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Appeals against this conviction.

The 3rd Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which examined the decision at a severity higher than that foreseen by the law because of aggravating circumstances found the sentencing to be disproportionate and overturned the verdict.

Supreme Court of Appeals overturns jail term for journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk

The 3rd Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned the imprisonment sentence of 3 years 3 months and 1 day for journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” over her social media posts on 18 October 2022. In its decision to overturn, the Supreme Court of Appeals stated “the conviction for defendants based on even high probabilities does not serve the highest aim of criminal trials, which is establishing the truth.”

Journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk had been tried by the İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court over her posts on the coup attempt of 15 July 2016 and was convicted on 11 December 2018.

Öztürk’s lawyer Efkan Bolaç had taken the case to the Supreme Court of Appeals, after it was approved by the 3rdCriminal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice.

4 people released in the GÖÇİZDER case

Four members of the Göç İzleme Derneği (Migration Monitoring Association), or GÖÇİZDER, were released pending trial at the end of the eventful, three-day first hearing held in İstanbul and Silivri courthouses.


23 rights defenders, including 22 executives and members of GÖÇİZDER and social services expert Bilal Yıldız of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV), have been on trial on terrorism charges as part of the case. 17 defendants were in pre-trial detention since June, when the headquarters of GÖÇİZDER was raided by the police. The defendants are prosecuted in connection with the work of GÖÇİZDER, which focuses on forcefully displaced people, and the indictment lists as evidence some statements by executives of the association, the financial support it received from the European Union and its published reports.


The three-day hearing began at the İstanbul Courthouse in central İstanbul but was later moved to the courthouse in the Silivri Prison Complex outside of the city because of the large number of defendants, lawyers and observers. On the second day of the hearing on Wednesday in Silivri, the presiding judge ordered the gendarmerie units to keep the defense lawyers out of the courtroom after a quarrel over the defense statement of imprisoned defendant Kamile Kandal, the co-president of GÖÇİZDER. The defendants refused to give their statements in the absence of lawyers, upon which the hearing was adjourned until Thursday.


On the third day on Thursday, defense lawyers were removed by the gendarmerie upon orders from the presiding judge following another dispute over defense rights. The hearing proceeded with the prosecutor’s opinion on the case, in which he asked the court to release one defendant on health grounds and keep the rest in pre-trial detention. In its interim decision issued at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to release the sick defendant İlyas Erdem and another defendant who was having heart problems, Veysi Yıldız. Two more defendants, Songül Köse and Kamile Kandal, were also released upon presenting their defense statements. The next hearing in the case will be held in Silivri on 4-5 January.


P24 monitored the first day of hearing in the case. A more detailed report from the hearing can be accessed here.


Journalist Nazlan Ertan to stand trial for retweet

Trial of Al-Monitor columnist Nazlan Ertan on charges of “insulting a public official” and “marking officials assigned in the fight against terrorism as targets” for retweeting a post by human rights defender Eren Keskin will get underway at the İzmir 21st High Criminal Court on 24 January 2023.

The charges stem from Ertan retweeting a tweet by Keskin saying "There is no respect for mourning. Deniz Poyraz's father's demand for justice is considered 'propaganda'," in reference to the young woman who was killed when an armed attacker assaulted the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) building in the western province of İzmir in June 2021. The tweet quoted by Keskin said the prosecutors charged Deniz Poyraz's father with "terrorism propaganda" instead of investigating who ordered the armed attack that killed Poyraz. 

Ertan was summoned to give a statement for her retweet in May where she explained that she covered the attack against HDP's Izmir office as a journalist and retweeted developments that she found newsworthy. She also said that she had no intention of insulting the prosecutor, whose identity was totally unknown to her. Her lawyer maintained that the tweet by Keskin and @denizpoyrazfavası contained no slander but fell under freedom of expression.

Ertan was notified some five months after she testified that the public prosecutor did file for a case. She was also imposed an international travel ban as part of the case.


Eren Keskin, meanwhile, is also facing a trial her tweet that was retweeted by Ertan on charges of “marking the officials assigned in the fight against terrorism as targets” and “insult."

The first hearing in Keskin's trial will be held at the İzmir 18th High Criminal Court on 23 February 2023.


Journalists attacked, threatened in İzmir


Journalists who travelled to the Çamlık neighbourhood in the Selçuk district in İzmir on 13 December 2022 to report on the municipality not abiding by the İzmir Province Directorate for Agriculture and Forestry and continuing construction work were subjected to assault and threats.


As Figen Avcıoğlu of Büyük İzmir TV said “Despite the ministry not issuing a permission and not zoning for construction and despite permission being granted for just one villa,” an individual who jumped over the fence took away Avcıoğlu’s microphone. The individual pulled Avcıoğlu by her hair, threw her to the ground and damaged the video camera.

The individual then told journalists “Who did you get permission from to shoot here? There is such a thing as the Law on the Protection of Personal Data. You don’t own the place, go away from here” and upon further argument threatened journalists by saying “I’ll come back with my rifle”.

The journalists filed an official complaint with the district gendarmerie command following the assault.

Police obstruct journalists reporting in Diyarbakır

The police broke up against a demonstration held for PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan in Diyarbakır on 11 December 2022.

Police officers blocked off the road and immediate surroundings to prevent the crowd in the square from coming together. As DBP Co-Chair Saliha Aydeniz addressed the crowd from within the encircled area, police officers lifted their shields up to prevent journalists from obtaining images.

Journalist Çetin Desde detained in police raid

İstanbul representative of the Yeni Dünya İçin Çağrı magazine Çetin Desde was arrested in police raid on his home in Beyoğlu, İstanbul on 12 December 2022.


While it is not clear what Desde was arrested for, he was taken to the İstanbul Directorate of Security on Vatan Street.


Desde was reportedly not allowed to see his lawyers for a day and that a confidentiality order has been issued for the file.

Case filed against journalist Mustafa Sönmez for “insulting the president”

A case has been filed against journalists and economist Mustafa Sönmez on charges of “insulting the president” over a social media post. The indictment was prepared by the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau of the İstanbul Anadolu Chief Prosecutor’s Office’s.

Sönmez, who gave a statement regarding the post in question on 2 August 2022 said that he had no intention of insulting the president in the post, that his comment had to do only with economic matters and therefore denied the charges.

The first hearing in the trial will be held at the Anadolu 38th Criminal Court of First Instance on 2 February 2023.

Case filed against journalist Yılmaz Özdil for “insult”

A court case has been filed against Sözcü newspaper columnist Yılmaz Özdil on charges of “public insult through audio, written or visual messaging” over a column and following a complaint by Hasan Yeşildağ, a figure known to be close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The indictment prepared by the Anadolu Chief Prosecutor’s Office was accepted by the İstanbul Anadolu Criminal Court of First Instance. The first hearing in the trial will be held on 9 March 2023.

The column subject to the charge was published on 28 June 2022 and discusses claims by crime ring leader Sedat Peker.

Journalist Oktay Candemir gives statement for “insulting a person’s memory”

An investigation has been launched into journalist Oktay Candemir on charges of “insulting the memory of a person” over a social media post about singer Müzeyyen Senar.

On the anniversary of the events of 6-7 September, Candemir posted the message "6-7 Eylül olaylarında Müzeyyen Senar vardı" (“Müzeyyen Senar was involved in the events of 6-7 September”) on his social media accounts.

The children of Senar, who passed away in 2015, went to the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office and filed a complaint against Candemir on charges of “insulting the memory of Senar.” Candemir then went to the police station on 12 December 2022 with his lawyer Kadir Kutevi to give a statement. In his statement, Candemir said that Senar was a publicly known figure whose work and life is still the subject of discussion. Stating that this makes criticism of Senar a matter of freedom of thought and expression for this reason, Candemir added that newspapers of the time had reported on the matter and there was no insult in his remark.

Candemir was released after giving his statement.


Police assault journalist Halil Tekin while reporting


Halkın Sesi newspaper owner Halil Tekin was subjected to police violence while recording images of the police intervening against football supporters following the match between Bartınspor and Polatlı Belediyespor played in Bartın on 11 December 2022.


Tekin was dragged on the ground by police officers as he recorded images. Police officers pinned the journalist on the ground, assaulted him and tried to take away his phone.

Criticizing the treatment of the journalist, the Press Council published a call on 14 December 2022 for the police officers perpetrating violence to be punished suitably as soon as possible.

The governor’s office of Bartın had announced the suspension of one police officer following the incident.

Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank files complaint against journalist İsmail Arı

Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank has filed a complaint against BirGün newspaper reporter İsmail Arı over the news item titled “Deniz manzaralı araziyi Varank’ın ‘kuzeni’ kaptı!” (“Varank’s cousin picks up plot of land with a sea view”) that was published in the 18 November 2022 edition of the newspaper. Varank cited the offense of “insulting a public official” in his complaint.

Arı was called in for a statement by the Press Crimes Investigation Bureau of the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The official complaint stated that with the news item in question, Arı had “insulted a public official and caused Varank to lose credibility before the public” and called for a trial on charges of “insulting a public official.”

The news item had reported that the tender held by Emlak Konut for a very large plot of land with a sea view in Bodrum had been won by the Cevahir company owned by Minister Mustafa Varank’s cousin and with close ties with the AKP. Following the reporting which was based on Emlak Konut’s statement to the Public Disclosure Platform, the tender had been cancelled.

Filmmaker and journalist Sibel Tekin detained in house raid

Documentary director and journalist Sibel Tekin was arrested in a raid on her home on 16 December 2022 as part of an investigation carried out by the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office. Tekin’s two computers, many hard disks containing her documentary work, cameras and some books were confiscated.

Tekin makes documentaries from her own records of many social events and demonstrations, including the Tekel Strike, Gezi protests and the 10 October bomb attack.

Evrensel newspaper ordered to pay damages

Ruling on the verdict of compensation case for TL 20,000 filed by the Kastamonu University Rector Ahmet Hamdi Topal against the Evrensel newspaper for reporting on information about him found in Court of Accounts documents, the Ankara 20th Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced the newspaper to pay TL 10,000 in damages.

The Court of Accounts had recorded information about Topal appointing his cousin as a director and his school friend as deputy rector and Topal had sued Evrensel for reporting on the information.

Damages case against Evrensel newspaper adjourned until March

The 15 December 2022 hearing in the compensation case for TL 100,000 filed by AKP MP for Bursa Mustafa Esgin against the Evrensel newspaper for reporting based on Court of Accounts documents on allegations of “false and misleading content” was held at the Bursa 8th Civil Court of First Instance on 15 December 2022.


The 2021 Court of Accounts reports had revealed that the municipality in Bursa had assigned seven streets in four neighborhoods as carparks for the hospital owned by the AKP MP and the Bursa Osmangazi Belediye Sports Club. The same municipality had also become a partner to a “space and aeronautics company” in exchange for TL 1,250,000. Evrensel had reported the news with the title “AKP’li belediyelerden usulsüzlük aktı” (“Irregularities pour out from AKP municipality.”)

The court adjourned the trial until 23 March 2023.


Journalist Görkem Kınacı to appear before court on 22 December

Evrensel newspaper managing editor Görkem Kınacı is to appear before the court at the Bakırköy 21st Criminal Court of First Instance on 22 December 2022 for a case filed against him on charges of “inciting the people to hatred and enmity.”

The case was filed over the news item titled “Sakarya’da ırkçı saldırı, baba hayatını kaybetti, oğlu tedavi altında” (“Racist attack in Sakarya, father killed son in treatment”) that was published on 23 December 2018. Three other courts have ruled for lack of jurisdiction on the case until now, with the Bakırköy 21st Criminal Court of First Instance being the latest court to be assigned to the case.

İHD Co-Chair Türkdoğan’s trial adjourned

The first hearing in the trial of Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chair Öztürk Türkdoğan on charges of “publicly denigrating the state of the Republic of Turkey” over the article titled “Adalet ve Hakikat İçin Ermeni Soykırımı’nın İnkârına Son!” (“Stop Denying the Armenian Genocide for Justice and Truth”) that appeared on the association’s website on 24 April 2017 was held summarily due to the reassignment of the court judge.


The judge, who was promoted to the position of Chief Prosecutor of the Ankara Regional Court of Justice on 1 December 2022 went on leave a week before the hearing.


The hearing was held summarily by a judge on duty and the trial was adjourned until 2 March 2023 to allow Türkdoğan and his lawyers time to deliver their defense.


A more detailed report from the hearing can be accessed here.


Journalist Zekine Türkeri’s trial adjourned

The third hearing in the trial of journalist Zekine Türkeri and 19 others on charges of “violating the Law 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” was held at the İstanbul 49th Criminal Court of First Instance on 13 December 2022.


Zekine Türkeri, three other defendants and their lawyers attended the hearing, which P24 monitored.


Journalist Türkeri’s lawyer Keleş Öztürk said that a second investigation launched about the same matter had resulted in a decision not to prosecute, that the case file should be updated and his client acquitted.


The court ruled to send the case file to the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office for the preparation of the final opinion and adjourned the trial until 16 March 2023.


Court expert assigned to Metin Cihan’s trial revealed to be police officer

The sixth hearing in the trial of journalist Metin Cihan, who shared the TÜGVA documents that allegedly show the degree of nepotism and preferential appointments within the state, on charges of “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” was held at the İstanbul 22nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 14 December 2022.


Ramazan Aydoğdu and lawyers to parties attended the hearing, which P24 monitored.


Metin Cihan’s lawyer Özgür Urfa said that the court expert assigned to the case was a police officer and that both the investigation-stage report and the prosecution-stage report being prepared by police officers violated the right to a fair trial. Urfa requested the present report to be examined by a neutral expert who is not a police officer and for a lawful report to be prepared.


The prosecution requested awaiting the outcome of the expert report to avoid delays in this stage in the trial.


The court dismissed Urfa’s request for the recusal of the court expert who is a police officer and adjourned the trial until 8 Mart 2023 to await the outcome of the court expert’s report.


Retrial of journalist Perihan Kaya begins

The first hearing in the retrial of journalist Perihan Kaya on charges of “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Diyarbakır 10th High Criminal Court on 16 December 2022.


At the hearing which P24 monitored, Kaya’s lawyer Resul Temur requested that the defense statement of his client, who lives abroad, be obtained through letter rogatory.


Accepting the request, the court granted Temur time until the next hearing to inform the court his client’s address and adjourned the trial until 17 Mya 2023.


A more detailed report from the hearing can be accessed here.


At least 76 journalists and media workers in prison

Following the imprisonment of journalist Sinan Aygül under the “disinformation” law over his social posts on 14 December 2022, there are now at least 76 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 18 December 2022.

The full list can be accessed here.