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.
Appellate court upholds jail term handed to Müyesser Yıldız; court releases 13 imprisoned defendants in GÖÇİZDER trial; Sibel Tekin charged with “membership in a terrorist organization,” RTÜK punished critical broadcasters in 2022
Appellate court upholds jail term handed to journalist Müyesser Yıldız
A regional court of appeals has upheld the imprisonment sentence of 3 years 7 months and 10 days given to journalist Müyesser Yıldız by an Ankara court in 2021 over her reporting on military activities in Syria and Libya.
Yıldız was arrested on charges of “military espionage” along with Tele1 TV Ankara Representative İsmail Dükel and a soldier named E.B. in June 2020. She spent five months in prison before being released at the end of the first hearing in her trial in November 2020. In March 2021, she was convicted by the Ankara 26th High Criminal Court of “disclosing confidential information” and “obtaining confidential information” under articles 334 and 336 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) and sentenced to a combined prison term of 3 years 7 months and 10 days.
Barış Pehlivan, a columnist for Cumhuriyet newspaper, wrote that Yıldız was now set to return to prison since the regional court of appeals’ decision was not subject to further appeal by the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Court releases 13 imprisoned defendants in GÖÇİZDER trial
The 2nd hearing in the trial of 23 defendants, 13 of whom were imprisoned, from the Migration Monitoring Association (GÖÇİZDER) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) was held on 5 January 2023 at the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court.
The court ruled for the release of all imprisoned defendants and adjourned the trial until 3-4 May 2023.
A police raid was launched as part of an investigation launched by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on GÖÇİZDER’s office in İstanbul on 3 June 2022. Several reports published by the by the association as well as computers were seized during the raid. 22 GÖÇİZDER members and executives including its co-chairs were arrested and a confidentiality order was issued on the investigation file. 17 people were subsequently imprisoned pending trial after being kept in police custody for eight days.
RTÜK punished opposition broadcasters in 2022
The Supreme Council of Radio and Television (RTÜK) predominantly targeted televisions over the critical political content of their programs in 2022, according to figures announced by the Council’s member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), İlhan Taşcı.
According to the figures provided by Taşcı, RTÜK issued a total of 23 penalty decisions against the popular opposition broadcaster Halk TV in 2022. Another opposition broadcaster, Tele 1 TV, received 16 penalties, while KRT TV got six. Fox TV and Flash TV were each punished four times. The total amount of fines imposed on the five networks was TL 17.33 million (866,777 euros). As for the pro-government broadcasters, TGRT was imposed fines twice while Beyaz TV and ATV each received fines once in 2022. Other pro-government networks A Haber, Ülke TV, Kanal 7, TV Net and TV 24 did not receive any fines.
Taşcı also predicted that opposition radio and television channels would receive even heavier penalties from RTÜK in 2023 thanks to the approaching elections. “Turkey is now a country headed for the elections. Radios and televisions will be the most important sources of information in a country headed for elections," he said. "The main mission of the RTÜK leadership is to silence opposition leaders and spokespersons, including most notably [the CHP leader] Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. We can say 2023 will be a harsher year for television broadcasters than 2022."
Imprisoned documentary filmmaker charged with “membership in terrorist organization”
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has prepared an indictment against Sibel Tekin, the documentary filmmaker and journalist who was arrested in December 2022 for allegedly filming a prison staff bus and a police car.
The indictment charges Tekin with “membership in a terrorist organization,” punishable by up to 15 years in prison, for filming the prison bus and the police car for “reconnaissance purposes” under instructions from a terrorist organization. It does not, however, say which terrorist organization Tekin was linked to.
Tekin was arrested during a late-night police raid on her home in Ankara on 17 December after she filmed people waiting for buses to get to work in the dark, a much-debated side effect of the government’s decision to make daylight saving time permanent throughout the year, for a documentary focusing on the issue. A bus picking up the employees of the Sincan Prison at a bus stop and a parked police car in the area were filmed as well, although Tekin said she did not film them intentionally.
Imprisoned journalist Ceylan Şahinli to stand trial for “terrorism propaganda”
A lawsuit has been filed as part of an investigation launched by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Mezopotamya Agency reporter Ceylan Şahin on charges of “terrorism propaganda.” Şahinli has been in pre-trial detention in the Sincan Closed Women’s Prison since 29 October 2022.
Şahinli has stated that her statement at the prosecutor’s office was taken while her lawyer was absent. She added that the investigation was launched in 2017 and she was not informed of it.
The first hearing in the trial is set for 7 March 2023.
Appellate court upholds fine imposed on Şebnem Korur Fincancı for “insulting” Erdoğan
The 24th Criminal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice, acting as appellate court, has upheld the fine of TL 7,080 imposed by the Anadolu 42nd Crminal Court of First Instance on the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council President and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı on charges of “insulting a public official” over her social media posts dated 15 June 2013.
The Anadolu 42nd Criminal Court of First Instance had fined Korur Fincancı at the end of a hearing on 16 February 2021 on the grounds that she insulted then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the current president of Turkey, in her social media posts.
Journalist İsmail Arı faces trial upon complaint by Minister Mustafa Varank
BirGün reporter İsmail Arı is charged with “insulting a public official” over a news report that included allegations of corruption involving Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank.
The indictment was prepared on the basis of an investigation that was launched into Arı upon a complaint from Varank. The İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, which accepted the indictment, set 24 April 2023 as the date of the first hearing.
Varank had filed a complaint against 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.
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 Minister Mustafa Varank’s cousin and the Cevahir company known with its close ties with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Following the reporting which was based on Emlak Konut’s official statement to the Public Disclosure Platform, the tender had been cancelled.
At least 75 journalists and media workers in prison
There are at least 75 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 7 January 2023.
The full list can be accessed here.