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 - 380

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 380

Journalist Sezgin Kartal imprisoned on “terrorism” charges; Şebnem Korur Fincancı convicted but released; Press Advertising Agency sets rules for news websites to receive public ads; Abdurrahman Gök’s conviction upheld


Journalist Sezgin Kartal imprisoned pending trial




Karşı Mahalle news website reporter Sezgin Kartal was placed in pre-trial detention for “membership in a terrorist organization” by a criminal judgeship of peace on 13 January 2023.




Kartal was arrested during a police raid on his home in İstanbul early on 10 January. Police officers, who broke down Kartal’s door to get in, searched the house and seized his digital equipments. A confidentiality order was imposed on his investigation file, which restricted his lawyers’ access to information on his arrest and subsequent imprisonment.



Şebnem Korur Fincancı convicted of "terrorism propaganda," released pending appeal



The İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court sentenced Turkish Medical Association (TTB) President and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı to 2 years 8 months and 15 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda,” but released her pending appeal on 11 January 2023. She was in pre-trial detention since 27 October 22 over her remarks calling for an investigation into allegations that the military used chemical weapons against the PKK targets in northern Iraq.


The court announced its verdict at the end of the third hearing, which was monitored by P24, as well as deputies from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and representatives of national and international human rights groups. Fincancı and a large number of lawyers representing her were present at the courtroom. More details from the hearing can be accessed here.



BİK sets criteria for news websites to receive public ads



The Press Advertising Agency (BİK) has approved a new regulation that sets out the criteria for news websites to be eligible to publish public advertisements. The new regulation, which will be in effect as of 1 April 2023, was endorsed at a meeting of BİK’s General Council on 13 January 2023.


The regulation requires news websites to maintain certain standards regarding the number of employees, daily news entries and website visitors in order to become eligible to receive public ads, distributed by the BİK.


Journalists’ groups have objected to the regulation, saying that the news websites do not have the capacity to fulfill the new criteria and that it would force them to prioritize quantity over quality of the content in order to receive public ad revenues.


Jail term handed to journalist Abdurrahman Gök upheld



The 9th Criminal Chamber of the Diyarbakır Regional Court of Justice has unanimously upheld the prison term of 1 year 6 months and 22 days given by the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court to journalist Abdurrahman Gök for “terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts and journalistic work on 30 June 2022.


“We are going to object to the decision as it is unlawful,” Gök’s lawyer Resul Temur said.


A lawsuit was brought against Gök on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” after he documented the moment of university student Kemal Kurkut being shot dead by police during the Newroz celebrations in Diyarbakır in 2017. The Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court had sentenced Gök to 1 year 6 months and 22 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda,” and acquitted him of “membership in a terrorist organization.”



Police used excessive force on photojournalist Bülent Kılıç, court rules


The İstanbul 8th Administrative Court has ruled that police officers used excessive force on AFP photojournalist Bülent Kılıç during last year’s banned Pride Parade in İstanbul on 26 June 2021. In its decision dated 8 December 2022, the court ordered Kılıç to be paid TL 30,000 (USD 1,600) as compensation.


The court in its decision also noted that there was an ongoing investigation run by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on charges of “abuse of duty” and “simple injury” into the two police officers, who had used violence on Kılıç. The officers had pressed their knees into Kılıç’s back and throat, leaving him unable to breathe.


His lawyers had demanded non-pecuniary damages as well as material compensation for the equipment damaged by the police.


Journalist Ender İmrek acquitted


The second hearing in the trial of Evrensel columnist Ender İmrek on charges of “insulting the president” over a column published on 30 July 2021 was held at the Bakırköy 44thCriminal Court of First Instance on 10 January 2023.


The column, titled “Türkiye yanıyor, Saray izliyor" (Turkey is burning, the palace is watching), criticized the government for excessive spending in other areas while not sparing funds to acquire sufficient number of aircraft to help extinguish devastating wildfires that ripped through southern Turkey in the summer of 2021.


The prosecutor in their final opinion on the case said that the column in question was within the scope of criticism and did not contain any insult against President Erdoğan, demanding the court to acquit İmrek. Erdoğan’s lawyer, on the other hand, objected to the opinion and requested conviction for İmrek.


After hearing the statements, the court ruled that the elements of the impugned crime did not exist and acquitted İmrek.


Court acquits journalists Sena Dolar, Muhammed Enes Sezgin


The third hearing in the trial of 40 people including Mezopotamya news agency reporter Muhammed Enes Sezgin and JinNews reporter Sena Dolar on the charge of “violating the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” over their coverage of a protest staged on 27 April 2021 was held at the Büyükçekmece 10th Criminal Court of First Instance on 10 January 2023.


Neither the journalists nor their lawyers attended the hearing.


The prosecutor stated that there was no concrete evidence indicating the unlawfulness of the protest and demanded acquittal for the defendants. The court ruled that the elements of the impugned crime did not exist and acquitted the defendants.


Sezgin and Dolar were arrested along with demonstrators when police broke up a gathering in İstanbul on 27 April 2021 to protest a ban on International Workers’ Day demonstrations. An indictment was then prepared against 40 people including Sezgin and Dolar on the charge of violating the Law no. 2911.



Top court rules journalist Hacı Boğatekin’s right to freedom of expression violated


The Constitutional Court has ruled that journalist Hacı Boğatekin’s right to freedom of expression and the press was violated due to a jail term of 1 year handed down over a column published in 2008.


According to the judgment dated 19 October, the file will be sent back to the Adıyaman 1st High Criminal Court for a retrial in order to have negative consequences of the violation remedied.


Boğatekin, the publisher and responsible editor of Adıyaman-based Gerger Fırat newspaper, was sentenced to one year in prison for “praising an offense or an offender” by the Adıyaman 1st High Criminal Court on 5 March 2019. The decision was upheld unanimously by the 8th Criminal Chamber of Supreme Court of Appeals on 24 October 2019.



Court sentences 10 defendants in Güngör Arslan murder case

A court in the northwestern province of Kocaeli has convicted 10 defendants in connection with the murder of local journalist Güngör Arslan in February 2022.


The verdict came at the end of the final court hearing held on 23 January. 14 defendants, six of whom were in pre-trial detention, were on trial. The Kocaeli 1st High Criminal Court sentenced Ramazan Özkan and Burhan Polat to aggravated life imprisonment but acquitted and released another defendant originally charged with masterminding the murder, Ersin Kurt.


Eight other defendants were given varying prison terms in connection with Arslan’s killing while four defendants, including Ersin Kurt, were acquitted of all charges.


Arslan was attacked in his office in İzmit, Kocaeli on 19 February 2022 and died in the hospital where he was taken for treatment.


Documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin’s trial to begin on 23 February


An indictment drawn up against documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” has been accepted by an Ankara court. The first hearing in the trial of Tekin will be held at the Ankara 26th High Criminal Court on 23 February.


Tekin 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.


Case of police officers injuring journalist dropped due to statue of limitations


An investigation launched eight years ago into police officers accused of seriously injuring now-defunct Jinha reporter Şehriban Aslan during a protest was dropped due to the statue of limitations.


Aslan was hit in the head by a stone thrown by police and gendarmerie officers breaking up a protest against ISIS attacks against the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, held in a village in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa in July 2014. Aslan had suffered a brain hemorrhage and spent three weeks in a hospital, including a week in the intensive care unit, after her injury. She was also unable to work for a year and started suffering from epilepsy as a result of her head injury.



Prosecutor drops with investigation into 13 people arrested ahead of Saturday Mothers trial


The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has decided not to pursue an investigation into 13 people who were arrested when police broke up a gathering in front of the İstanbul Courthouse ahead of a court hearing in the ongoing trial of Saturday Mothers/People group on 21 September 2022.


The prosecutor assigned to the investigation ruled that the elements of the impugned crime, violation of the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations, did not exist.


On 21 September, the police arrested a number of people who gathered to read out a press statement ahead of the court hearing, including journalists’ union DİSK Basın-İş head Faruk Eren, human rights defenders and defense lawyers in the case. Journalists Meral Danyıldız and Edanur Tanış were forcefully removed by the police as well.



German authorities deny Turkish court’s request for musician Ferhat Tunç


German authorities have denied a request filed by a Turkish court to have musician and human rights activist Ferhat Tunç’s defense statement received in Germany as part of his ongoing trial, court documents show.


The Büyükçekmece 14th Criminal Court of First Instance in İstanbul, which oversees Tunç’s trial on charges of “insulting the president,” announced the documents during the 14th hearing held on 10 January 2023.


The documents conveyed to the court by the Justice Ministry shows that the Darmstadt Prosecutor’s Office rejected the Büyükçekmece court’s request to have Tunç’s statement received through letter rogatory on the grounds that the request went against the freedom of expression, therefore violating German constitutional order.


The court decided to await the execution of the order for Tunç’s arrest and adjourned the trial until 12 September 2023.


Writer Gökhan Yavuzel arrested at the İstanbul Airport


PEN International member writer Gökhan Yavuzel was detained at the İstanbul Airport on 8 January 2023. Yavuzel returned to Turkey because of his health problems.


The journalist was reportedly detained due to his ongoing trial at the Ankara 7th Criminal Court of First Instance on charges of “inciting the people to hatred and enmity” and an investigation launched by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s office for “terrorism propaganda.”


Yavuzel was released on the same day with an international travel ban and ordered to check in a police station once a month.


Journalist Özdemir İnce fined for “insult”


The Ankara 25th Criminal Court of First Instance ordered Cumhuriyet daily columnist Özdemir İnce to pay a fee of TL 5,300 on charges of “insult” over his televised remarks in a hearing held by simple trial procedure on 10 January 2023.


İnce’s lawyers objected to the decision.


Following the objection, the first hearing in the retrial was set for 9 February 2023.


Trial of journalist İdris Yayla adjourned until May


The 12th hearing in the trial of 28 people including Jiyan News Publisher İdris Yayla on charges of “violating the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” was held at the Batman 1st Criminal Court of First Instance on 12 January 2023.


The court decided to await the execution of order for the three defendants’ arrest and adjourned the trial until 9 May 2023.


Trial of journalist İsmail Saymaz adjourned until February


The seventh hearing in the trial of journalist İsmail Saymaz on charges of “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” was held at the Niğde 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 10 January 2023.


Neither Saymaz nor his lawyer attended the hearing.


The court adjourned the trial until 14 February 2023.


At least 76 journalists and media workers in prison


With journalist Sezgin Kartal being imprisoned pending trial on 13 January, there are now at least 76 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 14 January 2023.


The full list can be accessed here.