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.
Journalist Murat Verim imprisoned after being deported by Greece; journalist scolded, pushed away after asking question to MHP leader; Minister Varank sues T24 chief editor Doğan Akın; journalists Hale Gönültaş, Sinan Aygül face new investigations
Journalist scolded, pushed away after asking question to MHP leader
Devlet Bahçeli, the head of government ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), scolded on 24 January 2023 a journalist asking him a question in Parliament while MPs accompanying him pushed the journalist away.
Voice of America (VOA) reporter Yıldız Yazıcıoğlu, a veteran journalist covering politics, asked a question to Bahçeli about the killing of former ultranationalist group Grey Wolves leader Sinan Ateş as Bahçeli was walking among a crowd of deputies, party officials and journalists after a parliamentary group meeting of his party. “Mind your own business,” he told Yazıcıoğlu after which an aide to Bahçeli pushed microphones away and a party deputy shoved her out of the way.
Afterwards, MHP Vice Chairman and MP for Kayseri İsmail Özdemir accused the journalist of being a “spy and provocateur.” Özdemir also said that Yazıcıoğlu’s employment at VOA, which he called “one of the main propaganda tools of the US,” revealed “her true mission.” Yazıcıoğlu was also targeted on social media with MHP supporters calling the journalist a “Demirtaş lover,” referring to jailed former leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş. Hüseyin Özkan, the MHP’s social media coordinator, called Yazıcıoğlu a “militant, not a reporter” and called for a discussion on how she is allowed to enter Parliament given her social media posts “praising and supporting fugitive and jailed criminals,” apparently referring to Demirtaş and exiled journalist Can Dündar.
Opposition politicians and journalists’ groups condemned the treatment of Yazıcıoğlu, saying she was attacked for doing her job as a reporter. “We mind our business” wrote many journalists on social media in response to Bahçeli.
Journalist Murat Verim sent back to Turkey by Greece put behind bars
Now-defunct Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Murat Verim, who was sent back by Greece to Turkey, was put in a prison on 23 January 2023 in the northwestern province of Edirne to serve a finalized conviction.
Verim had been sentenced to four years in prison by a court in Mardin for “aiding a terrorist organization.” He was arrested upon his deportation to Turkey on the Greek border, following which he was sent to a prison in Edirne due to his conviction. Two more trials are still under way against Verim.
Journalist Nazlan Ertan acquitted at the end of first hearing
An İzmir court acquitted journalist Nazlan Ertan, who was on trial for retweeting a post by prominent rights defender Eren Keskin, at the end of the first hearing held in İzmir on 24 January 2023.
Ertan was charged with “marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as targets” and “insulting a public official” for retweeting Keskin’s post about a court case brought against the father of Deniz Poyraz, a young HDP worker killed during an armed attack against the party’s İzmir office in June 2021.
Ertan in her defense said that she covered Deniz Poyraz case as a journalist. “I found the social media post in question newsworthy and retweeted without any comment since it was posted by a human rights lawyer, Eren Keskin,” she said.
The prosecutor in their final opinion on the case demanded conviction for the journalist.
The court, however, ruled at the end of the hearing to acquit Ertan, saying the elements of the impugned crime did not exist. The court also ruled to lift an international travel ban imposed on Ertan as part of the case.
Poet Ataol Behramoğlu acquitted of “insulting the president”
An İstanbul court has acquitted poet Ataol Behramoğlu, who was charged with “insulting the president” over his televised remarks, at the end of the first hearing.
Behramoğlu and his lawyer attended the hearing held at İstanbul’s Bakırköy 37th Criminal Court of First Instance on 27 January 2023.
In his defense statement, Behramoğlu denied insulting anyone in his comments while his lawyer said Behramoğlu’s remarks were within the scope of criticism, demanding his acquittal.
The prosecutor in their final opinion on the case requested acquittal for Behramoğlu.
The court ruled the elements of the impugned crime did not exist and acquitted the poet.
Journalist Derya Ren put in solitary confinement for resisting strip search
Jailed JinNews reporter Derya Ren has been put in solitary confinement for resisting strip search in the Diyarbakır Closed Women’s Prison, according to news reports.
Ren was arrested and placed in detention on 25 October 2022 as per a finalized conviction verdict against her. She resisted strip search as she was being admitted into the prison, following which she was battered by five prison guards. A disciplinary investigation launched into the incident resulted in a decision to place Ren in solitary confinement for three days.
Minister Karaismailoğlu sues journalist Akif Beki for compensation
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Adil Karaismailoğlu has sued Karar columnist Akif Beki for compensation on charges of "defamation" over a column published on 22 December 2022.
The column, which has since then been removed, listed a series of corruption allegations that appeared in media, including one involving a relative of the transportation minister allegedly getting a TL 2-billion public tender. Beki then asked: “Which one is true? Which is false? What’s the truth [about these allegations]? Does anyone read anything about them in conservative media outlets?” and criticized lack of response in pro-government circles to mounting allegations of corruption.
Journalist Doğan Akın to stand trial upon complaint by Minister Mustafa Varank
A lawsuit has been brought against T24 news website Editor-in-Chief Doğan Akın upon a complaint by Minister of Energy and Industry Mustafa Varank on charges of “insult” over a news item, which was originally published on BirGün daily on 18 November 2022.
T24 republished the report by BirGün correspondent İsmail Arı titled “Deniz manzaralı araziyi Varank’ın ‘kuzeni’ kaptı!” (“Varank’s cousin picks up plot of land with a sea view”) on T24 with a different title on the same day.
Varank had already filed a complaint against Arı for “insulting a public official” over the report, which claimed that a public tender held for a large plot of land with a sea view in the popular resort town of Bodrum had been won by Minister Mustafa Varank’s cousin and the Cevahir company known for its close ties with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Following the report, which was based on an official notification made to the Public Disclosure Platform, the tender had been cancelled.
Investigation launched into journalist Osman Akın for “terrorism propaganda”
Yeni Yaşam daily Responsible Managin Editor Osman Akın faces an investigation on charges of “terrorism propaganda” over some of the content published on the daily.
Akın went to a police station to give his statement as part of the investigation carried out by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and denied in his statement the allegations on the grounds that the news reports and columns in question did not contain any element of crime.
Copies of the daily’s edition dated 7 June 2022, which included the reports and columns subject to the investigation, were seized by a decision of the İstanbul 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 8 June.
Journalist Hale Gönültaş faces investigation over news report
An investigation has been launched into Kısa Dalga news website contributor Hale Gönültaş on allegations of “denigrating state institutions” and “defamation” over a news report on disappearance of a minor in state care.
The story, published on 14 December 2022, detailed alleged negligence and wrongdoing of public authorities in the case of a 14-year-old girl in Manisa, who was placed in state care after being sexually assaulted. She was allegedly found working as a sex worker following her placement at a state dormitory and later disappeared.
The investigation was launched upon a complaint by a police officer, even though Gönültaş’s story did not include any names openly.
Two police officers also went to Gönültaş’s home on the day she was summoned to a police station to give her statement as part of the investigation, apparently to intimidate her by saying, “We have heard that you have defamed our colleague.”
Journalist Sinan Aygül faces new investigation
The Bitlis Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into journalist Sinan Aygül for “terrorism propaganda” upon an anonymous complaint filed with the Presidency’s Communication Center (CİMER) in March 2022.
Aygül was released after he gave his statement at the Tatvan Anti-Terror Bureau.
Aygül announced the incident on his Twitter account saying: “Someone filed a complaint with CİMER in March 2022 saying, ‘Sinan Aygül spreads propaganda for a terrorist organization on Twitter. If you will not take any step, I will.’ The prosecutor’s office launched the investigation based on this message and anti-terror bureau received my statement.”
HDP deputy Züleyha Gülüm has taken to parliament the judicial harassment against Aygül, who has been receiving death threats, faced 137 investigations and was put in pre-trial detention for five times. In her parliamentary inquiry, Gülüm stressed that Aygül feels his right to life and security has been threatened. “Is any precaution going to be taken with respect to his safety? Is there any investigation launched into the death threats he receives?” asked the HDP MP.
Prosecutor demands conviction for MP’s bodyguard who assaulted journalist Latif Şimşek
The first hearing in the trial of Democratic Party (DP) deputy for Ordu Cemal Enginyurt’s bodyguard Emrah Topal, who is charged with “simple injury,” “threat” and “insult” for allegedly battering journalist Latif Şimşek following an argument he had with Enginyurt on a TV program, was held at the İstanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 26 January 2023.
The prosecutor in their final opinion on the case demanded that Topal be convicted of “simple injury” and “threat” and that he be acquitted of “threat.”
Speaking as to the accusations, Topal said, “I did not threaten or insult him. Sadly, I hit him. I deny the other charges.”
Topal’s lawyer requested the court to lift Topal's international travel ban, give the defense additional time to present their statement against the prosecutor’s opinion and release his client.
Accepting the requests, the court released Topal and adjourned the trial until a future date.
Şimşek had a quarrel with MP Enginyurt on the program called “Gündeme Dair” aired on TV100 on 6 August 2022. The indictment says Topal punched and kicked Latif Şimşek after the exchange.
Habertürk fires correspondent Fatmanur Boylu over controversial report
Habertürk TV announced on 24 January 2023 that the it had fired reporter Fatmanur Boylu over a story that featured a child saying, “My mother bought me meat as report card gift” in a butcher shop in İstanbul on 20 January.
The child saying “My mother bought me meat as report card gift” has gone viral on social media, and the opposition parties have criticized the government’s economic policies based on the report, saying they cause widespread poverty.
The report, however, soon became controversial after Habertürk released unedited footage showing Boylu asking the child to repeat the sentence to the camera after she asked the child’s mother if the meat they purchased was a report card gift, to which she agreed.
Trial of journalist Ayşegül Doğan adjourned until March
The second hearing in the trial of now-defunct İMC TV’s program coordinator Ayşegül Doğan on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court on 25 January 2023.
Doğan did not attend the hearing while his lawyer was present.
The prosecutor requested that court await a statement from a witness who is yet to testify. Doğan’s lawyers said that they would make their defense statement after all the witnesses are heard.
The court ruled to keep the international travel ban on Doğan in place, which was imposed in 2017, and to await the witness statement to be received and adjourned the trial until 6 March 2023.
Trial of lawyer Efkan Bolaç adjourned until June
The second hearing in the trial of lawyer Efkan Bolaç on charges of “insulting the president” for posting cartoonist Carlos Latuff’s drawings of Soma mining explosion and Berkin Elvan was held at the İstanbul 52nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 24 January 2023.
Bolaç, his lawyers as well as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lawyer attended the hearing, which P24 monitored.
The court adjourned the trial until 1 June 2023.
The indictment on Bolaç cites his Instagram posts as evidence. It claims that Bolaç’s Instagram posts featuring the drawings by Carlos Latuff on the Soma mining explosion of 2014, which killed 301 miners in the western province of Manisa, and 15-year-old Berkin Elvan who died after being hit in the head by a police gas canister during the Gezi protests, constitute the offense of “insulting the President.”
Trial of journalist Deniz Yücel adjourned
The fifth hearing in the trial of German Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel on charges of “insulting the president” and “denigrating the Turkish nation” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 24 January 2023.
Yücel’s lawyer attended the hearing, which P24 monitored.
The court ruled to await Yücel’s lawyer to submit information on the journalist’s address, following which his defense statement will be requested through cooperation with judicial authorities of the country he resides in. Yücel, a German national, lives in Germany. The trial was adjourned until 18 May 2023.
Trial of 3 journalists prosecuted upon complaint by President Erdoğan’s former lawyer postponed
The second hearing in the trial of journalists Can Bursalı, Barış Terkoğlu and Independent Editor-in-Chief Nevzat Çiçek charged with “insult” and “defamation” upon a complaint by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 26 January 2023.
The trial was adjourned until a future date due to the judge being on leave.
In the book Metastaz 2: Cendere he co-authored with Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkoğlu had written of claims that Erdoğan’s former lawyer İnal had received TL 15 million in legal representation fees from the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB). Bursalı had written of these claims in a news item published in Independent Turkish on 3 December 2020. The indictment had claimed that allegations concerning the İBB paying İnal despite him not being a lawyer on the staff of the İBB had “harmed the honor, dignity and social reputation” of İnal.
Trial of journalist Rüstem Batum adjourned until April
The 19th hearing in the trial of journalist Rüstem Batum on charges of “denigrating the state’s military and security institutions” over his televised remarks on now-defunct İMC TV in 2015 was held at the İstanbul 43rd Criminal Court of First Instance on 27 January 2023.
The court ruled to await execution of an arrest warrant against Batum and adjourned the trial until 7 July 2023.
Trial of journalist, novelist Ahmet Altan adjourned until June
The ninth hearing in the trial of novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan on charges of “insulting a public official” over a column was held at the Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 26 January 2023.
Altan is on trial for allegedly insulting former Supreme Court of Appeals General Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya in an article he penned in March 2008 for his regular column in the now-defunct Taraf newspaper. The case was reopened after a previous sentence Altan was given by the İstanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance for “insulting the president” was upheld in 2018 by a regional court of appeals.
The court adjourned the trial until 22 June 2023.
Trial of journalists Hacı Boğatekin, Özgür Boğatekin adjourned until March
The second hearing in the trial of Gerger Fırat daily Managing Editor Özgür Boğatekin and Publisher Hacı Boğatekin, who are charged with “defamation” over reports published in October 2018 on allegations of bribery involving a judge, was held at the Gerger Criminal Court of First Instance on 25 January 2023.
Hacı Boğatekin was present at the hearing, which Özgür Boğatekin did not attend due to his health issues.
The court ruled adjourned the trial until 8 March 2023.
On the same day, the Gerger Criminal Court of First Instance also held the first hearing of a trial in which Özgür Boğatekin is charged with “insult.” That trial was also adjourned until 8 March.
Trial of journalist Baransel Ağca charged with “disseminating personal data” adjourned until June
The second hearing in the trial of journalist Baransel Ağca on charges of “obtaining and disseminating personal data” over his social media posts was held at the Elazığ 8th Criminal Court of First Instance on 26 January 2023.
Ağca, who resides abroad, did not attend the hearing. Complainant Zülfü Tolga Ağar’s lawyer requested to join the case as co-plaintiff. The court accepted the request and ordered for rogatory procedure to be initiated to have Ağca’s statement received. The trial was adjourned until 13 June 2022.
The indictment drafted by the Elazığ Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office cites Ağca’s social media posts of autopsy and toxicology report on Yeldana Kaharman, whose suspicious death in Elazığ in March 2019 is alleged to be linked to Tolga Ağar, the son of former Interior Minister Mehmet Ağar.
Ebubekir Şahin reelected as RTÜK president
The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) held an election to determine the new president and vice president as Ebubekir Şahin’s term in office for two years expired on 25 January 2023.
Şahin became the RTÜK President for the third time, while Orhan Karadaş was reelected as vice president.
At least 77 journalists and media workers in prison
Following the imprisonment of Murat Verim on 23 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 27 January 2023.
The full list can be accessed here.