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 – 383

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 383

ECtHR condemns Turkey in journalist Abdullah Kılıç's application; documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin released; Metin Uca arrested at the airport; BİK’s regulation concerning news websites published on Official Gazette

Jailed documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin released pending trial

Documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin, who had been in pre-trial detention for over a month on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization,” was released under judicial control measures on 30 January 2023 from Ankara's Sincan Closed Women’s Prison.

 

Tekin was arrested in December 2022 for recording a prison staff bus and a police car as she was filming footage of commuters in the dark morning hours for a documentary on permanent daylight saving time. 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.

 

The first hearing in Tekin's trial is set for 23 February 2023.

ECtHR condemns Turkey in journalist Abdullah Kılıç’s application

 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its judgment in an application filed in March 2017 on behalf of Habertürk TV former Chief Coordinator Abdullah Kılıç. In its judgment dated 31 January 2023, the Strasbourg court ruled that the imprisonment and pre-trial detention of Kılıç was “arbitrary” and “lacked evidence." It therefore found that Turkey violated Article 5 (right to liberty and security) and Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The Court ordered Turkey to pay Kılıç 12,275 euros in non-pecuniary damages of and 1,100 euros for costs and expenses. 

 

In its judgment reached by unanimous vote, the Court stated that no evidence was found against Kılıç showing a criminal suspicion, no justifications were given for his pre-trial detention, and that the Constitutional Court not rendering a verdict in a timely manner sustained the aggrievement. 

Kılıç was among journalists who were arrested and imprisoned pending trial on "terrorism" charges in the wake of 15 July 2016 coup attempt and the state of emergency declared subsequently. He was released at the end of the first hearing held on 27-31 March 2017 but was rearrested before he could leave prison under another investigation initiated on "coup" charges. He was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison on charges of “membership in FETÖ/PDY terrorist organization” in March 2018 and released in September 2020 after serving his sentence.

 

Journalist Metin Uca arrested at airport

 

Television program host Metin Uca was arrested on 2 February 2023 at the İstanbul Airport on charges of “inciting the people to hatred and enmity." He was released on the same day after giving his statement.

 

State-run Anadolu Agency reported that the Edremit Criminal Judgship of Peace had issued an order for Uca’s arrest.

 

Uca said after his release that he had been arrested upon a complaint made to the police hotline by an anonymous caller, who claimed that a public performance by Uca in the western town of Edremit in August 2022 contained insults to the state authorities. In the part of the show that was the subject of the complaint, Uca cited a book in which Ottoman sultan (Fatih) Mehmed the Conqueror was revealed to be fond of seafood and said: "the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) says eating seafood is forbidden but my ancestors were delightfully eating it up. Who should I believe now?"

Appellate court overturns conviction of journalist Ahmet Kanbal

The İzmir Regional Court of Justice, acting as appellate court, has overturned a prison sentence given to Mezopotamya Agency reporter Ahmet Kanbal by the Aydın 3rd High Criminal Court on charges of “marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as targets.”

 

The appellate court ruled that the elements of the impugned crime did not exist and ruled for acquittal of Kanbal, saying there was no grounds for a retrial. 

 

Kanbal was put on trial upon a complaint by then Gendarmerie Deputy Commander Musa Çitil over a social media post in which Kanbal cited an excerpt from a published interview with Eren Keskin, the co-chair of the Human Rights Association. The court had sentenced Kanbal to 1 year and 3 months in prison for marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as targets.

 

 

Journalist Alican Uludağ acquitted by appellate court

The 22nd Criminal Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Justice, acting as appellate court, acquitted Deutsche Welle reporter Alican Uludağ of “marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as targets” at the end of the hearing held on 1 February. Uludağ had been sentenced to 10 months in prison on the impugned crime.

In the previous hearing, the prosecutor had claimed that the trial court's verdict of conviction was not lawful, and demanded that the request of appeal be rejected.

Uludağ stood trial over a Twitter post in which he criticized former Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman's visit to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan right after his wedding ceremony. After the court sentenced Uludağ to 10 months in prison, the journalist had appealed the decision.

 

Journalist Ramazan Akoğul acquitted of “membership in a terrorist organization”

 

The Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court acquitted now-defunct Dicle News Agency’s (DİHA) former reporter Ramazan Akoğul of “membership in a terrorist organization” at the end of the 15th hearing held on 2 February 2023.

 

The court ruled that “the elements of the impugned crime did not exist.”

 

Akoğul was tried on the same case by the same court and acquitted in 2018. The prosecutor had objected to the decision, resulting with the Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice reversing the acquittal, which had led to the retrial of Akoğul. 

 

Journalist Yılmaz Özdil acquitted of “insult”

Sözcü daily columnist Yılmaz Özdil, who stood trial for “insult” upon a complaint by theologian Ebubekir Sifil over a column, has been acquitted by an İstanbul court.

Özdil did not attend the hearing held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 31 January 2023.

Sifil’s lawyer demanded conviction for the journalist, arguing that the column included denigration and verbal assault. Özdil’s lawyer defended that Özdil’s piece was within the scope of freedom of expression and the press.

The court ruled that the elements of the impugned crime did not exist and acquitted Özdil.

Sifil had filed the complaint over the column titled “Yobazın tehdidi,” (Bigot’s threat) which Özdil penned after Sifil said “Their bodies shall not be let inside our mosques after they die” addressing Özdil.

First case under “disinformation” law: Journalist Sinan Aygül to appear before court in February

The Tatvan Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in the eastern province of Van filed an indictment against the Bitlis Journalists’ Association President and Bitlis News Editor-in-Chief Sinan Aygül on charges of “disseminating misleading information.” Aygül was placed in pre-trial detention on 14 December and released pending trial on 22 December after he shared Twitter posts on alleged sexual abuse of a minor. 

The one-page indictment cites “Aygül sharing an unfounded story” as evidence of wrongdoing under Article 217/A of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK), which foresees up to three years in prison for "spreading false information." The controversial article, which is commonly known as the "disinformation law," went into effect in October 2022 despite protests from the opposition parties and journalists and freedom of expression groups. 

The first hearing in the trial will be held at the Tatvan 1st Crimimal Court of First Instance on 28 February 2023.

Journalist Sezgin Kartal charged with “membership in a terrorist organization”

 

Journalist Sezgin Kartal, who was arrested in a house raid launched on 10 January 2023 and imprisoned pending trial on 13 January, has been charged with "membership in a terrorist organization" in a new indictment. 

The indictment filed on 24 January cites cases and investigations from at least five years back, an ongoing trial, and digital materials and photos seized during the police raid on Kartal's house last month as evidence.

 

The indictment alleges that Kartal “attempts to show the armed terrorist organization as a sympathetic group in his news reports under the cover of journalism.”

 

The first hearing will be held at the İstanbul 22nd High Criminal Court on 4 April 2023.

 

Journalist Rojin Altay released after 4 days in police custody

 

Yeni Yaşam daily employee Rojin Altay, who was arrested on suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization” at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport in İstanbul on 28 January, was released under judicial control measures after she gave her statement at the prosecutor’s office on 1 February.

 

In her questioning at the police station, Altay was reportedly asked of the protests and demonstrations she covered.

 

BİK’s regulation concerning news websites published in Official Gazette

The Press Advertising Agency (BİK) Regulations on Amendments in the Portal Regulation has come into force after it was published in the Official Gazette.

With the new regulation, the news websites are now expected to start publishing public ads and announcements distributed by BİK as of 1 April 2023.

 

Evrensel daily takes BİK’s public ad ban to court

Evrensel daily has taken the Press Advertising Agency’s (BİK) decision dated 13 December 2022 to permanently revoke its rights to receive public ads to the court, requesting that the execution of the decision be halted. 

 

The daily had not received public ads since September 2019 due to the Agency’s decision to suspend the daily’s rights to receive public ads and announcements due to alleged bulk buying.

 

Evrensel had objected to the decision twice, which were rejected by the Agency on the grounds that “the daily did not provide a new information or document to have the decision revoked.”

 

 

Journalist Rozerin Gültekin on trial for “violating the Law no. 2911”

JinNews reporter Rozerin Gültekin, who is charged with “violating the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations,” gave her defense statement at the İstanbul 58th Criminal Court of First Instance on 31 January 2023.

 

Gültekin was arrested during a demonstration held in protest of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s imprisonment conditons on 12 June 2022 in the western province of Bursa and was later indicted. In her statement to the court, Gültekin denied the accusation that she had refused to disperse and added that she had been arrested by the police despite the fact that she was already leaving the area and telling the officers that she was a journalist.

Gültekin’s lawyer said he would submit his defense statement to the trial court (the Bursa 18th Criminal Court of First Instance).

The case had been opened at the Bursa court, which had sent the file for Gültekin’s statement to be received to İstanbul where the journalists resides.

The Bursa court will hear the case on 21 February 2023.

Trial of journalists Ferhat Çelik, İdris Yayla adjourned until April

 

The second hearing in the trial of Mezopotamya Agency (MA) Responsible Managing Editor Ferhat Çelik and Jiyan News Publisher İdris Yayla charged with “marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as targers” was held at the Van 2nd High Criminal Court on 31 January 2023.

 

Neither the defendants nor their lawyers attended the hearing. The trial was adjourned until 25 April 2023.

Çelik and Yayla are on trial because of a news report published on Mezopotamya News Agency on 8 October 2020, which revealed that the prosecutor who ordered the arrests of journalists who had reported on torture of two villagers while in military custody was the same prosecutor that conducted the investigation into soldiers involved in the arrest of tortured villagers.

Trial of journalist İsmail Çoban adjourned until April

 

The second hearing in the retrial of now-defunct Azadiya Welat newspaper’s former Managing Editor İsmail Çoban was held at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 31 January 2023. Çoban is charged with "spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization" on account of a series of news reports published in Azadiye Welat in September and October 2014.

 

The court adjourned the trial until 11 April 2023.

 

Trial of journalist Semra Çelebi charged with “denigrating the state” adjourned

 

The first hearing in the trial of Gazete Kadıköy Managing Editor Semra Çelebi on charges of “denigrating the signs of state sovereignty” over her social media post on the Pride Parade in 2020 was held at the Anadolu 10th Criminal Court of First Instance on 2 February 2023.

 

Çelebi was targeted on social media over the post and a criminal complaint was filed against her, which the prosecutor at the time had decided not to proceed with. Two years later, however, an indictment was filed over the same post, which turned into a lawsuit.

 

Trial of journalist Burhan Ekinci adjourned until May

 

The seventh hearing in the trial of journalist Burhan Ekinci on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held at the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court on 1 February 2023.

 

The court decided to await the execution of the order for Ekinci’s arrest and adjourned the trial until 31 May 2023.

 

 

Trial of journalist Mustafa Sönmez charged with “insulting the president” adjourned until February

 

The first hearing in the trial of journalist and economist Mustafa Sönmez on the charge of “insulting the president” over a social media post from 21 October 2021 was held at the Anadolu 38th Criminal Court of First Instance on 2 February 2023.

 

Journalists and observers were removed from the courtroom. The trial was adjourned until 7 February 2023.

 

Trial of journalist Metin Cihan adjourned until May

 

The third hearing in the trial of journalist Metin Cihan on the charge of “insulting a public official” upon a complaint by former Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak over a social media post was held at the İstanbul 36th Criminal Court of First Instance on 31 January 2023.

 

Cihan’s lawyer attended the hearing, which P24 monitored. The court decided to await the execution of the order for Cihan’s arrest and adjourned the trial until 4 May.

 

 

Retrial of journalist Zafer Arapkirli got under way

 

The first hearing in the retrial of journalist Zafer Arapkirli on the charge of “insult” on account of a social media post criticizing Islamic preacher Nureddin Yıldız's remarks over child marriages was held at the İstanbul 32nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 31 January 2023.

 

Arapkirli and his lawyers attended the hearing, which P24 monitored.

 

Arapkirli's lawyer Kemal Aytaç stated that the courtroom’s capacity was insufficient for the large number of lawyers and observers present. Arguing that it constituted a violation of the right to fair trial, Aytaç demanded that the trial proceed in a bigger room.

 

The court accepted the request and adjourned the trial until 3 May 2023.

 

Trials of journalist Ahmet Sever adjourned until May, June

 

Hearings in three seperate trials of journalist Ahmet Sever on charges of “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official” over some statements in his book called “İçimde kalmasın: Tanıklığımdır” were held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 31 January 2023.

 

P24 monitored the hearings. The court decided to await the return of rogatory letters issued for Sever, who is residing abroad, and adjourned the trials until May and June.

 

Özgür Gündem solidarity trial adjourned

 

The retrial of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu, Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council President and human rights defender Şebnem Korur Fincancı and journalist and writer Ahmet Nesin on terrorism charges resumed at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 1 February 2023. Önderoğlu, Fincancı and Nesin are on trial for taking part in a solidarity campaign with Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was subsequently closed down.

 

Önderoğlu and his lawyer attended the hearing whereas lawyers of Korur Fincancı and Nesin were not present at the hearing, which P24 monitored.

 

The presiding judge said that the recusation request made against the court panel at the previous hearing was rejected. In response, Önderoğlu said, “We had conveyed our requests to have a fair trial in an objective court. I am of the opinion that your court cannot be fair and objective.”

 

The court adjourned the trial until 25 May 2023.

 

 

Prosecutor demands conviction for former Cumhuriyet employees

 

The seventh hearing in the trial of former Cumhuriyet daily employees Hazal Ocak, Olcay Büyüktaş Akca, İpek Özbey and Vedat Arık on charges of “marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as targets” and “violating the privacy of personal life” was held at the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court on 1 February 2023.

The prosecutor in their final opinion on the case demanded conviction for all defendants of the impugned crimes. The journalists’ lawyers requested additional time to prepare a counterstatement against the opinion. The court accepted the request and adjourned the trial until 5 April.

 

Trial of journalists Ramazan Yurttapan, Pakrat Estukyan adjourned until April

 

The third hearing in the trial of Demokratik Modernite magazine Responsible Managing Editor Ramazan Yurttapan, Agos weekly editor Pakrat Estukyan and their three co-defendants charged with “terrorism propaganda” was held at the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court on 1 February 2023.

 

Defendant Emran Emekçi and his lawyer attended the hearing, which P24 monitored. Emekçi expressed that the column subjected to the investigation must be seen within the scope of the freedom of expression and demanded his acquittal.

 

The court decided to await the execution of the order for defendants Mehmet Nimet Sevim and Cihan Doğan’s arrest and adjourned the trial until 7 April 2023.

 

Trial of journalist Sadiye Eser on “terrorism” charges adjourned

 

The 23rd hearing in the trial of former Mezopotamya Agency reporter Sadiye Eser and her 33 co-defendants on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at the İstanbul 6th High Criminal Court on 1 February 2023.

 

P24 monitored the hearing. The court decided to await the execution of the order for five defendants’ arrest and adjourned the trial until 1 June 2023.

 

 

Trial of Saturday Mothers/People adjourned until July

 

The sixth hearing in the trial of 46 people, who were arrested in a police intervention on the 700th gathering of the Saturday Mothers/People on 25 August 2018, on charges of “violating the Law 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” was held at the İstanbul 21st Criminal Court of First Instance on 3 February 2023.

 

The trial was adjourned until 7 July due to the judge being on sick leave.

At least 69 journalists and media workers in prison

Expression Interrupted updated its list of imprisoned journalists in the light of new information on cases and recent releases of journalists. We have been informed that journalists Özcan Keser, Ali Ahmet Böken, Erkan Akkuş, Seyithan Akyüz, Sedat Laçiner ve Rifat Söylemez have been lately released at at various dates.

According to our updated list, there are now at least 69 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 5 February 2023.

The full list can be accessed here.

 

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