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 - 393

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 393

Appellate court overturns acquittal judgment for journalist Hayri Demir; 18 journalists detained in Diyarbakır to appear in court in July; press freedom organizations condemn RTÜK; Press Card Regulation published in Official Gazette


Appellate court reverses verdict for journalist Hayri Demir


The 22nd Criminal Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Justice overturned a verdict rendered in journalist Hayri Demir’s trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” and ordered a retrial. The first hearing in Demir’s retrial will be held on 5 July 2023 at the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court.


In its decision dated 14 March 2023, the appellate court held that it was a legal necessity to merge an investigation launched this year by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Demir on the allegation of “membership in PKK/KCK/YPG/YDG-H armed terrorist organization” with the case file subject to review.


The appellate court decided to “overturn the verdict by preserving the right of the accused in terms of the duration of the sentence.” An excerpt from the decision read: “Merging the files should be evaluated in the event a case has been launched against the accused based on the said investigation file in order to determine whether the acts by the accused took place in the same period … by also taking into consideration separate dates on which the acts attributed to the accused and the dates of his arrest to prevent double trial and punishment on the same charge; […] if a joinder is not legally possible, the legal status of the accused [should be] determined based on an evaluation of the entire body of evidence in the case file following the inclusion of a certified copy of the said investigation file … and an evaluation of whether the accused’s reports and social media posts subject to the accusation are of such nature as to legitimize and praise the terrorist organization’s acts involving force and violence and constitute the crime of ‘terrorism propaganda’ as per Article 7/2 of the Law no. 3713 …”


At the final hearing in his trial on “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” charges, held on 21 December 2022, the Ankara 15th High Criminal Court sentenced Demir to 1 year, 21 months and 22 days in prison for “terrorism propaganda” on account of a song and a documentary he had shared on social media and acquitted the journalist of the “membership in a terrorist organization” charge due to lack of sufficient and conclusive evidence. The court also lifted Demir’s international travel ban.


18 journalists arrested in Diyarbakır to appear in court in July


The Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court has accepted an indictment issued against 18 journalists and media workers, 15 of whom have been in pre-trial detention since June 2022. The court set 11 July 2023 as the date for the first hearing of the case, in which the journalists are charged with “membership in a terrorist organization.”


The 728-page indictment argues that the broadcasting of programs and reports by the accused journalists on Kurdish TV channels indicated “ties with the terrorist organization.”


A total of 22 people, among them 20 journalists, were taken into custody in police raids carried out on 8 June 2022 as part of an investigation launched by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. After spending eight days in detention, the journalists were taken to the courthouse on 16 June 2022. The court jailed Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Co-Chair Serdar Altan, Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) editor Aziz Oruç, Xwebûn newspaper Managing Editor Mehmet Ali Ertaş and journalists Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Ömer Çelik, Mazlum Doğan Güler, İbrahim Koyuncu, Neşe Toprak, Elif Üngür, Abdurrahman Öncü, Suat Doğuhan, Remziye Temel, Ramazan Geciken, Lezgin Akdeniz, Mehmet Şahin and Safiye Alagaş on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization.” The file against Alagaş was later separated from the initial file.


Press freedom groups condemn RTÜK role in punishing critical reporting ahead of elections


A total of 20 freedom of expression and human rights organizations, including Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), issued a joint statement calling on Turkey’s media watchdog Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) to immediately stop fining broadcasters for their critical reporting.


The statement dated 13 April 2023 said that the suppression of public debate through fines and penalties imposed by RTÜK undermined the electoral process in the run up to Turkey’s May 2023 elections.


Click here for further information about the statement.


Court suspends RTÜK penalty on Halk TV


A regional administrative court has ruled for stay of execution regarding a five-time program suspension penalty and a five percent administrative fine issued against Halk TV by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK).


Halk TV was fined for allegedly “praising a criminal offender” on account of a recent broadcast hosted by Serhan Asker, in which Selahattin Demirtaş’s latest book, “Dad,” was promoted.


MA reporter Dilan Akyol taken into custody


Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reporter Dilan Akyol was taken into custody on 14 April 2023 as she was leaving her house in central Antalya.


The grounds for her arrest have not yet been disclosed. Akyol was taken to the anti-terror branch of the Antalya Police Department.


Journalist briefly detained after arguing with public prosecutor on city bus


A public prosecutor threatened a journalist who goes by the initials A.K.Y. after an argument between the two on a city bus in Trabzon province. The prosecutor reportedly threatened the journalist that he would “have him taken from his house.”


Following the incident, A.K.Y. was taken into custody by the police. He was released after his statement was taken by a prosecutor. An investigation into the incident is underway.


Journalist Cengiz Özbasar faces “inciting hatred and animosity” allegation


Mezopotamya News Agency reporter Cengiz Özbasar is facing the allegation of “inciting hatred and animosity” in an investigation launched on account of his report published on 9 June 2022 about claims by local power supplier DEDAŞ workers that the company establishes illegal connections and then fines subscribers for electricity theft.


Özbasar was questioned on 2 April 2023 at the police station as part of the investigation. In his statement, Özbasar denied the allegation. Saying that his report was based on claims by DEDAŞworkers, Özbasar said his report did not contain any false statements.


Journalist Rengin Temoçin faces investigation on 3 separate allegations


Cumhuriyet reporter Rengin Temoçin is facing the allegations of “slander,” “insult” and “illegally obtaining and disclosing personal data” in an investigation launched over her report published on 20 May 2022, headlined “Şırnak Üniversitesi Rektörü Mehmet Emin Erkan, kamu arazilerine el koydu” (Şırnak University Rector Mehmet Emin Erkan seizes public territory).

The investigation was launched upon a complaint by Erkan.


Temoçin recently gave her statement as part of the investigation. Rejecting the allegations, Temoçin said: “My report does not contain any personal or precise statements and is based on documents and information handed to me by my source for the sake of the public’s right to information. My report is within the context of press freedom and freedom of expression.”


Journalist Emre Orman faces new investigation over his report


An investigation was launched against journalist Emre Orman over his article titled “Karakolda işkenceyle ölüm” (Death by torture at the police station), about Ahmet Güreşçi, who was taken into custody and murdered by the gendarmerie in Hatay province on the allegation that he was a “looter.”


Announcing the investigation on his Twitter account, Orman said that the investigation was launched upon complaints filed by the Gendarmerie and the Police Department. “I just made my statement to the public prosecutor. The preliminary autopsy report and witness statements are already in the file in Altınözü,” Orman wrote.


Police blocks journalists from covering detention of activists


Police detained 15 people including Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chair Eren Keskin and İHD Istanbul Branch President Gülseren Yoleri during the 941st weekly gathering of Saturday Mothers/People, held on 8 April 2023 on Istanbul’s Galatasaray Square. The police blocked journalists from covering the detention of activists.


Prosecutor demands sentence for journalist Cengiz Çandar


The second hearing in journalist Cengiz Çandar’s trial on charges of “praising a crime and a criminal offender” over a 2017 Twitter post was held on 10 April 2023 at the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance. The hearing was originally planned for Tuesday, 11 April, but the court agreed to hold the hearing one day before upon a request by Çandar’s lawyers.


Çandar, who recently returned to Turkey, and his lawyers attended the hearing.


In his defense statement, Çandar rejected the accusation and requested to be acquitted. Presenting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Çandar as charged.


Çandar’s lawyers requested a continuance to prepare their statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. Granting Çandar’s lawyers additional time, the court adjourned the case until 16 May 2023.


Prosecutor demands sentence for journalist İsmail Çoban


The second hearing in journalist İsmail Çoban’s retrial on charges of “terrorism propaganda” was held on 11 April 2023 at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court. The former responsible managing editor of the now-defunct Azadiya Welat newspaper is accused over articles published in the newspaper.


Çoban, who is currently in the Maraş Türkoğlu Prison serving a previous sentence, did not attend the hearing. He was represented by lawyer Resul Temur.


Presenting their final opinion, the prosecutor asked the court to sentence Çoban as charged. Çoban’s lawyer requested a continuance to prepare their statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. Granting Temur a continuance, the court adjourned the case until 18 April 2023.


In the original trial, which concluded in 2015, Çoban was sentenced to 1 year, 8 months and 25 days in prison and his sentence was deferred. Later on, a case was launched against Çoban because clippings of the allegedly “banned” newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi had been found during a search of his cell in the Tarsus Prison during his pre-trial detention as part of a separate case. Consequently, ruling that Çoban had committed an offense during his probation period, the trial court lifted its judgment deferring Çoban’s sentence and decided to hold a retrial.


Investigation against journalist Aslıhan Gençay dropped


The Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has dropped an investigation against journalist Aslıhan Gençay, which was launched on the allegation of “publicly disseminating untrue information” on account of a report titled “Bitmeyen Çıplak Arama” (Endless strip search), published on 29 December 2022 on the news portal GazeteDavul.


Gençay gave her statement in connection with the investigation on 25 March 2023 at the police department.


JinNews employee Nazlıcan Yıldız released


JinNews employee Nazlıcan Yıldız, who was detained in Izmir on 6 February 2023 and later jailed pending trial on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” on account of activities organized by the Free Student Initiative, appeared before the Bayraklı 21st High Criminal Court in Izmir on 12 April 2023 for the first hearing of her trial.


Yıldız and her lawyers were in attendance. In her defense statement, Yıldız explained that the Free Student Initiative was not established under orders from any organization; that its work focused on various problems faced by students and that it carried out peaceful and legal demonstrations.


In its interim ruling, the court decided that Yıldız’s phone records between 2020 and 2022 be delivered to the court. The court ruled for Yıldız’s release under judicial control measures that also include an international travel ban.


Press Card Regulation published in Official Gazette


The Press Card Regulation, which sets out the principles governing the issuing of press cards by the Presidency’s Directorate of Communications, entered into force after being published in the Official Gazette on 10 April 2023.


The regulation sets out the qualities, types and standard layout of the press cards, the conditions to be sought for media organizations and persons who are entitled to hold a press card, their titles and quotas, the documents to be submitted to apply for a press card, the situations requiring the cancellation or return of a press card and the rules and procedures regarding the working and decision-making process of the Press Card Commission.


The regulation states that the press cards issued by the Directorate of Communications are official documents proving the identity of the card holder and are recognized by state and private institutions alike. The regulation lists types of cards as follows: “Service press card,” “Periodical press card,” “Temporary press card,” “Freelancer press card” and “Permanent press card.”


The regulation noted that press cards would be valid for 10 years and that criminal charges will be filed against anyone who issues a card that is similar in type, layout, form and color to those issued by the Directorate of Communications.


The previous Press Card Regulation dated 13 December 2018 was repealed with the new regulation.


İzel Sezer and Batuhan Batan’s trial adjourned


The second hearing in İleri Haber Editor-in-Chief İzel Sezer and Responsible Managing Editor Batuhan Batan’s trial on “insult” and “libel” charges was held on 11 April 2023 at the Istanbul 25th Criminal Court of First Instance. The case was launched following a complaint by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal.


P24 monitored the hearing. Batan and the lawyers representing the defendants and İnal were in attendance. Sezer, who was absent, submitted a letter of excuse.


In his defense statement, Batan denied the accusation and demanded to be acquitted, saying their report subject to accusations was within the scope of press freedom and freedom of expression.


The journalists’ lawyer Özgür Urfa requested a continuance, explaining that Sezer could not attend due to medical reasons and that she would be present in court at the next hearing. Granting the defendants a continuance, the court set 17 October 2023 as the date for the next hearing.


Trial against journalist Rabia Çetin gets underway


Journalist Rabia Çetin appeared before the Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court on 13 April 2023 for the first hearing of her trial on charges of “marking a public official assigned with the fight against terrorism as a target” and “insulting a public official due to the performance of their duty.”


P24 monitored the hearing. Çetin and her lawyer were present in court.


In her defense statement, Çetin denied the accusations and stated that she shared the social media post subject to accusation to inform the public.


The prosecutor requested to receive the case file for the drafting of their final opinion. The court ruled to deliver the case file to the prosecutor and adjourned the case until 13 September 2023.


Çetin is on trial for retweeting a post shared by the Twitter account named “Deniz Poyraz Davası.” The post read: “The prosecutor who failed to carry out an effective investigation to shed light on the attack and the murder, who obscured the evidence and who prevented the real perpetrators, aside from the shooter, from being revealed, has filed a case against Deniz Poyraz’s mourning father on charges of propaganda.”


Columnist Levent Gültekin acquitted


The second hearing in columnist Levent Gültekin’s trial on charges of “insulting the president” was held on 13 April 2023 at the Istanbul 23rd Criminal Court of First Instance.


P24 monitored the hearing. Gültekin, who did not attend, was represented by his lawyer.


The prosecutor reiterated their final opinion submitted during the hearing held on 30 March 2023, requesting Gültekin’s acquittal.


Ruling in line with the prosecutor’s final opinion, the acquitted Gültekin on the grounds that the elements of the alleged offense were not present.


Gültekin was on trial for his remarks in a video headlined “Levent Gültekin: O kadar kendinden emin bir şekilde yalan söylüyor ki kendimizden şüphe ediyoruz!” (Levent Gültekin: He lies so confidently that we doubt ourselves), posted on Halk TV’s YouTube channel.


At least 64 journalists and media workers in prison


Expression Interrupted updated its list of journalists in prison upon the release of JinNews employee Nazlıcan Yıldız on 11 April and upon finding out that Uğur Yılmaz, a former Bitlis Municipality press office employee who was jailed on 17 April 2017, was released from the Karakoçan Prison last month.


Following the latest update, as of 14 April 2023 there are at least 64 journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.


The full list can be accessed here.