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 - 415

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 415

Defendant charged with “violating the constitution” released in the Dink murder trial; 2 journalists sentenced to imprisonment; Pınar Gayıp, on trial upon a complaint by Musa Çitil acquitted; İsmail Arı receives death threats on social media; journalists detained while reporting

Journalist Sinan Aygül handed jail term over his reporting on Turkish Red Crescent

Bitlis Journalists Association President and Bitlis News Editor-in-Chief Sinan Aygül was sentenced to 6 months in prison on the charge of “violation of workplace inviolability” at the latest hearing of his trial overseen by the Tatvan 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 19 September 2023. Aygül was on trial over his report titled "Kızılay etleri AKP'li vekilin otelinde" (Kızılay aid meat found at AKP MP’s hotel).

In his column titled “Devlet Bahçeli’yi uyarıyorum!” (I warn [MHP chairperson] Devlet Bahçeli) Aygül had written about claims that canned meat to be dsitributed to poverty stricken households by the Turkish Red Crescent had been served at a hotel owned by Red Crescent Tatvan Office President Battal Taşar and his older brother AKP MP Cemal Taşar. An investigation was launched against Aygül upon a complaint filed by Battal and Cemal Taşar.

Three years after the complaint, on 12 January 2023, a case was filed against Aygül on the charge of “violation of workplace inviolability.” On 20 April 2023, the Tatvan 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance, which oversaw the case in accordance with the "simple trial procedure," sentenced Aygül to 6 months in prison. After Aygül objected to the judgment, the court decided to hold a hearing, which was held on 19 September 2023.

Journalist Miyase İlknur sentenced for “defamation”

The fifth hearing in the trial of Cumhuriyet newspaper columnist Miyase İlknur and Birol Güger, the responsible managing editor of the newspaper's online edition, on charges of “insult” and “defamation” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 21 September 2023. The case was launched following complaints filed by Constitutional Court Judge İrfan Fidan and Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Ayhan Ayan.

The journalists' lawyers attended the hearing, monitored by P24. İlknur and Güger were not present.

Reiterating their final opinion first presented at the third hearing held on 21 March 2023, the prosecutor requested sentencing for İlknur for “insulting a public official” and “defamation.” The prosecutor requested that Güger be acquitted of both charges as the owner of the work was known.

Co-plaintiffs İrfan Fidan and Ayhan Ayan’s lawyers stated they agreed with the opinion and requested sentencing for İlknur. İlknur’s lawyer Damla Çaltepe said that the report subject to the accusations was within the scope of press freedom and freedom of expression and requested her client's acquittal.

The court acquitted İlknur of the “insult” charge but sentenced her to 10 months in prison for “slandering” Ayan, and 10 months for “slandering” Fidan. The sentence was deferred on both counts.

The court ruled to acquit Güger of all charges.

İlknur and Güger were on trial for “targeting” Fidan and Ayan in an article titled “Man Adası davası ayan beyan” (All is clear to see in the Isle of Man case), published in Cumhuriyet on 16 April 2022.


ETHA editor Pınar Gayıp, on trial over Musa Çitil’s complaint, acquitted

Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Pınar Gayıp was acquitted of “marking officials assigned with the fight against terrorism as targets” at the final hearing of her trial, overseen by the Aydın 2nd High Criminal Court. The case was filed upon a complaint by the former Deputy General Commander of the Gendarmerie Musa Çitil.

Addressing the court from the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court via the judicial videoconferencing system SEGBİS, Gayıp said: “[former sergeant] Musa Orhan raped İpek Er, whom he had detained for two weeks and was discharged from the profession. A lot of stories on this subject appeared at the time. The news I shared refers to the crimes committed by Musa Orhan in the region and states that he was promoted despite being sentenced. This is what I referenced.”


Gayıp’s lawyer stated that Orhan was proven to have committed crimes and was convicted for them and said, “My client’s post is within the scope of the right to information and freedom of expression. I request her acquittal, as she did not commit the impugned crime.”


Speaking regarding the defense statements, the prosecutor said that Gayıp had not committed the impugned crime and requested her acquittal. After a five minute recess, the court ruled to acquit Gayıp.


Gayıp, who had shared a news report on Specialist Sergeant Musa Orhan, who allegedly detained and raped İpek Er in Batman, on social media on 20 May 2021 had referenced a portion of the report and wrote, "Musa Orhan Musa Çitil'den feyz almış ki bu suçu işledi" (Musa Orhan must have been inspired by Musa Çitil in committing this crime.) A criminal case then had been filed against Gayıp upon Çitil’s complaint.



Journalist Barış Pehlivan’s request for release on probation denied

Journalist Barış Pehlivan’s lawyer Hüseyin Ersöz announced that the journalist's request for release under probation had been rejected by the Silivri Enforcement Court. Pehlivan, who had been on leave since 9 September 2023, returned to the open prison upon this decision. Pehlivan will spend a total of eight months in prison.


Pehlivan was imprisoned for the fifth time on 16 August 2023 as part of the trial in which he was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months of imprisonment and released after serving six months. Pehlivan’s application for probation as a beneficiary of a new law passed on 31 July 2023 was not accepted. Pehlivan has objected to the decision.


Pehlivan was arrested on 6 March 2020 and put on trial along with journalists Aydın Keser, Barış Terkoğlu, Hülya Kılınç, Ferhat Çelik and Murat Ağırel for reporting on the funeral of a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) officer and was sentenced to 3 years and 9 months of imprisonment for "exposing secret intelligence files." After serving six months of time in prison, Pehlivan had been released on probation with the condition of not being a defendant in another trial.


Pehlivan has said that he is facing at least six court cases due to his articles published in Cumhuriyet daily and that his probation was overturned following the publishing of his book "SS" on former Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu.



Defendant charged with “violating the constitution” released in the Dink murder trial

The second hearing in the new trial of 11 defendants of the Dink murder trial, five of whom are police officers, on charges of “attempting to destroy the Constitutional order” and “committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization” was held at the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court on 20 September 2023.

Instigators Erhan Tuncel, Yasin Hayal, Zeynel Abidin Yavuz, directors of security Ramazan Akyürek ve Ali Fuat Yılmazer and then Trabzon counter-terrorism branch director Adem Sağlam attended the trial, which P24 monitored, via the judicial videoconferencing system. Parties’ lawyers were present at the hearing.

In his defense statement, then Police Intelligence Department Head Ramazan Akyürek said, “It is the Trabzon Gendarmerie Command that concealed information, ignored mission reports and prevented operations. Meanwhile, it is the İstanbul Directorate of Security that failed to take measures to protect Dink despite so many threats and that filed a fake investigation report after the murder. And yet, I have been sentenced instead of those who failed to do their duty. This unlawful sentence is now being used as a pretext for the crime of attempting a coup d’état. I have not caused the death of anyone and have not issued any unlawful orders. There is no evidence that supports these claims.”

Akyürek said, “I have never had anything to do with coups. I have no idea how a murder committed 16 years ago, with me in prison for the last nine years, can have anything to do with the coup” and rejected the impugned crime. Concluding his defense statement, Akyürek requested his acquittal.

Following Akyürek, then Trabzon Counter-Terrorism Branch Director Adem Sağlam delivered his defense statement. Attending the hearing through the SEGBİS system from the prison where he was being held, Sağlam said, “I have been imprisoned pending trial for 41 months without any verdict. This has turned into a form of punishment. I request my release.”

The court ruled to release the only imprisoned defendant Adem Sağlam with an international travel ban. The trial was adjourned until 6 December 2023.

Batuhan Çolak, Süha Çardaklı imprisoned pending trial over “anti-refugee reporting”

Aykırı news site Editor-in-Chief Batuhan Çolak and Ajans Muhbir manager Süha Çardaklı were placed in pre-trial detention by Ankara 1st Criminal Judgship of Peace on charges of “inciting the people to hatred and enmity” and “spreading false information” over “anti-refugee reports” on 23 September 2023.

27 people including Çolak and Çardaklı were arrested on 20 September. 17 of the 23 were sent to the criminal judgship of peace for arrest whereas the other six were released.

On his social media account, Murat Ağırel announced that Çolak was asked of his 13 social media posts during the interrogation.

Journalist İlknur Bilir detained as part of the “disinformation law” at the airport

Journalist İlknur Bilir who resides in Germany, was detained at Sabiha Gökçen Airport in the evening hours of 15 September 2023.

Bilir’s passport was withheld at the police checkpoint and Bilir was taken to the airport police station. Bilir was released after giving a statement to the prosecutor.

In a statement after being released, Bilir said she was facing an investigation over her social media posts on the earthquakes of 6 February 2023 and had given a statement regarding the allegation of “spreading false information.”

Decision not to prosecute over threats targeting journalist Hale Gönültaş

A decision not to prosecute was issued for the person facing investigation on claims that they had phoned journalist Hale Gönültaş on a phoneline registered to their name and threatened her on behalf of the “Tevhid Group.”


The registered owner of the phoneline, which still appears as the “business account” of the Tehvid magzine on WhatsApp, said in their defense statement that they could not remember the person they had given the phone line to. The prosecutor’s office has deemed the defense sufficient and decided not to prosecute without requesting any call records or HTS records regarding the location of the phone during the time of the crime from the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK).


Journalist Hale Gönültaş had received threats over the phone following the publication of her news item titled “Video of ISIS member woman with knife recorded at people’s park” (“IŞİD’li kadının bıçaklı videosu millet bahçesinde çekilmiş”) on the Kısa Dalga website on 12 May 2022.


Journalists Zeynep Kuray, Berkcan Zengin detained while reporting

The gendarmerie has broken up a demonstration of Agrobay workers who were laid off without compensation for being union members. Journalists Zeynep Kuray and Berkcan Zengin were detained during the gendarmerie intervention.


Zengin recounted the gendarmerie stepping on his head and neck, his photo camera being thrown on the ground and being kept in reverse handcuffs for three hours despite stating than he suffers from asthma.


Journalist İsmail Arı threatened on social media

In a statement on his social media post on 19 September 2023, journalist İsmail Arı said that he had received death threats due to his reporting.


Arı said that his complaints about the matter had been turned down by the prosecutor’s office and said, “Under the AKP government the judicial system works only for supporters of the AKP. Would the outcome have been the same had the same threats and insults been targeted at an AKP supporter or a pro-government journalist? If anything should happen to me, the prosecutors and the Ministry of Justice who have ignored my complaints will be to blame.”

Indictment against journalist Fatih Altaylı filed over his statement concerning the Presidency of Religious Affairs

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office has initiated an investigation into journalist Fatih Altaylı on charges of “insulting a public official” over his statement concerning the president and members of the Board of Religious Affairs of the Presidency of Religious Affairs.

The indictment states that in his defense statement, Altaylı had said that he had posted the social media post subject to the indictment and that he rejected the impugned crime due to his action falling under the freedom of expression. The indictment also states that as the defendant was a well-known member of the press who publishes and broadcast on national-level televisions and newspapers as of the date of the incident, he had the duties of broadcasting, reporting, writing about and offering criticism of issues of public interests and benefit, to inform the public and to publish and broadcast in accordance with the facts.

The indictment was accepted by the Ankara 61st Criminal Court of First Instance.

Prosecutor requests sentencing for journalist Furkan Karabay

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Furkan Karabay on charges of “insult” and “defamation” over the complaint filed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lawyers was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 19 September 2023.


Submitting their final opinion on the case, the prosecutor requested sentencing for the charge of “insult” and acquittal for “defamation.”


The court granted Karabay and his lawyer time to set up a defense against the prosecutor’s opinion and adjourned the trial until 18 January 2024.


Police blockade reporting journalists

In a post she shared on 20 September 2023, journalist İzel Sezer stated that they had been blockaded by the police while reporting.


Sezer wrote the following regarding the police prevention of the reporting of a worker’s demonstration in Beyoğlu, İstanbul by her and four other journalists: “As we wanted to capture the moment the woman workers taking industrial action at Agrobay would present a petition to the Russian Consulate-General, we five journalists were encircled by the police for ‘Walking on İstiklal Street.’ The workers submitted their petition and left for tea, but we are still…”


Demokratik Modernite trial adjourned until December

The sixth hearing in the trial of Demokratik Modernite magazine Managing Editor Ramazan Yurttapan, Agos newspaper Armenian pages editor Pakrat Estukyan and three others on charges of “terrorism propaganda” was held at the İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court on 22 September 2023.

While Yurttapan and Estukyan did not attend the hearing, which P24 monitored, their lawyer Özcan Kılıç was present.

In his previous written petition to the court, lawyer Kılıç had presented the names of the owners of works subject to the charge. Kılıç requested the missing information regarding the persons he had named to be completed.

The court adjourned the trial until 1 December 2023.

Trial of Demokratik Modernite employees and contributors adjourned until January

The third hearing in the trial of Demokratik Modernite magazine Managing Editor Ramazan Yurttapan, editor Haydar Ergül, contributors Cihan Doğan, Musa Şanak and Nazan Üstündağ on charges of “denigrating the Turkish Nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, the institutions and organs of the state” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 21 September 2023.

Yurttapan and Ergül’s lawyer Özcan Kılıç was present at the hearing, which P24 monitored.

The court ruled to await the execution of the order for arrest of Nazan Üstündağ and Cihan Doğan, and adjourned the trial until 4 January 2024.

The indictment lists statements expressed in eight articles in issue 37 of the magazine as evidence of the charge levelled at Yurttapan, Ergül and the contributors.

Journalist Abdullah Kaya’s trial adjourned until November

The 23rd hearing in the trial of journalist Abdullah Kaya on chargess of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” over his reportings and social media posts was held at the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court on 19 September 2023.

Attending the hearing, Kaya stated that he was on trial for his journalistic activities and requested the immediate return of his confiscated equipment.

The presiding judge said that a search was underway to find Kaya’s belongings and adjourned the trial until 2 November 2023 to complete missing elements in the file.

Journalist Sultan Eylem Keleş’s trial adjourned until January

The fourth hearing in journalist Sultan Eylem Keleş on charges of “insulting a public official” and “resisting to prevent duty” was held at the İstanbul 56th Criminal Court of First Instance on 19 September 2023.

The court adjourned the trial until 25 January 2024 to complete missing elements in the file.

Ferhat Çelik, Osman Akın’s trial for reporting on Sedat Peker’s claims about Serhat Albayrak adjourned until January

The trial of Yeni Yaşam newspaper Editor-in-Chief Mehmet Ferhat Çelik and Managing Editor Osman Akın on charges of “insult” and “defamation” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 19 September 2023.


The court ruled to assess the request by Albayrak’s lawyer to join the case as co-plaintiff in the case following the defense statement to be made by journalist Çelik.


The trial was adjourned until 30 January 2024.


Trial of journalist Şerife Oruç on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” adjourned until December


The trial of journalist Şerife Oruç, who was detained while reporting and charged with the “membership in a terrorist organization” continued with the hearing at the Batman 2nd High Criminal Court on 20 September 2023.


The court ruled to await the execution of the order for Oruç’s arrest and adjourned the trial until 19 December 2023.


Musician Ferhat Tunç’s trials adjourned


The 16th hearing in trial of musician Ferhat Tunç on charges of “insulting the president” over his social media posts was held at the Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance on 20 September 2023.


Tunç’s lawyer was present at the heating, while Tunç did not attend.


The court ruled to await the execution of order for Tunç’s arrest and adjourned the trial until 7 February 2024.


Meanwhile, the 11th hearing in the trial of Tunç on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court on 19 September 2023.

The court ruled to await the execution of order for Tunç’s arrest and adjourned the trial until 5 March 2024.


The trial of 3 journalists for “violating the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations” adjourned until December

The fifth hearing in the trial of 49 people, including journalists Nebiye Arı, Hilal Işık and Yağmur Kaya on charges of “violating the Law 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” was held at the Ankara 15th Criminal Court of First Instance on 20 September 2023.


At the hearing, which the defendants did not attend, the court ruled to await the execution of the order for the arrest of one of the defendants. Orders for the arrest of six defendants whose addresses could not be identified were issued.


The court once more rejected the request to have two co-plaintiff police officers, who were heard between hearings, be heard during a hearing.

The trial was adjourned until 6 December 2023.


At least 45 journalists and media workers in prison


As of 22 September 2023, there are at least 45 journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.