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 - 418

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 418

PACE passes resolution for immediate release of Osman Kavala; Eylül Deniz Yaşar acquitted of “terrorism propaganda;” Constitutional Court rejects Can Dündar’s Sabah newspaper application; 3 journalists targeted on social media

PACE passes resolution for the immediate release of Osman Kavala

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has passed a resolution for the “immediate release of Osman Kavala” with 44 members voting for and 18 against. According to the resolution, Turkey will face sanctions unless it executes the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights for the “end of detention and immediate release” of Osman Kavala.

Among the most significant likely sanctions are the application of the Magnitsky Legislation to impose “targeted sanctions against those officials who are responsible for the unlawful and arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Osman Kavala” and challenging “the credentials of the Turkish delegation at its first part-session of 2024,” unless Osman Kavala is released from prison by 1 January 2024.

Following this decision and despite contacts with Turkish authorities, failure to ensure the release of Kavala may result in the prosecution of “everyone, including police officers,over prosecutors, judges, prison official and other officials who have contributed to the unlawful and arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Osman Kavala and other political prisoners.”

Furthermore, unless Osman Kavala is released by 1 January 2024, the Turkish delegation will lose its right to vote at the PACE’s 2024 Winter Session.

Journalist Eylül Deniz Yaşar acquitted of “terrorism propaganda” charge

The third hearing in the trial of journalist Eylül Deniz Yaşar on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court on 12 October 2023. Yaşar was charged over demonstrations she had covered as a reporter and posts on a social media account which could not be established to have ever belonged to her through sufficient evidence.

Yaşar and her lawyer attended the hearing.

Yaşar made her defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion, in which they demanded that the court sentence Yaşar for “terrorism propaganda.” Yaşar explained that she had been there to cover a press statement regarding Ulaş Bayraktaroğlu, who was killed while fighting against ISIS, which was read out on Yüksel Street in Ankara on 11 May 2017.

The panel of judges voted unanimously to acquit Yaşar on the grounds that “elements of crime did not exist.”

Constitutional Court rejects journalist Can Dündar’s application against Sabah daily

The Constitutional Court has rejected an application filed by journalist Can Dündar against Sabah newspaper regarding the daily's reports titled "Villasını FETÖ aracılığıyla fahiş fiyata sattı" ([Can Dündar] sells his villa for an exorbitant price through FETÖ). The Court found the application in which Dündar claimed a violation of his right to protection of dignity and standing to be inadmissible.

Dündar had argued that in its systematic coverage, Sabah had reported on claims that were not present in the court case, that he had been declared a “traitor to the nation” with expressions used in the headlines and that his rights had been harmed.

However, the İstanbul 11th Civil Court had rejected the lawsuit Dündar had filed with the claim that his rights had been violated. Upon the rejection of the lawsuit, Dündar had filed an individual application with the Constitutional Court.

Journalists Alican Uludağ, Tolga Şardan and Bilal Güldem targeted on social media

Deutsche Welle Türkçe reporter Alican Uludağ was targeted on social media by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairperson Semih Yalçın. Uludağ had reported on claims that MHP Deputy Chairperson İzzet Ulvi Yönter had met up with the prosecutor investigating the murder of former Ülkü Ocakları (Grey Wolves) President Sinan Ateş and offered the prosecutor membership of the Court of Cassation.

The Turkish Journalists’ Association’s (TGC) Board of Directors announced that in addition to Uludağ, journalists Tolga Şardan and Bilal Gündem were also targeted on social media.

In a statement, TGC said: “Our member Tolga Şardan and journalist Alican Uludağ, who have been researching the background to political murders to bring them to light and Bilal Güldem, who is known for his reporting on religious cults, have recently been openly targeted on social media and received death threats. Journalists have the duty to bring to light political murders and dark relationships underlying events and to inform the public.”

ETHA editor Nadiye Gürbüz released

People who were detained and imprisoned pending trial in İstanbul-based operations carried out early in the morning of 30 April 2023 against the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) and the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF) were released on 12 October 2023.

ESP Co-Chair Şahin Tümüklü and ETHA editor Nadiye Gürbüz were released along with Sinem Çelebi, Serfinaz Göçmez, Ömer Akgün, Kalender Polat, Hivda Selen, Emrah Topaloğlu, Berfin Polat and Adnan Özcan.

Erdem Gül’s retrial in “MİT Trucks” case begins

The retrial of Erdem Gül, former Ankara correspondent for the Cumhuriyet newspaper, on the charge of “aiding a terrorist organization" over the publication of images showing trucks allegedly operated by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) began at the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court on 12 October 2023.

Enis Berberoğlu's trial in the same cause had been halted upon his election as a Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP, until his legislative immunity is lifted. The file against Gül had been separated.

Gül and his lawyers were present at the hearing. Gül stated that he did not accept the appellate court’s decision to overturn the judgment and said, “This court should resist the decision.”

Gül’s lawyers, who requested their client’s acquittal, said they would present a detailed defense following the prosecutor’s delivery of their final opinion. The prosecutor requested that the case file be conveyed to the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for the final opinion to be filed.

The court accepted the request and adjourned the trial until 30 November 2023.

An investigation had been launched into the “MİT Trucks” report published in Cumhuriyet on 29 May 2015on allegations of “obtaining information pertaining to state security,” “political and military espionage,” “disclosing confidential information” and “terrorism propaganda.”

Can Dündar and Erdem Gül were jailed pending trial on 26 November 2015 as part of an investigation launched by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The indictment filed by Deputy Chief Prosecutor İrfan Fidan on 27 January 2016 sought one count of aggravated life sentence, one count of life sentence and one count of imprisonment of up to 30 years for each of the two journalists.

Dündar and Gül’s lawyers had filed individual applications with the Constitutional Court on 6 December 2015. The Constitutional Court ruled on 26 February 2016 that the imprisonment of the two journalists constituted a rights violation. Dündar and Gül were released upon this judgment. Closed hearings were held in the trial that begun on 25 March 2016, upon the request of the prosecutor.

In the final opinion delivered by the prosecution on 3 May 2016, 25 years of imprisonment for Dündar and 10 years of imprisonment for Gül were requested. At the final hearing of the case, the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court sentenced Dündar to 7 years and Gül to 6 years in prison for “disclosing documents pertaining to state security.” Reductions had been applied to the sentences, resulting in 5 years and 10 months of imprisonment for Dündar and 5 years of imprisonment for Gül.

The 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the trial court's judgments regarding Dündar and Gül. Following the decision, the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court began a retrial. Enis Berberoğlu was included in the case file, while Dündar’s case file was separated.

Journalists Dicle Müftüoğlu and Sedat Yılmaz to appear before court on “terrorism” charges

Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFGD) Co-Chair and Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) editor Dicle Müftüoğlu and MA editor Sedat Yılmaz, who have been jailed pending trial since 3 May 2023, the World Press Freedom Day, are to appear before a court in December. The indictment against Müftüoğlu was issued on 6 September 2023. Müftüoğlu is charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “establishing and administrating a terrorist organization” in the case, which will get underway on 7 December 2023 at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court. Yılmaz will appear before the same court on the same charges on 14 December 2023.

The indictment filed on 18 July 2023 upon the completion of the investigation conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office agianst 49 people, five of whom were jailed pending trial, including Müftüoğlu, had been initially presented to the Ankara 28th High Criminal Court. However, the court had rejected the indictment and returned it to the prosecutor’s office on 27 July 2023. In its justification for rejecting the indictment, the court had pointed out that despite the lack of legal and actual connections among the people detained and arrested as part of the investigation, the investigation and the indictment had treated them as a group and requested that individual indictments be prepared for each person.

On 6 September 2023, the prosecutor’s office filed a separate indictment against MA editor Yılmaz, who had been detained and imprisoned along with Müftüoğlu and charged him with “membership in a terrorist organization” and “establishing and administrating a terrorist organization.” The same court had also rejected this indictment and ruled for lack of jurisdiction on 21 September 2023. In its ruling, the court had decided that as the impugned crime took place in Diyarbakır, the indictment should be submitted to a High Criminal Court in Diyarbakır.

Journalist Kadir Cesur assaulted and detained while reporting in Van

In a statement on his social media account on 12 October 2023, journalist Ruşen Takva announced that journalist Kadir Cesur had been assaulted and detained while reporting in Van.

Takva wrote: “They are trying to make it a tradition to assault and detain people, or to make an attempt, in Van. Following the detention of a citizen with 70 percent disability with the use of disproportionate force just three days ago, today journalist Kadir Cesur, who was covering a press statement by the Green Left Party was assaulted and prevented from taking pictures.”

New RTÜK members elected

An election at the Plenary Session of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) was held on 10 October 2023 following debate on group motions for the election of one Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member each from the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Green Left Party (YSP) quotas.

Ebubekir Şahin, candidate for the AKP quota; İlhan Taşcı, candidate for the CHP quota; and Necdet İpekyüz, candidate for the YSP quota were elected members of RTÜK.

Şahin, who is also serving as the president of RTÜK, and Taşcı were reelected for secodn time. The election for the president of RTÜK is to be held on 18 October 2023.

Retrial of police officers who attempted to detain journalist Beyza Kural adjourned until February 2024

The retrial upon the appellate court’s overturning of the fine issued to three police officers for “violation of the freedom to work and employment” for attempting to detain former bianet reporter Beyza Kural by handcuffing her behind her back began at the İstanbul 35th Criminal Court of First Instance on 10 October 2023.

Kural and her lawyer as well as defendant police officer Y.Ş. and his lawyer were present at the hearing.

In her statement, Kural repeated her statement during the initial trial and said she upheld her complaint. The defendant’s lawyer claimed his client was being defamed and requested his acquittal.

The court decided that it would evaluate the request for the defendant police officers to give a statement against allegations of “wilful injury” and “preventing the enjoyment of the freedom of faith, thought and opinion” while arriving at the verdict. Upon Kural’s lawyer reminding the court that the defendants could not be made to give statements for these crimes, the court stated that an official complaint could be filed along with the verdict.

The court ruled for the defendant police officers to be made present at the next hearing and adjourned the trial until 15 February 2024.

Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı’s trial adjourned until January

The first hearing in a lawsuit filed against Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Committee President Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı by the Ministry of Defense over her statements concerning claims that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had used chemical weapons was held at the Ankara 2nd Civil Court on 12 October 2023.

Fincancı, who did not attend the hearing, was represented in the court by her lawyer.

The court rejected Fincancı’s lawyer's objection on procedural grounds and adjourned the lawsuit until 11 January 2024.

Trial with 100 defendants, including journalist Zilan Azad, adjourned until December

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Zilan Azad, who was assaulted and detained during news coverage, and 99 others on the charge of “violating the Law 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations” was held at Istanbul's Anadolu 17th Criminal Court of First Instance on 11 October 2023.

In her defense statement, Azad said: “The police knew I was a journalist. They detained me so they could harass me.”

In an interim ruling, the court decided to wait for the submission of requested documents and adjourned the case until 20 December 2023.

Actor İlyas Salman appears before court on “insulting the president” charge

The second hearing in the trial of actor İlyas Salman on the charge of “insulting the president” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 10 October 2023. Salman is on trial over remarks he made during an interview with BirGün daily, published on 1 August 2022, in which he said, “Erdoğan’ı o koltuğa layık görmüyorum” (I do not think Erdoğan deserves that position).

P24 monitored the hearing, where Salman and his lawyer Uğur Poyraz were in attendance. A lawyer representing President Erdoğan was also present. Delivering his defense statement, Salman rejected the accusation and said: “I have been doing comedy in this country for 50 years. I have never been as laughable as those who have brought us here to this courtroom.”

Reminding the court of the European Court of Human Rights' (ECtHR) judgment in the case Vedat Şorli v. Turkey and asserting that the legislation on the crime of “insulting the president” was in violation of international conventions, Salman's lawyer Uğur Poyraz requested that the case be dismissed as per the Vedat Şorli judgment.

In response to President Erdoğan's lawyer's request to join the case as a co-plaintiff, Salman said, “I think the complaint is invalid given the law and I do not accept their request to join the case as co-plaintiff.”

The judge stated that despite the European Court's Vedat Şorli judgment, the Constitutional Court had not found the legislation to be unconstitutional and rejected the request for Salman's immediate acquittal on grounds of unconstitutionality. The court accepted President Erdoğan’s lawyer’s request to join the case as co-plaintiff.

Lawyer Poyraz said that the court’s interim order was unlawful and said, “I reject this court which has issued an unconstitutional decision.” The court granted Salman’s lawyer time to submit their motion for recusal in writing and adjourned the case until 1 February 2024.

Case against journalist İsmail Saymaz gets underway

The first hearing in the trial of journalist İsmail Saymaz on charges of “marking those involved in the fight against terrorism as targets” and “insulting a public official” upon the complaint by judge Murat Bircan was held at the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court on 9 October 2023.

Saymaz and his lawyers were present at the hearing, which P24 monitored.

Saymaz delivered his defense statement following identification and said, “I am not the first person to report on the same matter concerning judge Murat Bircan. Bircan was involved in politics and was a local administrator before becoming a judge. Following the ruling in the Gezi Trial, many media outlets reported on the judge’s candidacy. My first reporting on this matter concern’s Bircan’s spouse Arzu Bircan. Upon information I obtained about Arzu Bircan, I wrote that she was a FETÖ suspect and had become an informant. So, the judge has filed a complaint not on his own behalf, but on his spouse’s behalf.”

Following Saymaz, his lawyer Aslı Kazan said, “My client’s reporting on Arzu Bircan is completely true and can be established by tangible information and documents.” Lawyer Kazan requested that the files concerning the investigation into Arzu Bircan be requested from the Bafra Chief Prosecutor’s Office. Serdar Laçin, another lawyer for Saymaz, said that the case had been filed after the four-month statute of limitations established in article 26 of the Law on the Press had expired and it should therefore be dismissed.

The court ruled that the documents filed with the Bafra Chief Prosecutor’s Office requested by lawyer Kazan would not contribute to the case and rejected the request. The court decided to convey the file to the prosecutor’s office for the final opinion to be filed and adjourned the trial until 5 December 2023.

The case against Saymaz had been filed upon the complaint filed by judge Murat Bircan concerning his article titled “Gezi Davası’ndaki AKP’li hâkimin eşi FETÖ itirafçısıymış” (“Spouse of AKP-member judge in the Gezi Trial was a FETÖ informant”) that was published on the website of Halk TV.

Ahmet Güneş’s trial adjourned

The first hearing in the trial of the Yeni Yaşam newspaper contributor Ahmet Güneş on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” over his social media posts was held at the İstanbul 25th High Criminal Court on 10 October 2023.

Güneş’s lawyer was present at the hearing, which P24 monitored. Güneş did not attend the hearing.

Güneş’s lawyer Azat Ateş said that Güneş would be present at the next hearing and that they had no further statements at this stage.

The trial was adjourned until 11 January 2024.

“Özgür Gündem solidarity case” re-trial adjourned

The eighth hearing in the trial of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey Representative Erol Önderoğlu, Turkish Medical Association (TTP) Central Council President Şebnem Korur Fincancı and journalist-writer Ahmet Nesin was held at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court. Önderoğlu, Korur Fincancı and Nesin had participated in the Editor-in-Chief On Call campaign held in solidarity with the Özgür Gündem newspaper before it was shut down by statutory decree in 2016

Önderoğlu and his lawyer were present at the hearing, which P24 monitored. Nesin and Korur Fincancı’s lawyers submitted excuses not to attend.

The court ruled to await the response to the letter rogatory sent abroad for a statement by Ahmet Nesin to be taken and adjourned the trial until 20 February 2024.

Hayko Bağdat’s trial adjourned

The 15th hearing in the trial of journalist Hayko Bağdat on the charge of “insulting the president” (TPC 299) was held at the İstanbul 51st Criminal Court of First Instance on 12 September 2023.

Bağdat’s lawyer Emine Özhasan requested additional time to inform the court of the address of her client, who lives in Germany. The prosecutor requested the court to await the execution of the order for Bağdat’s arrest.

The court allowed lawyer Özhasan additional time to provide her client’s address and ruled to await the execution of the order for Bağdat’s arrest. The trial was adjourned until 16 April 2024.

ETHA editor Pınar Gayıp appears before court on charge of “membership in a terrorist organization”

The first hearing in the trial of Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Pınar Gayıp on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” over receiving information via Telegram for reporting on demonstrations and events taken place in Eskişehir was held on 12 October 2023. The hearing was held at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court over the judicial videoconferencing system as per the instructions of the Eskişehir 2nd High Criminal Court.

Gayıp and her lawyer were present at the hearing.

The panel of judges lifted the judicial control measure which had required Gayıp to present herself to the police station every week and adjourned the trial until 16 November 2023.

Gayıp had been detained two years ago in an İzmir-based operation according to the false statements of informant Özüm Özak and had been released after giving a statement. In her false statements, Özak had claimed that Gayıp was reporting according to instructions received from an organization. Gayıp had been acquitted.

At least 43 journalists and media workers in prison

Following the release of ETHA editor Nadiye Gürbüz on 12 October 2023, there are at least 43 journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence.

Please click here to view a detailed list.

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