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 - 423

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 423

Barış Pehlivan released; Merdan Yanardağ acquitted; Gökhan Yavuzel handed jail term for “terrorism propaganda;” journalist in Bursa survives armed attack; MHP deputy chairperson threatens Alican Uludağ; access to DW Türkçe blocked again


Journalist Barış Pehlivan released from prison

Journalist Barış Pehlivan was released from prison on 17 November 2023 after the court that oversaw his trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” dismissed the case.

The third hearing of Pehlivan's trial was held at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 November 2023. P24 monitored the hearing, attended by Pehlivan and his lawyer.

The case had been launched upon a complaint by a Supreme Court of Appeals judge over an article Pehlivan wrote in 2022 for his regular column in Cumhuriyet newspaper. The court dismissed the case because the complainant judge withdrew his complaint on 14 November.

Upon being filed earlier this year, the “insult” case was cited as the grounds for a “violation” of the terms of Pehlivan’s probation as part of a previous sentence and the journalist was subsequently sent to an open prison in August to serve the remainder of a 3-year-and-9-month sentence he had been given in 2020 over Odatv news portal’s coverage of the funeral of a National Intelligence Organization (MİT) operative killed in Libya.

Following the dismissal of the "insult" case, Pehlivan's lawyers submitted a petition demanding the journalist's release on probation. The court which examined the petition ruled for Pehlivan's release from the Maltepe Open Prison on probation.

For further information see our report.

Merdan Yanardağ acquitted of “insulting the president”

The third hearing in the trial of Tele1 TV Editor-in-Chief Merdan Yanardağ on the charge of “insulting the president” was held at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 14 November 2023. The charge against Yanardağ stemmed from his article series headlined “Fascism and Islamist Fascism,” published in BirGün newspaper in 2022.

P24 monitored the hearing, attended by Yanardağ and the lawyers representing the parties.

The prosecutor repeated their final opinion, originally submitted at the hearing on 18 July 2023, and requested sentencing for Yanardağ for systematically “insulting the president.”

Rendering its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Yanardağ on the grounds that the elements of the impugned crime did not exist.

A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be found here.

Journalist Oktay Candemir acquitted of “spreading false information”

The trial of journalist Oktay Candemir on the charge of “spreading false information” resumed at the Van 6th Criminal Court of First Instance on 15 November 2023. The accusation stemmed from Candemir's coverage of an incident of sexual assault against a young woman by alleged perpetrators that included public officials in the Muradiye district of Van province. 

Candemir did not attend the hearing.

Rendering its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Candemir on the grounds that “a court case was already underway concerning the incident voiced by the defendant" and "the legal elements of the impugned crime were not present.”

Access to DW Türkçe blocked again

Access to Deutsche Welle (DW) Türkçe news site was blocked by a decision of the Ankara 9th Criminal Judgeship of Peace upon a request filed by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) on 17 November 2023.

Access to the news site had been blocked earlier upon RTÜK’s request and the site was continuing to operate on “” and “,” which are no longer accessible after the latest decision.

In a statement issued last week, RTÜK decided that Deutsche Welle should apply for a broadcasting license for its new websites. RTÜK had noted that Deutsche Welle was given 72 hours for application.

RTÜK fines four TV channels

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) fined four TV channels this week, RTÜK member İlhan Taşçı announced on his social media account.

RTÜK imposed three administrative fines amounting to 3 percent of the channel’s ad revenues on Tele 1 TV for remarks by Merdan Yanardağ and Emre Kongar on the show “18 Dakika.” The council also imposed an administrative fine amounting to 3 percent of the channel’s ad revenues on Flash Haber for “criticizing the retirement grant and salary;” and another 3 percent for journalist Fatih Ertürk’s remarks about “retirement grant” on the show “Başkentte Gündem.”

RTÜK imposed two administrative fines amounting to 3 percent of the channel’s ad revenues on KRT TV for Zafer Arapkirli’s comments regarding “road and bridge toll rises” and “Fidan-Blinken hand shaking” on his show “Medya Terapi.”

RTÜK imposed two administrative fines amounting to 3 percent of the channel’s ad revenues on Halk TV; one for journalist Timur Soykan’s remarks about the Sinan Ateş murder, and the other for journalist Bahadır Özgür’s comments regarding ISIS.

Appellate court overturns poet and journalist Yılmaz Odabaşı's sentence for “insulting the president”

An appeallte court has overturned the imprisonment sentence issued for poet and journalist Yılmaz Odabaşı by the Yalova 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on the charge of “insulting the president” over his social media posts. An appeal may still be filed with the Supreme Court of Appeals. Odbaşı had been sentenced to 11 months and 20 days of imprisonment at the final hearing of the case, held on 3 November 2021.

Journalist Şehriban Alkış handed judicial fine

The ninth hearing in the trial of journalist Şehriban Alkış and six other defendants on charges of “violating the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations,” “prevention of public duty,” “preventing the activities of a public institution” and “damaging public property” was held at the Istanbul 23rd Criminal Court of First Instance on 14 November 2023.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Alkış and four of the other defendants, as well as their lawyers were present.

The prosecutor repeated their final opinion on the case that was submitted at the hearing on 11 July 2023 and requested sentencing for Alkış and six other defendants for “prevention of public duty” and “preventing the activities of a public institution.” The prosecutor requested that all defendants be acquitted of “damaging public property” for lack of evidence and of “violating the Law No. 2911” as the elements of the impugned crime did not exist.

Rendering its judgment at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced all seven defendants to 8 months and 10 days of imprisonment each for “prevention of public duty.” The court commuted the sentences of Alkış and four other defendants to a judicial fine of TL 5,000 because they did not accept the deferment of their sentences. The court acquitted all defendants of “violating the Law No. 2911,” “preventing the activities of a public institution” and “damaging property” because the elements of the alleged offenses were not present.

A report on the hearing, monitored by P24, can be found here.

MHP Deputy Chairperson Yönter threatens journalist Alican Uludağ

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairperson İzzet Ulvi Yönter threatened journalist Alican Uludağ after the latter shared a photo of Yönter acting as witness at the marriage ceremony of the daughter of a Supreme Court of Appeals judge.

Referring to Uludağ’s post, Yönter wrote “Enemy of the Turkish nation Alican… We are onto you… You are no journalist, but a militant hitman… Yes, I was a witness, and I am proud of it. Damn you a thousand times for not even refraining from using a wedding for your addled and dirty purposes.”

Uludağ had shared an image Yöntem had posted on his Instagram account on 1 July 2022 and wrote, “It is revealed that MHP Deputy Chairperson İzzet Ulvi Yönter, who said ‘We will either shut down the Constitutional Court or restructure it’ acted as the witness at the wedding of the daughter of Supreme Court of Appeals 3rd Criminal Chamber judge H.Y., who refused to implement the Constitutional Court’s Can Atalay judgment.”

Journalist Yaman Kaya survives armed assault

Journalist Yaman Kaya, the editor-in-chief of Başka Gazete, based in Bursa province, was targeted by two armed attackers who fired a shot at his windshield as he was driving his car shortly after leaving his workplace during evening hours on 13 November 2023. Kaya announced on his social media account later that night that he survived the attack with no injuries.

The two attackers, who were detained two days later based on security camera footage and eyewitness accounts, were placed under house arrest by the court.

Writer Gökhan Yavuzel sentenced for “terrorism propaganda”

The third hearing in the trial of writer and PEN International member Gökhan Yavuzel on the charge of “terrorism propaganda” was held at the Şanlıurfa 5th High Criminal Court this week.

While Yavuzel did not attend the hearing, his lawyer was present.

The prosecutor presented their final opinion on the case and requested sentencing for Yavuzel.

The court sentenced Yavuzel to 1 year and 3 months of imprisonment on the charge of "terrorism propaganda" and deferred the sentence.

Local journalist Erdoğan Adıyaman attacked by businessman

Güven Haber Maraş local news portal owner and editor Erdoğan Adıyaman was verbally and physically attacked by local businessman Atilla Kanbur, the founder and owner of ice cream chain MADO, as the journalist was filming on a street in Kahramanmaraş on 13 November 2023. Kanbur intended to hit the journalist. A gendarmerie officer intervened and removed Kanbur from the scene. The assault reportedly took place after Adıyaman reported about MADO’s unlicensed reinforcement of a building heavily damaged during the 6 February earthquakes.

Güven Haber shared this post on its social media account following the incident: “If anything were to happen to us from now on, Mado will be responsible. Mado’s owner Atilla Kambur has threatened Güven Haber publisher Erdoğan Adıyaman for sharing information about businesses that were reinforced without permission in downtown.”

Jailed TRT reporter Elif Akkuş released

Elif Akkuş, a correspondent for the public broadcaster TRT Haber, who was jailed pending trial on 20 October 2023, was released from the Sincan Women’s Closed Prison in Ankara by a decision of the Ankara Criminal Court of First Instance on Duty on 15 November 2023.

Akkuş had been placed in pre-trial detention on account of posts concerning allegations of nepotism and misuse of public funds at the TRT, shared by an anonymous Twitter account.

Prosecutor drops charges against journalist Mehmet Güleş

The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor's Office has dropped the investigation against Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reporter Mehmet Güleş. The journalist was taken into custody along with his source while covering search and rescue work at collapsed buildings in Diyarbakır on 8 February 2023, two days after the deadly earthqıakes in Kahramanmaraş. Güleş was interviewing a search and rescue volunteer when he was detained on the allegation of “spreading false information.” The police arrested Güleş and confiscated his equipment while his source said, “There is no AFAD, no UMKE here, people are struggling with their own resources.”

The Public Prosecutor conducting the investigation has concluded that “no information was spread” and decided not to prosecute.

Journalist Sinan Aygül faces new investigation upon complaint by mayor's security guards who attacked 

Journalist Siinan Aygül, the president of the Bitlis Journalists Association and chief editor of the news portal Bitlis News, is facing a new investigation on the allegations of “insult,” “actual bodily harm,” “attempted armed bodily harm,” “armed actual bodily harm” and “threat,” launched on 3 October 2023 upon a new complaint filed by the two security officers who had assaulted the journalist in June. The assailants who seriously injured Aygül during the attack are bodyguards of Tatvan Mayor Mehmet Emin Geylani and one of them is a police officer.

Aygül recently gave his statement at the Tatvan District Directorate of Security in connection with the investigation.

A previous investigation launched against Aygül upon a complaint by the attackers in August was dismissed by the Tatvan Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

“Sovereign Operation Plan” case adjourned until April 2024

The third hearing in the retrial of the now-defunct Taraf newspaper's former executives Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur and reporter Mehmet Baransu in the “Sovereign Operation Plan” case was held at the Anadolu 2nd High Criminal Court on 13 November 2023.

Defense lawyer Çiğdem Koç attended the hearing. The trial was adjourned until 29 April 2024.

Case file sent to prosecutor’s office for final opinion in "Vice News trial"

The 17th hearing in the trial of Vice News reporter Jake Hanrahan on charges of “financing a terrorist organization,” “membership in a terrorist organization” and “terrorism propaganda” and camera operator Philip Pendlebury on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court on 14 November 2023.

While the defendants did not attend the hearing, Pendlebury and Hanrahan’s lawyer was present.

The court ruled to send the case file to the prosecutor’s office for the final opinion to be prepared and adjourned the trial until 21 February 2024.

Recusal requested in journalist Sedef Kabaş’s trial for “insulting the president”

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Sedef Kabaş on the charge of “insulting the president” over her social media posts was held at Istanbul's Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 November 2023.

Kabaş’s lawyer as well as two lawyers representing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attended the hearing.

Erdoğan’s lawyer claimed that Kabaş’s posts did not constitute journalistic activity and therefore his client’s presumption of innocence had been violated. The president’s lawyers therefore requested sentencing for Kabaş at the maximum limit prescribed by the law.

Kabaş’s lawyer Selen Sınmaz said that the judge was no longer impartial and requested the judge’s recusal. Sınmaz requested the case file to be conveyed to a high criminal court for her recusal motion to be considered.

The judge decided to send the case file to the Anadolu High Criminal Court for their ruling regarding the recusal motion and adjourned the case until 28 February 2024.

Özgür Gündem retrial adjourned until February 2024

The second hearing in the retrial of the former executives and contributors of the now-defunct Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was shut down through a statutory decree in 2016, was held at the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on 15 November 2023. Özgür Gündem's former editors and contributors Hüseyin Aykol, Ayşe Batumlu Kaya, Eren Keskin and Reyhan Çapan are charged with “terrorism propaganda” and “incitement to commit a crime” over articles published in the newspaper.

Kaya and Aykol attended the hearing via the judicial videoconferencing network SEGBİS. Their lawyer Özcan Kılıç was present in the courtroom.

Delivering her defense statement, Kaya said that she had previously given her defense and requested being exempted from attending hearings.

Granting Kaya exemption and ruling to wait for the appellate court's judgment concerning the file on Kaya, the court adjourned the case until 20 February 2024.

Journalist Yetkin Yıldız’s trial adjourned until December

The 26th hearing in the trial of journalist Yetkin Yıldız on charges of “insult” and “defamation” was held at Istanbul's Bakırköy 31st Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 November 2023. The case against Yıldız was filed upon a complaint by former Minister of Interior Efkan Ala over a report titled “Fuat Avni Suruç patlaması ile ilgili Twitter’dan çarpıcı mesajlar paylaştı” (Fuat Avni shares striking messages about the Suruç explosion on Twitter), published on the news portal Aktif Haber on 23 July 2015. 

Yıldız was present at the hearing.

The trial was adjourned until 7 December 2023.

Based on a previous decision by the Bakırköy court, the sentence Yıldız had been given in 2018 in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” is a prejudicial question in this case. The sentence Yıldız had been given in that trial has been reversed by the Supreme Court of Appeals and his retrial is ongoing.

Journalist Neşe İdil appears before court

Journalist Neşe İdil appeared before the Istanbul 22nd High Criminal Court on 16 November 2023 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “terrorism propaganda.” The accusation stems from 10 social media posts shared by the journalist, some of which also contained links to news reports.

P24 monitored the hearing, where İdil and her lawyer Muhammed Ünsal were in attendance.

Delivering her defense statement following identification, İdil said, “All of the posts have news content. My posts are within the scope of freedom of expression and they do not constitute the crime of propaganda,” and requested her acquittal.

İdil’s lawyer Ünsal said: “My client is a journalist. All her posts have news content and were shared under the freedom of the press and expression.” Ünsal stated that elements of the impugned crime did not exist and requested İdil’s acquittal.

The prosecutor, who delivered their final opinion on the case, said that of the 10 tweets posted, it was established that the crime of “propaganda” had been committed only in the post that contained a news article on Kobane. The prosecutor requested İdil to be sentenced for “terrorism propaganda.”

İdil and her lawyer requested additional time to prepare their statement in response to the prosecutor's final opinion. Granting İdil and her lawyer additional time, the court adjourned the trial until 20 February 2024.

Trial of journalists Barış Pehlivan and Ozan Alper Yurtoğlu adjourned

The fourth hearing in the trial of Cumhuriyet newspaper columnist Barış Pehlivan and Managing Editor Ozan Alper Yurtoğlu on charges of “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official” was held at the Istanbul 15th Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 November 2023.

P24 monitored the hearing. The journalists did not attend the hearing. They were represented in the court by their lawyers.

The journalists’ lawyer Enes Hikmet Ermaner requested that a notification be sent to all persons listed in the case file as injured parties.

The court decided to issue a notification to all injured parties listed in the case file and adjourned the trial until 27 February 2024.

Ten people, including President Erdoğan and former Ministers Süleyman Soylu, Egemen Bağış and Binali Yıldırım, are listed as injured parties in the case file, launched on account of Pehlivan’s article titled “Sabıka Holding” ('Criminal Record' Holding), published in Cumhuriyet on 13 October 2021.

Journalist Furkan Karabay appears before court

The first hearing in the trial of journalist Furkan Karabay on charges of “insult” and “defamation” was held at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 16 November 2023. The case was launched upon a complaint by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s former lawyer Mustafa Doğan İnal.

P24 monitored the hearing, attended by Karabay and lawyers for the parties.

Delivering his defense statement following identification, Karabay rejected the accusations. Karabay said that the report subject to the charges was based on a Parliamentary question by Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Ali Haydar Hakverdi and added, “I did not intend to insult or defame. I request my acquittal.”

Karabay’s lawyer Enes Hikmet Ermaner said, “The news article subject to the trial falls under the freedom of the press and expression. Elements of the crime are not present” and requested his client’s acquittal.

İnal’s lawyer said they upheld their complaint and requested to join the trial as co-plaintiff.

The court accepted the request and adjourned the case until 29 February 2024.

Karabay is on trial for a news article titled “Muhammed Yakut, Erdoğan'ın avukatını neden tehdit etti? FETÖ Borsası iddialarının olduğu silahlı saldırıda iddianame çıktı" (Why did Muhammed Yakut threaten Erdoğan’s lawyer? Indictment filed for armed attack allegedly connected with the FETÖ stock exchange), published on the Gerçek Gündem news website on 19 April 2023.

At least 41 journalists and media workers in prison

Following the release of Barış Pehlivan and Elif Akukuş, there are now at least 41 journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention or serving a sentence as of 19 November 2023.

The full list can be viewed here.