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 - 169

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 169

16 more signatories of Academics for Peace petition given jail terms on “propaganda” charge; Ece Sevim Öztürk convicted of “aiding a terrorist group”; jailed journalist İshak Yasul given 22-month sentence on “propaganda” charge

İshak Yasul, the former managing editor of the shuttered daily Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, was given a jail term in a trial where he was accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” on account of articles posted on a website.

The 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 14 December sentencedYasul to a prison term of 1 year, 10 months and 15 days for the articles posted on The journalist says he is not the owner of the domain. 

Yasul, who has been jailed since April as part of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi trial, addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS during Friday’s hearing.

Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court initially imposed on Yasul a 1-year prison sentence. The court then increased the punishment to 1 year and 6 months on the grounds that the offense to be committed through the press. Increasing the sentence once more on the grounds that the offense to be committed multiple times, the court eventually gave Yasul 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison.

Cansu Pişkin to stand trial for coverage of jailed Boğaziçi students

Cansu Pişkin, a reporter for the daily Evrensel, will stand trialfor her news story about Boğaziçi University students who were jailed earlier this year for staging an anti-war demonstration on the school campus.

The journalist is accused in the indictment of “making those assigned in the fight against terrorism a target” because the name of the prosecutor appointed to investigate the Boğaziçi University students was revealed in her story. Pişkin faces up to 3 years of imprisonment if convicted at the end of the trial.

The trial will get underway on 6 March 2019 at the 36th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

16 academics convicted of “propaganda” for signing peace petition

Trials into academics who have been charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petiiton continued this week in Istanbul. Two of the trial courts convicted 16 academics of the “propaganda” charge this week. 

On 13 December, the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted academics Sami Cankat Tanrıverdi, Ceren Sözeri, Buket Türkmen, Melis Behlil and Mahmut Çınar of “propaganda” and gave each academic a 15-month prison term. The sentences were deferred. The same court gave academic Lütfiye Bozdağ an 18-month sentence on the grounds that she “did not show remorse” and the sentence was not deferred. 

On 12 December, the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul imposed on Zeynep Verda İrtiş, Zeynep Savaşçın and Nuray Mert prison sentences of 15 months. The same day, the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul gave Aslı Aydemir, Ayşe Rezan Tuncay and Şahika Yüksel 15-month sentences. All of the sentences were deferred.

Also on 12 December, the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul convicted Ayşe Erzan, Nesrin Sungur Çakmak and Özdemir Aktan of the same charge and gave each defendant a 15-month sentence but the sentences were not deferred on the grounds of “the defendants’ lack of remorse.”

On 11 December, the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul handed down Professor Gençay Gürsoy a prison sentence of 2 years and 3 months at the end of the third hearing of the case, where Gürsoy was actually supposed to give his final defense statement in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion. However, Gürsoy was not in attendance due to health issues. The court still went on to issue its verdict and convicted Gürsoy in absentia. The court did not reduce Gürsoy’s sentence based on “his bad conduct during proceedings and lack of remorse.”

Hanifi Barış trial adjourned until February

The trial into Hanifi Barış, a lawyer and an academic who was among the signatories of 2016’s Academics for Peace petition, resumed on 13 December in Istanbul. Barış is accused of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group in his social media posts.” At the end of the hearing, the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul set 12 February 2019 as the date for the third hearing in the case.

Taraf “MGK report” trial adjourned until March

The trial of former Tarafreporter Mehmet Baransu and responsible managing editor Murat Şevki Çoban, who are accused of “obtaining classified documents” and “exposing secret information pertaining to the security of state,” resumed on 12 December at the Istanbul Anadolu 10th High Criminal Court.

The case is related to a news report published in Tarafon 28 November 2013 and titled “Gülen’i bitirme kararı 2004’te MGK’da alındı” (Decision to finish off Gülen taken by MGK in 2004). The story said the Fethullah Gülen network was listed as a threat in a National Security Council (MGK) meeting that year. Both journalists face up to 52 years in prison for a variety of charges as part of the case, including divulging state secrets and exposing documents of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT). 

P24 monitored the latest hearing where both defendants were represented by their lawyers. Çoban was not in attendance because he had given his defense statement earlier and Baransu could not attend due to health issues.

The court accepted Baransu’s excuse for non-attendance and adjourned the trial until 6 March 2019.

Journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk given 3-year prison sentence

An Istanbul court on 11 December convicted journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk of “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” at the end of the second hearing of her trial.

The 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul sentenced Öztürk to 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison. The court also ruled for Öztürk’s release pending the appeal process. 

Our report about the hearing can be accessed here

Compensation case against Çiğdem Toker postponed

A compensation case against journalist Çiğdem Toker that was scheduled to take place on 11 December at the 13th Civil Court of First Instance of Ankara was postponed because the judge was on leave.

The lawsuit was filed by a mining company called Şenbay Madencilik, which is seeking TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages for an October 2017 column by Toker. 

“Propaganda” trial against Jin News director gets underway 

Safiye Alağaş, the news director of the feminist news collective Jin News, on 11 December appeared before a court in Diyarbakır for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization,” facing up to 5 years in prison.

The case was opened after Turkey’s Internet watchdog, Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), filed a criminal complaint with the Diyarbakır Public Prosecutor’s Office alleging “propaganda” in dispatches by Jin News. Several of the collective’s dispatches about Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin and several op/ed pieces featured on its website were cited among grounds for the accusations in the indictment.

Addressing the 4th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır for her defense statement during the hearing, Alağaş said the agency’s news coverage was journalism, not propaganda. Alağaş requested to be acquitted.

The prosecution then submitted their opinion and requested that Alağaş be convicted on the “propaganda” charge.

Alağaş’s lawyer Pirozhan Karali then addressed the court in response to the prosecution’s allegations and requested for Alağaş to be acquitted.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court decided to examine the indictments and reasoned judgments concerning court cases where Alağaş previously stood trial on similar charges and was acquitted. The trial was adjourned until February.

Adnan Bilen given 22-month jail term on “propaganda” charge

A court in the eastern city of Van on 11 December convicted journalist Adnan Bilen of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and gave him a prison sentence of 1 year and 10 months. The 2nd High Criminal Court of Van deferred Bilen’s sentence by five years.

Bilen was standing trial based on a complaint filed by the Van Metropolitan Municipality, where he was dismissed from his post as the director of press and publications after the government appointed a trustee to run the city. He was accused because of his social media posts.

Sözcü journalists to stand trial on “aiding terrorist group” charge

Five journalists from the daily Sözcü,including columnists Emin Çölaşan and Necati Doğru, will be standing trial on the charge of “aiding the terrorist organization ‘FETÖ’ without being part of its hierarchical structure” in a new case where they face up to 15 years of imprisonment if convicted.

The case is the result of an investigation launched into the newspaper by the press offenses branch of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. Columnists Çölaşan and Doğru, Editor-in-Chief Metin Yılmaz, website news coordinator Yücel Arı and website editor Mustafa Çetin are accused in a 61-page indictment drafted by the prosecutor’s office and submitted to the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, which also oversees another ongoing trial into three other Sözcü employees and the newspaper’s former publisher.

The first hearing in the new case will take place on 18 January 2019.

Journalist Kenan Kırkaya faces arrest warrant 

Police raided numerous homes in Ankara on 10 December as part of an investigation where arrest warrants were issued for 12 people. Journalist Kenan Kırkaya was among those facing arrest warrants. Sources said police also searched Kırkaya’s house. The grounds for the arrest warrants were not disclosed. 

List of journalists and media workers in prison

As of 14 December 2018 at least 169 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either in pre-trial detention, or serving a sentence.

The full list can be accessed here.