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 - 368

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 368

The “Disinformation” law comes into effect; Görkem Kınacı, Uğur Şahin and Uğur Koç acquitted; Mehmet Emin Kurnaz given prison term; investigation launched against Şebnem Korur Fincancı; RTÜK imposes 3-day broadcasting ban on Tele1


The “Disinformation” law comes into effect

The Law on Amendments to the Press Law and Some Other Laws, which the government refers to as “combating disinformation” and journalists’ organizations as “censorship law,” came into effect on 18 October 2022 upon being published in the Official Gazette following the approval of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Article 29 of the new law, which passed through parliament on 13 October 2022 with AKP and MHP MPs' votes, foresees sentencing of up to 3 years for the offense of “publicly disseminating information that is misleading to the public.” According to the law, news websites will now be considered periodic publications subject to the Press Law and will be required to keep the content they publish archived for at least two years. They will also be obligated to publish the responses or corrections sent by individuals who have been "damaged" by the articles they publish.

Social media platforms will face new sanctions if they fail to abide by orders of content removal as well as new obligations under the new law. They will be required to ensure that they appoint a representative who resides in Turkey and is a Turkish citizen.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has made an urgent appeal to the Constitutional Court, seeking, for the time being, the suspension of the execution of the provision that criminalizes "spreading misleading information." It said it would make a more comprehensive appeal regarding the entire law in due course. 

Please see our article on the details of criticisms of the new law.


Journalists Görkem Kınacı, Uğur Şahin, Uğur Koç acquitted


The third hearing in the trial of Evrensel newspaper managing editor Görkem Kınacı, BirGün newspaper editor Uğur Şahin and managing editor Uğur Koç on charges of “defamation” and “insulting a public official” was held at the Beykoz 6th Criminal Court of First Instance on 19 October 2022.

Lawyers for the parties attended the hearing, which P24 monitored. Kınacı, Şahin and Koç did not attend the hearing.

The court ruled to acquit defendants separately of “defamation” and “insulting” due to the lack of material and credible evidence proving that they had committed the impugned crimes.

Please click here for a detailed report.

Journalist Mehmet Emin Kurnaz given prison term

The fifth hearing in the trial of BirGün newspaper politics editor Mehmet Emin Kurnaz on charges of “insulting a public official” and “insulting the president” was held at the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on 20 October 2022.

Defendant Kurnaz and his lawyer Ali Deniz Ceylan attended the hearing, which P24 followed. Kurnaz is accused of insulting Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairperson Devlet Bahçeli and President Erdoğan in his article “Çetelerin İktidarı” (“The Rule of Gangs”,) which appeared in BirGün on 25 May 2021. Erdoğan’s lawyer also attended the hearing.

Repeating their opinion on the case, the prosecutor requested conviction for Kurnaz of the impugned crime. Kurnaz’s lawyer Ali Deniz Ceylan said “The article subject to trial falls within the freedom of expression. We demand our client’s acquittal.”

The court sentenced Kurnaz to 11 months and 20 days of imprisonment each for “insulting a public official due to his/her duty” and “insulting the president.” The sentence was deferred for both offenses.

Journalist Hasan Tolga Balcılar acquitted


The 11th hearing in the trial of imprisoned journalist Hasan Tolga Balcılar pending trial on charges of “marking a public official involved in the fight against terrorism as a target for terrorist organizations” over naming a counter-terrorism branch director was held at the Osmaniye 2nd High Criminal Court on 11 October 2022.


The court ruled to acquit and release Balcılar on grounds that the “person in question was not on secret duty and [Balcılar] had stated a commonly known fact.”


Evrensel ordered to pay TL 15,000 in damages due to its criticism of SADAT

The 17 October 2022 hearing in the trial over a lawsuit filed by SADAT against the Evrensel newspaper and its contributor Yusuf Karadaş for “harm to personality rights” over a column in the newspaper was held at the Büyükçekmece 3rd Civil Court of First Instance.

Devrim Avcı, the lawyer representing the newspaper stated at the hearing that the reporting fell within freedom of the press.

The court ordered the newspaper to pay TL 15,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

Yusuf Karadaş had criticized SADAT in his column titled “İktidarın karanlık örgütü SADAT” (SADAT: The Government’s Dark Organization,) which was published in Evrensel on 19 October 2021. Conveying claims about SADAT, Karadaş had also quoted the founder of SADAT, retired Brigadier General Adnan Tanrıverdi, in his column. SADAT had sued over the column for TL 25,000 in damages, claiming “harm to personality rights.”

Mehmet Kızmaz, Cumhuriyet newspaper ordered to pay damages

The second hearing in the damages case filed by the Turkish Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), a civil society organization with close links to the government, against journalist Mehmet Kızmaz and Cumhuriyet newspaper over the news item titled “Ensar, TÜRGEV, TÜGVA paralel terör örgütü gibi” (“Ensar, TÜRGEV, TÜGVA resemble a parallel terrorist organization”,) which appeared in Cumhuriyet on 23 October 2021, was held at the İstanbul 9th Civil Court of First Instance on 19 October 2022.

Kızmaz’s lawyer Damla Çaltepe and the co-plaintff TÜGVA’s lawyer attended the hearing, which P24 followed. Kızmaz did not attend the hearing.

Çaltepe requested that the case be dismissed, while TÜGVA’s lawyer requested its admission. Partially admitting the case, the court sentenced Kızmaz and Cumhuriyet to pay damages of TL 15,000.

Journalist Pınar Gayıp faces investigation over social media post about Bartın mine explosion

An investigation was launched against Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor Pınar Gayıp on 18 October 2022 upon a complaint by a private law office on charges of “inciting the people to hatred and enmity” over her social media post.


Pınar Gayıp gave her statement at İstanbul Security Directorate.


Regarding the mine explosion in Bartın on 14 October 2022, which killed 41 of the 110 miners on shift, Gayıp had posted: “Many workers trapped. This is why they passed the censorship law: to entrench their rule on the graves of workers! If no one knows, no one can demand accountability.”


Investigation launched against medical association president Şebnem Korur Fincancı


The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Turkish Medical Association (TTB) President Şebnem Korur Fincancı on 20 October 2022 on charges of “terrorism propaganda” and “denigrating the state of the Republic of Turkey, the institutions and organs of state” over her statements on some images that allegedly show the use of chemical weapons in an overseas campaign carried out by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

The Central Council of the TTB has expressed that Fincancı had been targeted after her statements. Fincancı has underlined that she did not say chemical weapons were used but that the claims should be investigated.

A YouTube channel broadcasting from outside Turkey and allegedly close to the PKK had asked Prof. Dr Şebnem Korur Fincancı, who is a forensic medicine specialist, about the images and in one part of the broadcast Fincancı had said “I have examined [these images] before. It is clear that a toxic gas that directly affects the nervous system was used. International conventions need to be applied when such claims arise under the Geneva Convention that bans the use of chemical weapons, and the principles of the Minnesota Protocol need to be applied to determine what sort of investigations should take place.”


A second investigation into journalist Bahattin Seçilir’s same news item


Halkın Günlüğü managing editor Bahattin Seçilir is facing an investigation for the second time over the same article published in Gazete Patika on the murder of Deniz Poyraz in the attack on the İzmir Province Office of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).


An investigation into Şeçilir in connection to the news item on charges of “insult” and “defamation” had previously been launched on 25 October 2022. Seçilir has stated that he was not informed of the allegations against him listed in the second investigation.



RTÜK penalizes Tele1 with 3-day ban on broadcasting

The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) penalized opposition broadcaster Tele 1 with a 3-day long ban on broadcasting, the Council's member from the CHP, İlhan Taşcı, said. 

Tele 1 will be permanently shut down by RTÜK if it receives another similar penalty before February 2023.The justification for the majority vote decision was Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) Spokesperson and MP for İstanbul Sera Kadıgil's televised remarks, in which she said the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) was a "tool for political Islam." 

"The goal is to blacken the screens and to prevent different voices and proposals for solution from the opposition from being heard," Taşcı said of the RTÜK ban on Tele 1.


BİK refuses Evrensel’s objection to the public announcements ban

The Press Advertising Agency (BİK) has turned down the Evrensel newspaper’s objection to the ban on publishing public announcements and ads. In its decision, the BİK stated that the objection “was not reasonable and acceptable to the degree that would require the lifting of the Directorate General’s decision.”


The newspaper’s lawyer Devrim Avcı called the decision “An obstacle to the right to report the news and the public’s right to receive information” and added, “Insisting on this decision is a violation of the freedom of the press.”


Basing its decision on bulk-buying, the BİK had penalized Evrensel with a ban on running public ads on 18 September 2019. The newspaper’s objections were turned down by the BİK throughout the duration of the ban on announcements.


The Musa Anter case taken to the Constitutional Court


The Musa Anter case into the murder of the journalist in Diyarbakır on 20 September 1992 that was closed at the final hearing on 21 September 2022 due to the statute of limitations running its course by the Ankara 6th High Criminal Court has been taken to the Constitutional Court.

Following the court’s ruling the Anter family and their lawyers had applied to the Ankara Regional Administrative Court and stated that they would object to the merits of the case following the announcement of the justified decision of the court.

The Anter case had been merged with the JİTEM Main Case and the case of Ayten Öztürk, who had been killed by Mahmut Yıldırım, codename “Yeşil," in 1993. The Anter family’s requests to separate the Anter case against the risk of the statute of limitations running its course had been turned down by the panel of judges at every hearing. Delivering its final ruling in the hearing that was held on 21 September, a day after the statute of limitations ran its course, the court ruled to separate the Anter case from the JİTEM main case and closed it due to the “statute of limitations.”

Journalist Berat Gonca, who uncovered who took the photo of Galip Öztürk, given prison term

The 14 October 2022 hearing in the trial of journalist Berat Gonca, who uncovered that the person who took the photo and appeared in a mirror in the photo of crime organization leader Galip Öztürk, was former Samsun Justice Commission President judge Kemal Alver, was held at the Samsun 5th Court of First Instance.

The court sentenced Berat Gonca, editor-in-chief of the Samsun Etik Haber website to pay TL 8,320 in damages.

Of all the journalists who had reported on his dismissal from duty, Alver had only sued Berat Gonca. Alver, who was suspended from active duty and faced an investigation had retired and returned to practicing law as registered with the Samsun Bar Association. It was also revealed that Alver is a member of the board of directors of Metro Holding, of which Galip Öztürk is the honorary president. Alver had posted a photo from Georgia, where Öztürk is imprisoned pending trial, with employees of Metro Holding on the day of a court hearing in the country.

Journalist Ender İmrek’s trial adjourned until January


The first hearing in the trial of journalist and writer Ender İmrek on charges of “insulting the president” over an article of his was held at the Bakırköy 44th Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 October 2022.

The hearing, which Ender İmrek and his lawyers attended, was followed by Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) President Gökhan Durmuş and many journalists.

The court, which turned down the request of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s lawyer to join as co-plaintiff, also turned down the petition by lawyer Yıldız İmrek for the case to be examined on grounds of unconstitutionality, as it did not consider the request “serious.” The judge decided on seeking the opinion of TGS to establish whether Ender İmrek is a member of the press and adjourned the trial until 10 January 2023.


The indictment lists İmrek’s article titled “Türkiye yanıyor, saray izliyor” (“Turkey burns while the palace watches on”) that was published in Evrensel on 20 July 2021 as evidence of the charge.

Journalist Can Ataklı’s trial adjourned until November

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Can Ataklı on charges of “publicly denigrating a section of the society” over his statements on the 21 May 2021 edition of the “Gün Başlıyor” program on Tele1 TV channel was held at the İstanbul 16th Criminal Court of First Instance on 20 October 2022.

Ataklı and his lawyer Bilgütay Hakkı Durna attended the hearing, which P24 followed.

Ataklı said “Although I spoke in the way stated in the indictment, I do not accept the charge in the indictment. I certainly did not target any section of the society for denigration” and requested his acquittal.


The court accepted the prosecution’s request of the submission of the case file for the preparation of its opinion and ruled to exempt Ataklı from attending hearings. The trial was adjourned until 10 November.


The indictment on Ataklı, who had commented on the incidents accompanying İYİ Party Chairperson Meral Akşener’s visit to Rize on 20 May, claims that Ataklı’s comments and reactions “had publicly insulted and defamed Rize and the people of Rize before society at large.” The AKP Rize Province Branch is among the 40 complainants listed in the indictment.

Metin Cihan’s case files merged

The second hearing in the trial of journalist Metin Cihan on charges of “insulting a public official” upon a complain by then Minister of Treasury and Finance Berat Albayrak over a social media post was held at the İstanbul 36th Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 October 2022.

Cihan’s lawyer was present at the hearing, which P24 followed. Plaintiff Berat Albayrak’s lawyer presented an excuse not to attend.

The judge stated that another case on charges of “insult” filed against Cihan pursuant to a complaint by Albayrak had been merged with the present file on 14 October 2022.

The indictment presented by the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office on 7 October 2022 listed as evidence the 28 April 2020 social media post by Cihan, which read: “This message in Mr. Albayrak’s inbox that is open to the public made me curious. After deciphering the secret parts, it reveals a scandal involving interference with the judiciary, nepotism, extortion, bribery and corruption. There are politicians, judges and bureaucrats involved. I’ll name them all. This is a criminal complaint.” Accepting the indictment, the İstanbul 36th Criminal Court of First Instance issued a new order for Cihan’s arrest due to the merger of cases. The trial was adjourned until 31 January 2023.

In a tweet from April 2020 subject to the charge, Cihan had posted “When Berat Albayrak’s inbox was leaked on Wikileaks in 2016 this place was abuzz. With what? Not with the nepotism, bribery, corruption etc. but with the purchase of a vibrating ring. What fools we were.”

Request for recusal in the “Özgür Gündem solidarity case” retrial

The fifth hearing in the trial of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Representative Erol Önderoğlu, Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Central Council President Şebnem Korur Fincancı and journalist and writer Ahmet Nesin who took part in the Editor-in-Chief on Watch campaign in solidarity with the Özgür Gündem newspaper before it was shut down in 2016 was held at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 19 October 2022.

Önderoğlu and defense lawyers attended the hearing, which P24 followed.

Önderoğlu’s lawyer Abbas Yalçın filed a request for the recusal of member judge Murat Bircan, stating: “We do not believe member judge Murat Bircan will undertake impartial adjudication; therefore, we repeat our request for recusal.” Fincancı’s lawyer Meriç Eyüboğlu also requested the recusal of member judge Murat Bircan.

The court, which ruled to submit the case file to the higher court for evaluation of requests for recusal as per article 27 of the Criminal Procedure Law and to await the letter rogatory documents for Ahmet Nesin, adjourned the trial until 1 February 2023.

During the final hearing in the Gezi case, it had been revealed that member judge Murat Bircan of the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court had been an candidate for MP’s seat with the AKP and the impartiality of the court had been called into question. Fincancı and Önderoğlu’s lawyers had explained the situation and requested recusal in early May, but their request had been denied on grounds that it was “aimed to prolong the trial.” The lawyers had filed an objection with the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court upon their request being denied. The İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court had refused the lawyers’ objection on 26 May 2022, with judge Akın Gürlek, who was recently appointed Deputy Minister of Justice by President Erdoğan presiding.

Metin Cihan’s TÜGVA case file to be re-examined by court expert

The fifth hearing of the trial of journalist Metin Cihan on the charge of “illegally obtaining or disseminating personal data” (TPC 136/1) over publishing the Youth Foundation of Turkey (TÜGVA) documents, which allegedly display the partisan distribution of state positions, was held at the İstanbul 22nd Penal Court of First Instance on 19 October 2022.

Cihan’s lawyer Özgür Urfa and TÜGVA’s lawyers were present at the hearing, which P24 followed. Ramazan Aydoğdu, the other defendant in the case, and his lawyer presented an excuse not to attend.

Lawyer Urfa stated that six different court experts assigned to the case had withdrawn over intangible grounds and without excuse and said “We request an official complaint be filed against court experts who have delayed the case”.

Refusing the request, the court ruled to await the execution of the order for the detention of Cihan and decided to submit the case file to a court expert once more.

The trial was adjourned until 14 December 2022.


At least 67 journalists and media workers in prison


With the release of Hasan Tolga Balcılar, there are now at least 67 journalists and media employees who are in prison either pending trial or serving sentence in Turkey as of 22 October 2022.

The full list can be accessed here.