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.

Journalists in State of Emergency - 146

Journalists in State of Emergency - 146

Ece Sevim Öztürk jailed; Sedat Sur faces investigation for social media posts; Şirin Kabakçı appears in first hearing after 14 months in pretrial detention 

Ece Sevim Öztürk, the editor-in-chief of the news website Çağdaş Ses (Contemporary Voice), was jailed pending trial late on June 20, following 12 days in police custody. Öztürk was arrested on June 8 as part of an investigation launched by the Organized Crime department of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on the ground that she had “shared pro-FETÖ posts on a social media website.”

A detailed report can be accessed here.

Paris-based freelance journalist faces arrest warrant in Turkey

The seventh hearing of a trial against Paris-based freelance journalist Halil İbrahim Erbil was held on June 21 at the Gaziantep 2nd High Criminal Court. An arrest warrant is in place against the journalist as part of the case, in which he is indicted for “threatening the Mayor of Gaziantep Fatma Şahin” through his social media posts and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group.” The Gaziantep 2nd High Criminal Court ruled to await the result of the arrest warrant against Erbil, and adjourned the trial until January 10, 2019.

Journalist Sertaç Kayar appears in first hearing 

Freelance journalist Sertaç Kayar on June 22 appeared before a court in Diyarbakır for the first hearing of a case against him, in which the accusations are based on his news stories and his social media posts. Addressing the 10th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır during the hearing, Kayar said he was not an activist but a journalist. The court adjourned the trial.

Ahmet Altan, Pelin Ünker, Perihan Mağden trials adjourned 

One of the numerous trials against imprisoned novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan on the charge of “insulting the president,” set for June 21 at the Istanbul 30th Criminal Court of First Instance, was postponed because the judge was on leave. The case is based on an article by Altan titled “The New Ergenekon”, which was posted on the P24 website on May 8, 2016. The case was postponed until December 21, 2018.

Pelin Ünker, the finance desk editor for Cumhuriyet daily, was also set to appear before a court on June 21 for the first hearing of a trial against her on account of a news story about “Paradise Papers.” The case was filed by Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, his brother Serhat Albayrak, and businessman Ahmet Çalık on grounds of Ünker’s November 2017 story. The case, which was initially rejected but was reopened after the Albayraks and Çalık objected, was postponed to a later date because the judge of the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Istanbul was on leave on June 21.

Columnist and author Perihan Mağden was also set to appear before the same court on the same day as Ünker for the latest hearing in the case in which she stands accused of “insulting the president.” The hearing will instead take place on November 22, 2018.

Sedat Sur faces criminal investigation for social media posts

Özgürüz reporter Sedat Sur is facing a criminal investigation because of his social media posts concerning an election-related clash on June 14 in the southeastern district of Suruç in which four people were killed.

Announcing the investigation on his Twitter account, Sur said he reported to the local police department on June 20 to give his statement in response to the allegations. He said his social media posts were journalistic activity and based on information from local sources in Suruç.

Çiğdem Toker appears before court in compensation case

Cumhuriyet columnist Çiğdem Toker appeared before an Ankara court on June 19 for the first hearing of a lawsuit filed by Agrobay, an agricultural company, seeking TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages for a newspaper column by Toker.

The column, published in November 2017, was about Turkish agricultural companies approved to export tomatoes to Russia following the lifting of restrictions Russia imposed on Turkey after it downed a Russian fighter jet in November 2015. Agrobay executives claim Toker’s article “destroyed the company’s public image” and “damaged its commercial standing.”

Toker was in attendance at the June 19 hearing, monitored by P24.

Toker told the 1st Civil Court of First Instance of Ankara that her column was within the limits of freedom of expression and requested for the case to be rejected.

The plaintiffs requested additional time to present the court with evidence.

The court adjourned the trial until December 6, 2018.

Şirin Kabakçı appears before court after 14 months in pretrial detention 

Şirin Kabakçı, the former Konya bureau chief of the now closed-down Zaman daily, appeared before an Istanbul court on June 19 for the first hearing of his trial.

Kabakçı has been in pretrial detention at the Konya Prison for the past 14 months on the charge of “membership in the FETÖ.” FETÖ stands for “Fetullahist Terrorist Organization,” the name given to the Fethullah Gülen network by the government.

Kabakçı addressed the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS during the hearing, monitored by P24.

Kabakçı told the court that he has been a journalist since 1990, and rejected the accusations against him. The allegation against Kabakçı is based on his social security records proving his employment at Zaman, his phone records with persons purported to be FETÖ members, his overseas travels, and his participation in demonstrations in protest of the arrests of Zaman’s former editor in chief Ekrem Dumanlı and former Samanyolu TV executive Hidayet Karaca.

Kabakçı also denied the allegation in the indictment that he was a ByLock user and requested for his acquittal and his release.

Kabakçı’s lawyer told the court that part of his client’s documents on which his defense statement was written was confiscated by prison officials ahead of the hearing.

The lawyer said there were no ByLock records about Kabakçı, and the case file against him did not include any substantial evidence as to his being a member of a terrorist group, requesting for Kabakçı to be released.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for the continuation of Kabakçı’s pretrial detention and adjourned the trial until August 16, 2018. 

Hakan Gülseven jailed for a day for 2013 article 

Journalist Hakan Gülseven was sent to prison on June 19 for an article he wrote in 2013. 

Gülseven was jailed because Yurt newspaper, where his article was published, failed to pay a TL 7,000 legal fine the journalist was sentenced for “insulting a public officer due to the performance of his public duty” in his November 11, 2013, article. The article was about former Adana Governor Hüseyin Avni Coş publicly insulting a protestor.

An arrest warrant had been issued against Gülseven because the newspaper failed to pay the fine. He was arrested at the Ayvalık courthouse, where he reported to give his statement in another case, and sent to the Burhaniye Prison. Gülseven was released a day later, on June 20, after his friends paid the fine.

Other free expression cases of the past week

  • An Istanbul court ruled on June 21 to keep Taner Kılıç, the honorary chair of Amnesty Turkey, in pretrial detention despite police reports indicating that he did not use an encrypted smartphone messaging application that authorities consider to be the evidence of “FETÖ membership.” Kılıç stands trial along with 10 other human rights defenders who were arrested during a meeting in Istanbul’s Büyükada last July. You can read more about the hearing, monitored by P24, here.

  • Sebla Küçük, a translator-interpreter, will be standing trial on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group” for posting on Twitter her Turkish translations of tweets in other langauges about Turkey’s military operation on Syria’s Afrin. The allegations in the indictment against Küçük are based on three Twitter posts by foreign news agencies and journalists which she translated. The first hearing of the case, to be overseen by the 35th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, is set for November  22, 2018.

  • Rap singer Ezhel was acquitted of the charges against him in the first hearing of his trial on June 19. The singer was jailed pending trial in late May on grounds that his lyrics “encourage drug use.” To read more about the hearing, monitored by P24, click here.

  • Turkey’s Interior Ministry announced in a statement posted this week on its official website that during the week of June 11-18, it has launched legal action against 251 individuals on account of their social media posts. Two of these individuals were separately jailed pending trial on June 12 and June 14 on charges of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group.” Another individual in the Kayseri province has been taken into custody on the same charge, the ministry said.

List of journalists in prison 

As journalist Ece Sevim Öztürk was jailed pending trial on June 20, the number of journalists and media workers in prison in Turkey became at least 182.

The full list can be accessed here.