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 - 37

Journalists in State of Emergency - 37

Three Özgür Gündem journalists released, Ahmet Şık detained on Dec. 29

On Dec. 29, writer Aslı Erdoğan, linguist Necmiye Alpay and editor-in-chief of the shuttered Özgür Gündem daily Zana Kaya were released in the first hearing of a trial where they stand accused of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization” along with six other suspects.

The three journalists were released from prison after the trial.

Journalist Ahmet Şık was detained on Dec. 29, reportedly based on his tweets.

On Dec. 27, Bodrum journalist Ayhan Karahan, who’d been under arrest since Nov. 7 on charges of insulting the president was also released from prison. Karahan was given a year and two months in prison for insulting the president by a Muğla court, but he was let go as the court suspended his sentence.

The number of journalists in prison has fallen to 144 after the four releases, according to P24’s list.

Özgür Gündem trial 

The Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, which heard the first session in the trial, ruled to keep Özgür Gündem’s responsible managing editor, İnan Kızılkaya, under arrest.

The court issued an international travel ban for Erdoğan, Alpay and Kaya and ruled to keep in place probation measures for Eren Keskin, a former editor-in-chief of the said newspaper.

The three journalists released on Dec. 29 had been imprisoned since August.

Özgür Gündem was shut down on Oct. 29 under a cabinet decree.

The other defendants in the trial are Kemal Sancılı, who holds the rights to Özgür Gündem; executive Bilge Aykut; journalist Ragıp Zarakolu, and former editor-in-chief Filiz Koçali.

Erdoğan, Alpay and Keskin were present in the first hearing. The other two defendants in prison, Kızılkaya and Kaya, were not brought from Silivri Prison, on the grounds that the correctional officers in charge did not process an order to bring them to court.

Observers in attendance included diplomats from the consulates of France, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany and the UK; Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Barış Yarkadaş and Selina Doğan, as well as several writers and publishers from France and Germany.

Aslı Erdoğan’s defense

In her defense statement, novelist Aslı Erdoğan denied all accusations. “I’m a person who is anti-war, who is anti-militaristic and who rejects all forms of killing including for self-defense; I’m someone who doesn’t even eat meat,” she said, adding that although she was formally listed on the newspaper’s list of advisory board members, she had never actively participated in any activities of the advisory board. She also noted that Özgür Gündem was a legally established newspaper, every issue of which was examined by press prosecutors.

Stating that not even one of her articles had ever been subject of any criminal investigation to date, Erdoğan said: “I was thrown into the artificially manufactured PKK/KCK sack, only because I stand against violence no matter who imposes it,” referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), often treated as a single entity by Turkish courts.

Statements by Alpay and Keskin

Linguist Necmiye Alpay also denied the charges, saying that her affiliation with the advisory board of Özgür Gündem had been confined to writing one article for the newspaper and standing in as the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for one day as part of a solidarity campaign for the daily.

Stating that she had been a victim of conviction without trial, Alpay said her pre-trial detention, which lasted for four months, was used as punishment against her.

Eren Keskin in her court statement explained her strong stance against “unsolved murders” -- a euphemism in Turkey for what are believed to be mainly state-sponsored killings -- adding that as a person who worked as a lawyer full time, she had no chance of being in charge as the daily’s editor-in-chief.

The trial was adjourned until Jan. 2.

Ahmet Şık taken into custody

Journalist Ahmet Şık was detained by police over a social media post, the journalist tweeted, shortly before his detention on Dec. 29.  

The journalist tweeted at around 7:50 am on Thursday that he was being taken into custody over a tweet he had posted earlier.

Barış Yarkadaş, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy, stated that he had been able to talk to Şık on the phone before he was detained, and said that Şık was being accused of “spreading propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization” in his tweet.

Şık was detained over tweets suggesting that the shooter who assassinated Andrei Karlov on Dec.20, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, was not a member of the Fethullah Gülen community as the government claims, but a hit-man with possible connections to the state.

In other tweets which are believed to have also been cause for his detention, Şık had raised questions about recent security operations in Turkey’s Kurdish towns, which allegedly resulted in many civilian deaths; possible state involvement in the 2015 murder of Tahir Elçi, the chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association; and alleged support of the Turkish government for armed jihadi groups in Syria.

Although Şık tweeted that he was being detained due to a single tweet, the pro-government and state-owned Anatolia reported that the detention was also related to various other news reports including an interview with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) administrator Cemil Bayık, published in Cumhuriyet daily on March 14, 2015; a column Şık wrote in the same newspaper titled “What We Do Is Journalism, What You Do Is Betrayal” on July 8, 2015; a news story suggesting that intelligence units had prior information about a 2013 bombing in the Turkish town of Reyhanlı; an interview with a statement expressing his opinion that those who were pro-PKK were also journalists.

Şık is accused of “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization,” and “openly denigrating the Republic of Turkey, its judicial organs and its military and police,” according to the same report.

Şık was previously arrested during an investigation into the Oda TV news website in March 2011. He spent a year in prison. Prior to his arrest, he was working on a book regarding the alleged infiltration into the state hierarchy of the members of the Fethullah Gülen movement, an Islamic network, which the Turkish government accuses of being behind the failed coup of 15 July.

Şık has authored several books on Ergenekon, a shadowy network of individuals and organizations allegedly nested within the state hierarchy.

Alevi network taken off air

Yol TV, a pro-Alevi television network, in a statement issued on Dec. 29 announced that its broadcasts on the satellite platform Türksat had been suspended by the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK).

On Dec. 24, RTÜK ruled to suspend a show on Yol TV on the grounds that it “incited hatred towards the state among Kurdish and Alevi communities.”

Yol TV in its statement said “The voice of the Alevi community cannot be silenced, Yol TV cannot be silenced.”

The network called on internet users to tweet using the hashtag #YolTVSusturulamaz to show support.

650 journalists might be under investigation

CHP İstanbul deputy Barış Yarkadaş on Dec. 29 said he had heard that currently 650 journalists were being investigated by prosecutors over their tweets. Speaking to journalists before the Özgür Gündem trial, Yarkadaş said “I heard that tweets by 650 journalists are being examined. Such nonsensical investigations must stop.”