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 – 74

Journalists in State of Emergency – 74

Arrest warrants issued for 34 ex-TRT employees. Number of imprisoned journalists rises to 166 as Mehmet Çakmakçı sent to jail


On July 12, a court in the southern province of Diyarbakır ordered reporter Mehmet Çakmakçı, who uses the pen name Şiyar Dicle, be jailed pending trial on terrorism charges.

Çakmakçı was imprisoned along with five other people, including Kurdish PEN member writer Hasip Yanlıç, who, like Çakmakçı, was arrested in a police raid on July 4. News reports said Çakmakçı and Yanlıç have been charged with “membership in a terrorist organization” and that an order of confidentiality is imposed on the investigation.

Çakmakçı has been contributing to, an internet-based television station, with reports from Diyarbakır and its region. Earlier, he worked for various organizations including Azadi TV, Hayatın Sesi TV and DİHA, all of which have been shut down under emergency decrees.

Çakmakçı’s imprisonment brings the number of jailed journalists, serving a conviction or awaiting trial, to 166. The full list can be viewed here.

Arrest warrants for 34 ex-TRT employees

On July 12, authorities issued arrest warrants for 34 former employees of the state broadcaster TRT.

State news agency Anadolu reported that the arrest warrants were issued as part of an investigation into “the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY) presence in state institutions.” The report said the 34 people were users of ByLock, an encrypted messaging application that courts say is used by members of the group.

The report also said arrests were in progress but did not say how many have been taken into police custody or provide names of the 34 people.

Academic-writer Koray Çalışkan placed under house arrest

Academic and columnist Koray Çalışkan, arrested in a police raid on his home early on July 10, was released under judicial control on July 14.

The court ruled to place Çalışkan under house arrest and ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring anklet.

Çalışkan was detained as part of an investigation into the “academic arm” of the organization referred to as the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY)” along with 41 others. A total of 72 arrest warrants were issued for eight academics of the prestigous Bosphorus University and 64 academics of the Medeniyet University in the investigation. He was reportedly accused of “FETÖ propaganda” and “insulting the president.”

DİHABER reporters arrested in Gaziantep

Two reporters of pro-Kurdish news agency DİHABER, Erdoğan Alayumat and Nuri Akman, were taken into custody in Islahiye district in the southeastern province of Gaziantep late on July 13.

Alayumat and Akman were reportedly on a journalistic mission near the Syrian border and were arrested in Islahiye town center upon a “complaint.” The police concluded there was “reasonable doubt” to justify their detention. The two reporters were taken to the district police headquarters and were still being held there at the time of the writing of this report as their cameras were being examined.

Evrensel editor sued for “insulting the president”

A prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation into Evrensel daily Editor-in-Chief Fatih Polat for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over a column featuring a Malta Files report about alleged business dealings of the president’s family.

Polat wrote on his Twitter account that he was under investigation for reprinting the report by Craig Shaw, entitled “Turkish President Erdoğan's family in secret offshore ship deal,” in his column, published on May 28. “The charge is ‘insulting the president.’ But there is no insult, there is only journalism,” Polat wrote.

The column was later removed under a court order.

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employee in police custody

Pro-Kurdish Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employee Zeki Erdem was taken into police custody on July 11. The news of Erdem’s detention emerged two days later because his family or lawyer were not notified of the arrest.

Erdem was arrested in Siverek district of Şanlıurfa while he was traveling from Adana to Diyarbakır in southeastern Turkey on an inter-city bus and was taken to Şanlıurfa Police Directorate. The reason for arrest is not currently known.

Erdem was able to notify his colleagues in Özgürlükçü Demokrasi daily about his situation through a lawyer who was at the police headquarters to visit a client.

"Insult" trial against Ahmet Altan postponed

A court in Istanbul adjourned trial of journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan, in which he is accused of "insulting" President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in comments in an interview with him. The next hearing of the trial will be held on December 5, 2017.

Altan was charged with "insulting the president" in connection with some of his comments in the interview, published in the website on April 13, 2015. Erdoğan's lawyers initially withdrew the complaint as part of the president's decision to drop complaints in all insult cases as a one-off gesture, but then told the court they decided to reverse that decision, pressing ahead with the complaint against Altan.

Activist imprisoned over poems

Sara Aktaş, a poet and an activist with the Tevgera Jinen Azad (TJA, Free Women’s Platform) who was imprisoned in late June in an operation conducted by Diyarbakır police in several cities was arrested for her poetry.

On June 14, 24 people were taken into custody in an operation directed at members of the TJA, the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) being conducted by the Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office. After ten days in custody, 15 of the people who had been detained in the operation were put under formal arrest.

Susma anti-censorship platform reported that Aktaş was interrogated about her poems, which the prosecutor claims “incite the public to hatred and hostility.” Lawyer Keziban Yılmaz who spoke to Susma about the case said the police had included a Word document with unpublished poems by Aktaş as evidence against the poet.

Aktaş, who testified in Kurdish relying on the assistance of a translator, said she has been writing poetry for many years and that her published books clearly show that she has never written a single word that might incite the public to hatred or hostility.

Access to Constitutional Court ruling blocked

It has emerged that the Izmir 4th Criminal Judicature of Peace in May issued a ruling that blocked access to a decision of the Turkish Constitutional Court.

Lawyer Yaman Akdeniz tweeted a scanned photo of the ruling, which was made in relation with a person identified as D.Y. who had been victim of mistreatment by police. The judge, Alev Özcan, ruled to block access to content related to D.Y’s mistreatment based on a request from D.Y. One of the sites blocked included a Constitutional Court decision, which ordered the offending police department to pay a compensation to D.Y.

The ruling was made on May 22, 2017. The Judicature of Peace found that allowing access to content about D.Y.’s mistreatment was “a violation of his personal rights.”

It also emerged that the same judge made the same ruling while serving at the now dysfunctional Izmir 7th Criminal Judgeship of Peace on March 29, again in response to a petition by D.Y.

On July 12, the Izmir 7th Criminal Judicature of Peace said the link to the Constitutional Court ruling had been blocked in error. However, no such action has taken place for the new ruling that again blocks access to the high court’s ruling.

For lists of journalists or press workers in Turkish prisons serving a conviction or awaiting trial and media institutions, foundations and associations closed down under the State of Emergency, click here.