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 - 206

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 206

Photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan handed down prison term on “propaganda” charge; First-ever acquittal verdict rendered in an academic’s trial after Constitutional Court ruling; CHP politician convicted over social media posts

An Istanbul court on 6 September 2019 ruled to acquit Özlem Şendeniz, a scholar from Iğdır University, who was standing trial on the charge of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group” for signing 2016’s Academics for Peace petition.

The ruling, rendered by the 30th High Criminal Court of Istanbul, came on the heels of July’s Constitutional Court ruling that found that the Academics for Peace trials constituted a violation of the signatories’ rights to freedom of expression. Friday’s ruling marked the first-ever acquittal in the Academics for Peace trials.

The prosecutor, who previously asked the court to convict Şendeniz of the “propaganda” charge, submitted a new final opinion to the court during the hearing, this time requesting the court to acquit Şendeniz as per the Constitutional Court ruling. Consequently, the court acquitted Şendeniz.

CHP’s Canan Kaftancıoğlu given 9-year sentence over social media posts

Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Istanbul provincial chairperson of Republican People’s Party (CHP), was given a combined prison sentence of 9 years, 8 months and 20 days by the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 6 September 2019, at what was the final hearing of her trial on five different charges stemming from her social media posts. The court did not defer the sentence.

Kaftancıoğlu was convicted of “insulting the president,” “publicly insulting the state of the Turkish Republic,” “incitement to hatred and animosity,” “insulting a public official due to the performance of their duty” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist group.” A poem Kaftancıoğlu read out in front of the courthouse before the previous hearing of her trial was also recently added to her case file as evidence against her.

Photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan convicted of “propaganda”

The final hearing in the trial of photojournalist Çağdaş Erdoğan on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” was held on 5 September 2019 at the 33th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

Erdoğan, who was not in attendance, was represented by his lawyer during the hearing. After hearing the final defense statement by Erdoğan’s lawyer, the panel announced its verdict, sentencing Erdoğan to 1 year and 8 months in prison on the charge of “systematically disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization” and acquitting him of the “membership in a terrorist group” charge as per the prosecutor’s final opinion.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Ahmet Altan’s trial over 2009 article adjourned until November

Imprisoned journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan’s trial on the charges of “attempting to influence a fair trial” and “violating the confidentiality of an investigation” resumed on 5 September 2019 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The accusations in the case, filed upon a complaint by former Sakarya Chief of Police Faruk Ünsal, stem from an article Altan penned in 2009 for the now defunct Taraf daily, titled “Mafyanın dışında kim kaldı” (Who is left other than the mafia).

P24 monitored the hearing, which began at 10:28 a.m., about 40 minutes later than scheduled. Altan, who has been imprisoned in the Silivri Prison since September 2016, was to address the court via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS for the hearing, however, the connection could not be established due to a technical problem. Altan’s lawyer Figen Albuga Çalıkuşu was in attendance in the courtroom.

The judge had ruled at the end of the previous hearing in June to ask the Ankara 1st Civil Court of First Instance for the case file of a previous lawsuit filed by Ünsal over the same article by Altan, which the Ankara court had rejected. The judge informed those in attendance that the court has still not received the Ankara court’s response.

Altan’s lawyer Çalıkuşu then asked the court to wait for the Ankara court’s response. The judge ruled to write a second memo to the Ankara 1st Civil Court of First Instance requesting “very urgently” that they send the case file and adjourned the trial until 12 November 2019.

Deniz Yücel’s trial over his social media posts gets under way

German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel’s trial on the charge of “insulting a public official” over his social media posts got under way on 5 September 2019 at Istanbul’s 24th Criminal Court of First Instance.

Yücel, the former Turkey correspondent of German daily Die Welt, was not in attendance in the courtroom and was represented by his lawyer Veysel Ok. Yücel’s lawyer said they will inform the court about his client’s permanent address in Germany. The court adjourned the trial until 11 June 2020.

Selman Keleş and Arif Aslan’s trial adjourned until January

The sixth hearing in the trial of journalists Selman Keleş and Arif Aslan on the charge of “membership in a terrorist organization” was held on 5 September 2019 at the Van 5th High Criminal Court. 

Aslan and his lawyer Cahit Durmaz were in attendance. Durmaz asked the court to separate the file of Selman Keleş, who is unable to attend the hearings because he currently lives abroad. The panel sais they would consider the lawyer’s request for the two files to be separated and adjourned the trial until 16 January 2020.

Keleş and Aslan were jailed pending trial in Van and released pending trial by the trial court at the end of their first hearing on 21 November 2017 after spending eight months in pre-trial detention.

Sözcü trial adjourned until October, awaiting court’s verdict

The trial of nine staff members of Sözcü newspaper on the charge of “knowingly and willingly aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” resumed on 4 September 2019 at the 37th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

This was the ninth hearing in the trial. P24 monitored the hearing, where defense lawyers presented their final defense statements in response to the prosecutor’s final opinion.

After hearing the defense statements, the presiding judge adjourned the trial until 28 October 2019 because two of the judges on the panel were on leave on the day of the hearing.

İsminaz Temel and Havva Cuştan’s trial resumes

A trial where 23 people -- including Etkin News Agency (ETHA) editor İsminaz Temel and reporter Havva Cuştan -- face terrorism-related charges resumed on 3 September 2019 at the 27th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

During the hearing, Temel’s lawyer Ömer Çakırgöz presented to the court an expert opinion penned by Article 19 concerning the charges against his client. Noting that the expert opinion found a violation of Temel’s rights to a free trial and freedom of expression, Çakırgöz asked for his client’s acquittal.

Other defense lawyers requested the court to lift the travel ban imposed on their clients. The court rejected the request for the lifting of the travel bans and adjourned the trial until 26 November 2019.

A report about the hearing, monitored by P24, can be accessed here.

Cumhuriyet, Ulusal Kanal correspondents barred from judicial year opening ceremony

Alican Uludağ, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, was barred from attending the 2019-2020 Judicial Year opening ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Ankara despite being on the guest list of the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Uludağ shared the invitation he was sent by the Supreme Court of Appeals on his Twitter account. Uludağ wrote that he found out that his name had been removed from the Supreme Court of Appeals’ guest list by the Presidency. Uludağ added that two correspondents from the television station Ulusal Kanal were also barred from attending the ceremony.

Free Journalists Initiative issues latest report on press freedom

The Free Journalists Initiative (ÖGİ) has issued its latest monthly report in which it chronicles violations of press freedom in Turkey.

The latest report said that in August 2019, a total of 15 journalists were arrested; 2 journalists faced criminal investigation; 5 journalists faced new trials; access to 700 news stories was banned; 1 journalist’s house was raided by police; 2 journalists were beaten; 1 journalist was targeted by assailants and that 1 other journalist quit the profession because of pressure.

List of journalists and media workers in prison 

As of 6 September 2019, at least 138 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.