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 – 224

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey – 224

Constitutional Court rules former Zaman columnist Türköne’s rights not violated; Yeni Yaşam responsible editor Osman Akın handed down 5-month sentence; court refers Altans case to Supreme Court of Appeals


Constitutional Court finds no rights violations in Mümtazer Türköne’s application

The Constitutional Court’s Second Section ruled that jailed former academic and Zaman columnist Mümtazer Türköne’s detention since August 2016 was not in violation of his right to liberty and security and his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The top court’s judgment concerning Türköne’s application was published in the Official Gazette on 10 January 2020.

A report about the top court’s ruling can be accessed here.

Osman Akın handed down 5-month sentence

Osman Akın, the responsible managing editor of Yeni Yaşam daily, was sentenced to 5 months in prison on 9 January 2020, at the end of the second hearing of his trial over an article titled “Afrinli tutuklulara zulüm” (Oppression targeting prisoners from Afrin). Akın was charged with “publicly degrading the military or security forces of the state” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). The case was launched upon a complaint filed by the administration of Hatay H Type Prison against the news report, published on 1 March 2019.

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

Seyhan Avşar and Necdet Önemli’s trial over news report about public prosecutor begins

The trial of Cumhuriyet reporter Seyhan Avşar and Sözcü newspaper’s Responsible Managing Editor Necdet Önemli on the charge of “making those involved in the fight against terrorism a target” got under way on 9 January 2020 at the 29th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The journalists are accused because of a news report titled “Sözcü savcısı sabıkalı çıktı” (Prosecutor in Sözcü trial has criminal record), published in Cumhuriyet’s 6 March 2019 edition.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Avşar presented her defense statement and rejected the accusation. The court ruled to hear Önemli’s defense statement at the next hearing; inquire of the Osmaniye 1st High Criminal Court about the case against the public prosecutor Asım Ekren; and adjourned the trial until 21 May 2020.

Journalist Cevdet Akgün admitted to prison

Journalist Cevdet Akgün, a local journalist in Zonguldak, surrendered to prison on 9 January 2020 after a higher court upheld a 5-month prison sentence he was given on the charge of “insulting a public official.” Akgün, the former managing editor of the Zonguldak-based daily Halkın Sesi, was convicted because of a news report titled “Bank Asya’nın avukatı sınavsız hâkim oldu” (Former Bank Asya lawyer appointed as judge without taking exam). Akgün surrendered to the Beycuma Prison in Zonguldak.

Investigation launched into social media posts by woman who lost her son in train crash

Mısra Öz Sel, who lost her 9-year-old son Oğuz Arda Sel in July 2018’s Çorlu train crash, is facing two investigations over her social media posts about the accident, which killed 25 people. Sel is charged with “insulting the president” and “insulting a public official.” Sel gave her statement on 9 January 2020 to the public prosecutor at the Çorlu Courthouse, rejecting the allegations against her.

Top court rules Şaban Sevinç’s freedom of expression violated 

The Constitutional Court has ruled that a judicial fine given to former Halk TV chief editor Şaban Sevinç in 2015 over his remarks about former minister Akif Çağatay Kılıç violated Sevinç’s right to freedom of expression.

Sevinç was sentenced to a fine of TL 4,700 by the Ankara 30th Criminal Court of First Instance in November 2015 on the charge of “insulting a public official.” 

The top court’s judgment, rendered on 28 November 2019, was published in the Official Gazette on 9 January 2020.

Trial of Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç adjourned until April

The fifth hearing in a trial where journalists Alican Uludağ and Duygu Güvenç stand accused of “publicly degrading the judiciary” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) took place on 9 January 2020 at Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.

The accusation stems from Uludağ and Güvenç’s reports about the developments surrounding US pastor Andrew Brunson, who remained in pre-trial detention in Turkey for two years before being released in October 2018.

P24 monitored the hearing, where both journalists were represented by their lawyers. Granting defense lawyers additional time for their statements, the court adjourned the trial until 16 April 2020.

Compensation case against Cumhuriyet gets under way

The first hearing in a lawsuit against Hazal Ocak, a reporter for Cumhuriyet daily, and Alev Coşkun, the newspaper’s publisher and chair of the board of Cumhuriyet Foundation, took place on 8 January 2020 at Istanbul’s Anadolu 14th Civil Court of First Instance.

The lawsuit was filed by businessman Mehmet Cengiz, the chairman of Cengiz Holding. The pro-government businessman is seeking TL 1 million in non-pecuniary damages over a 6 October 2019 report in Cumhuriyet about the restoration of a historical Bosphorus villa that burned down in 2014.

P24 monitored the first hearing, where Ocak and her lawyer Buket Yazıcı were in attendance. Alev Coşkun did not attend the hearing.

Cengiz’s lawyer told the court that they would not accept an arbitration agreement.

Ocak addressed the court next, asserting that her report was about illegal construction work carried out in the area and that the plaintiff was not the main subject of the report. Her lawyer Yazıcı also told the court they did not accept arbitration.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court granted both parties additional time to submit their evidence and witnesses and adjourned the lawsuit until 23 January.

Journalist Arjin Dilek Öncel acquitted in first hearing

Mezopotamya news agency (MA) reporters Arjin Dilek Öncel appeared before the 11th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır on 8 January 2020 for the first hearing of her trial on the charge of “spreading terrorism propaganda.” Öncel faced up to 7 years and 6 months in prison in the case, where the accusation stemmed from her social media posts.

Öncel and her lawyer Resul Tamur were present at the first hearing, where the prosecution presented their final opinion and asked the court to convict the journalist as charged. Issuing their verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled for Öncel’s acquittal, based on the amendments introduced with last year’s judicial reform package.

MA reporter Barış Polat handed down 6 year sentence

Mezopotamya news agency reporter Barış Polat’s trial on the charge of “membership of a terrorist group” resumed on 7 January 2020 at the 7th High Criminal Court of Gaziantep. The case was launched during the time when Polat was a distributor for the pro-Kurdish Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper, which was later closed down through a statutory decree in 2018.

Polat did not attend the hearing, where he was represented by his lawyer. Issuing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court sentenced Polat to 6 years and 3 months in prison for “membership of a terrorist group.” Polat’s lawyers will appeal the verdict.

Appellate court sends Altans case to Supreme Court of Appeals

The 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice referred the appeal against the convictions in the retrial of the Altans case to the Supreme Court of Appeals, citing a provision in Turkey’s Criminal Procedure Code (CMK). The appellate court cited Article 307/3 of the CMK as the grounds for its unanimous decision, dated 6 January 2020.

Following the retrial’s conclusion on 4 November 2019, lawyers representing Ahmet Altan, Fevzi Yazıcı, Nazlı Ilıcak, Yakup Şimşek and Şükrü Tuğrul Özşengül, as well as the intervening parties — the Presidency and the Parliament — appealed the verdict. The case file was sent to the 2nd Criminal Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice, an appellate court, on 31 December 2019 for review.

Without reviewing the file, the chamber ruled to refer the case to the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, saying that all reviews concerning the trial court’s verdict following a retrial fell within the jurisdiction of the relevant chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals until the verdict became final.

A report about the ruling can be accessed here.

List of journalists and media workers in prison updated

P24 has updated its list of journalists and media workers in prison, compiled using information available in open sources.

Latest research revealed that Aziz İstegün, Gurbet Çakar, Hasan Duman, İsmail Ersan, Mustafa Göktaş, Mustafa Yayla and Osman Yakut have been released. As a result, as of 10 January 2020, at least 102 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.