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 - 142

Journalists in State of Emergency - 142

Çiğdem Toker faces lawsuit seeking TL 1.5 mln in damages; indictment issued for Özgürlükçü Demokrasi employees; Nur Ener sentenced to 7.5 yrs 


A new lawsuit has been filed against Cumhuriyet columnist Çiğdem Toker seeking a record TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages. The lawsuit, which Toker announced on her Twitter account on May 25, marks the second such court case the journalist has faced in less than six months.

The new lawsuit was filed by a Turkish mining company called Şenbay Madencilik on grounds of a column by Toker that was published on October 22, 2017.

Another article by Toker from November 2017 was the grounds for the previous lawsuit filed by Agrobay, an agricultural company, also seeking TL 1.5 million in non-pecuniary damages. That case, to be overseen by the 1st Civil Court of First Instance of Ankara, is set to get under way on June 19. Both Agrobay and Şenbay are companies under the Bayburt Group.

Yeni Asya editor convicted of terrorism-related charge

An Istanbul court on May 24 convicted Nur Ener Kılınç, an editor for the Yeni Asya newspaper, of “terrorist group membership” and sentenced the journalist to 7.5 years in prison. The court ruled for the continuation of Kılınç’s house arrest pending the appeal process.

To read more about the hearing, monitored by P24, click here.

Court dismisses compensation case against Ahmet Altan

An Istanbul court on May 22 dismissed a compensation lawsuit brought against imprisoned journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan by Dursun Çiçek, a retired military commander and a deputy for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), over an article Altan wrote in 2016. The hearing, fourth in the trial, was held at the Istanbul 22nd Civil Court of First Instance.

Also on May 22, another compensation case filed against Altan was heard by the 4th Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, in Ankara. The case was filed by Recep Yıldırım, a former lawmaker for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), over an incriminating news report and some columns by Altan published in the shuttered Taraf newspaper in 2009. The trial court had dismissed the case in September 2015. Yıldırım’s lawyer had appealed that ruling, leading to the May 22 hearing by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

A report about both hearings can be accessed here.

Two days later, on May 24, the 4th Civil Court of First Instance of Ankara heard another compensation case against Altan, this time filed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The case is based on the claim by Erdoğan that Altan’s January 2012 column “Devlet Yardakçılığı ve Ahlak” (“State Complicity and Morality”), about the infamous Roboskî bombing in 2011, where 34 civilians were killed, violated his personal rights.

Altan was represented by his lawyer Ergin Cinmen during the hearing.

The court had been awaiting the verdict in a criminal case against Altan, where he was indicted for the same article. Altan’s lawyer Cinmen told the court that the trial court overseeing that criminal case acquitted Altan in line with a 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeals in favor of Altan. Cinmen requested for the case to be dismissed.

Erdoğan’s lawyer requested for additional time for oral proceedings. The court accepted the request for additional time, and set September 11, 2018, as the date for the next hearing in the case.

Indictment issued for Özgürlükçü Demokrasi

Fourteen employees of the Özgürlükçü Demokrasi newspaper face criminal charges in a new indictment accepted by an Istanbul court this week.

Özgürlükçü Demokrasi became the target of a police raid as part of a criminal investigation in late March and six of its 14 staffers indicted -- including the newspaper’s publisher İhsan Yaşar and Managing Editor İshak Yasul -- are currently in detention on remand.

The charges in the indictment are “membership in a terrorist organization,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” and “publishing or printing publications for terrorist groups.” The accusations are largely based on news stories published in the newspaper’s issues post January 20, 2018, when Turkey launched a military operation on Syria’s Afrin.

The indicted staffers are Davut Uçar, Ersin Çaksu, Fırat Benli, Günay Aksoy, Hicran Urun, İhsan Yaşar, İshak Yasul, Mehmet Ali Çelebi, Mizgin Fendik, Önder Elaldı, Pınar Tarlak, Ramazan Sola, Reyhan Hacıoğlu and Yılmaz Yıldız. Six other employees of the newspaper face arrest warrants.

The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul will be overseeing the trial.

An indictment for Gün Matbaacılık, the printing house that printed Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, was also issued this week. Twenty-one employees of the printing house, including its owner, all of whom are currently in detention on remand, are indicted in the document, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on May 22.

A Kurdish grammar book printed by the company was billed in the indictment as “a so-called Kurdish grammar book.” The evidence in the indictment consists only of publications the company has printed.

“Espionage” case against Nazlı Ilıcak adjourned

Imprisoned journalist Nazlı Ilıcak on May 23 appeared before the 26th High Criminal Court of Istanbul for the second hearing of a trial in which she is facing life imprisonment on “espionage” charges on account of a newspaper column she wrote in 2015.

Ilıcak, imprisoned for life at the Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul, addressed the court via the courtroom video-conferencing system SEGBİS during the hearing.

The accusations against Ilıcak in this case stem from a confidential document that had been removed from the archives of the Turkish General Staff and destroyed. The allegation is that Ilıcak had obtained the said document and revealed it in her newspaper column.

The prosecutor requested an investigation into whether Ilıcak had shared the said document online or on TV.

Ilıcak told the court that her newspaper column was not a news piece but an  opinion piece. “That article includes my views. Other [media outlets] may have made references to that column. That’s not my responsibility,” Ilıcak said.

Ilıcak added that she did not share the said confidential document online and that she had no knowledge as to whether it has or has not been shared by other people. “I do not agree with the prosecutor. I request for this case to be dismissed,” Ilıcak added. Her lawyers also requested the dismissal of the case.

Issuing an interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court accepted a request by the lawyers representing the Ministry of Defense to participate in the proceedings, and ordered an investigation into TV programs Ilıcak used to regularly appear on as a commentator to determine whether Ilıcak had made any remarks pertaining to the said confidential document on those programs.

The case was adjourned until October 18, 2018.

Erdoğan Alayumat released from pretrial detention

The third hearing of a case in which journalists Erdoğan Alayumat and Nuri Akman stand accused of “espionage” and “membership in terrorist group” charges was held on May 23 at the 2nd High Criminal court of Hatay.

The court ruled at the end of the hearing for Alayumat’s release pending the conclusion of the trial. The journalist had been in pretrial detention since July 2017.

Alayumat and Akman, former reporters for the shuttered Dihaber news agency, face 45 years in prison each in the indictment against them. The charges stem from news stories and photographs found on both journalists’ personal computers.

The court had been awaiting response from the Turkish General Staff concerning a writ in which the court inquired about the photographs on which the “espionage” charge against Alayumat is based. The Turkish General Staff has yet to respond to the writ.

Lawyer Tugay Bek told the court that witness testimonies heard by the court during the previous hearing were proof that both Alayumat and Akman are journalists by profession and requested for Alayumat’s release from pretrial detention.

In its interim ruling, the court ordered Alayumat’s release from pretrial detention and the continuation of the judicial control measures imposed on Akman, setting October 19, 2018, as the date for the next hearing.

Journalist Sayılğan unable to address court due to technical glitch

The third hearing of the trial against İdris Sayılğan, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle news agency (DİHA), was held on May 23 in the eastern city of Muş. Sayılğan, in pretrial detention in a Trabzon prison, was unable to address the 2nd High Criminal Court of Muş during the hearing due to a technical failure in the judicial teleconferencing system SEGBİS.

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

Journalist Abdullah Kaya appears before court for 4th hearing

Imprisoned journalist Abdullah Kaya appeared before the 2nd High Criminal Court of Ağrı on May for the fourth hearing of his trial on the charge of "aiding a terrorist organization without being its member,” the Mezopotamya news agency reported. Kaya, currently serving a 4-year prison term in the Rize prison, gave his defense statement to the court via the courtroom videoconferencing system SEGBİS.

Footage Kaya recorded during a festival held in 2014 on Mount Ararat are being held as evindece against him in the case file on grounds that there were posters of Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) at the festival. In his defense statement, Kaya told the court that the event had been authorized by the Ağrı Governor’s Office and all the footage he recorded was part of his journalistic work. Rejecting the accusations, Kaya requested that he be acquitted.

The court adjourned the trial for missing documents to be completed and set September 24, 2018, as the date for the next hearing.

Fahrettin Kılıç remains behind bars in second hearing

Fahrettin Kılıç, an employee of the Özgür Toplum magazine, on May 23, appeared in the second hearing of the trial against him on “membership in a terrorist organization” charges. Kılıç has been in pretrial detention since March 2017.

Kılıç and his lawyer were present at the hearing at the 13th High Criminal Court of Adana. In his defense statement he delivered in Kurdish through an interpreter, Kılıç denied the accusations and told the court that he was distributing the magazine in order to earn his daily bread. Kılıç requested his release.

In its interim ruling at the end of the hearing, the court ordered the continuation of Kılıç’s detention on remand and adjourned the trial until September 18, 2018.

Article 301 case against Ahmet Şık adjourned

Investigative journalist and Cumhuriyet reporter Ahmet Şık on May 22 appeared before Istanbul’s 17th Criminal Court of First Instance for the third hearing of a case in which he is indicted for his social media posts. Şık is charged with “openly denigrating the Republic of Turkey, its judicial organs and its military and police,” facing a prison sentence between 6 months and 2 years.

The court adjourned the trial until September 18, 2018, in line with Şık and his lawyer’s requests for additional time to prepare a defense statement. To read more about the hearing, monitored by P24 at the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan, click here.

Serkan and Özkan Erdoğan acquitted of terrorism-related charges

Özkan Erdoğan and Serkan Erdoğan, two employees of the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, were acquitted on May 22 of the charges against them in the second hearing of their trial.

Özkan Erdoğan and Serkan Erdoğan were imprisoned pending trial in Mersin on July 28 and 29, 2017, respectively, on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

Özkan Erdoğan was initially detained for being in possession of a magazine deemed “illegal” by Turkish authorities. Serkan Erdoğan was detained during a home raid the same night and later arrested by a Criminal Judgeship on the same charges. The Mersin 8th High Criminal Court released both media workers pending trial during the first hearing of their case on January 25.

Both Özkan Erdoğan and Serkan Erdoğan told the court during the May 22 hearing that the magazines they were distributing were not illegal. Both denied the charges and requested their acquittal. The court acquitted both media workers of the charges against them.

Journalist Candemir acquitted of “insult” charge

Journalist Oktay Candemir was acquitted of the charges against him in an “insult” case opened by the Van Governor Murat Zorluoğlu. The governor claimed that Candemir had insulted him in an article posted on the news website on December 22, 2017. The 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance of Van has ruled that Candemir’s article was an exercising of the right to freedom of expression and acquitted the journalist. The governor is appealing the verdict.

Other freedom of expression cases of the past week

  • Seyfi Şahin, a cartoonist for the now closed down humor magazine Gırgır, was handed down a prison sentence of 1 year and 15 days by an Istanbul court for “openly insulting the religious values of a part of the society” in a cartoon depicting Moses.
  • Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul MP Eren Erdem was denied permission to travel overseas on May 22 on grounds of an travel ban issued as part of an indictment seeking 22 years imprisonment for the politician. The accusations include a visit Erdem paid to the Zaman newspaper’s headquarters to show solidarity with the newspaper as an MP during a police raid on the Feza media group.
  • Academic Bülent Şık is facing an investigation for a series of articles published in April in the Cumhuriyet daily. The investigation was launched upon a complaint filed by the Ministry of Health, claiming that Şık’s articles “revealed confidential information” and that he “obtained and disclosed classified information.” The article series was about carcinogenic pesticides found in agricultural products in Turkey.
  • The 4th Criminal Chamber of the Gaziantep Regional Court of Justice on May 23 upheld a prison sentence of 9 years and 2 months for the imprisoned People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP İdris Baluken. The trial court had convicted Baluken of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “conducting propaganda for a terrorist group” and “violating the Demonstrations and Protest Marches Law” over various statements, speeches, and demonstrations. As a result, Baluken will not be able to run for a seat in the Parliament in Turkey’s upcoming June 24 elections.

List of jailed journalists and media workers

As of May 25, 2018, at least 174 journalists and media workers are in prison in Turkey, either serving a sentence or in pretrial detention.

The full list can be accessed here