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 – 99

Journalists in State of Emergency – 99

Journalists Murat Aksoy, Atilla Taş and Ömer Çelik released, while three other journalists arrested

An Istanbul court ruled for the release of journalists Murat Aksoy and Atilla Taş as well as teacher Davut Aydın on October 24.

The two journalists and Aydın were released by the Istanbul 25th High Criminal Court, which is hearing a case into some 30 suspects, mostly journalists, who are accused of having worked for the media arm of the organization -- called Fethullahist Terror Organization and abbreviated as FETÖ by the authorities -- that allegedly staged the coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

On March 31, the same court had released 21 people, but none of them could be released as 13 were detained on new charges and the eight immediately rearrested. Taş and Aksoy were among the 13 who faced new charges of attempting to overthrow the government in the same trial. The new investigation was then merged with the ongoing trial.

Bünyamin Köseli, a former reporter with the shuttered Aksiyon magazine and Bugün newspaper reporter Cihan Acar were released earlier under judicial control.

In the October 24 hearing, the court investigated whether the suspects had bank accounts at Bank Asya or used the secret chat application ByLock; both signs that show membership of the Fethullah Gülen network according to Turkish authorities.

“I am tired of getting a beating from the law. The courts are here for us, not against us,” Taş said in his final statement.

“I have never resorted to brute force or violence. My only weapon is my keyboard, my pen,” Aksoy said.

Teacher Davut Aydın, who suffers from scoliosis of the spine, complained of his deteriorating health.

The three suspects were released. The next hearing will be held on December 4.

Currently, 20 journalists in the same trial remain in prison. The suspects in the case are: Abdullah Kılıç, Ahmet Memiş, Ali Akkuş, Atilla Taş, Bayram Kaya, Bülent Ceyhan, Bünyamin Köseli, Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu, Cihan Acar, Cuma Ulus, Davut Aydın, Emre Soncan, Gökçe Fırat Çulhaoğlu, Habip Güler, Halil İbrahim Balta, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Hüseyin Aydın, Muhammet Sait Kuloğlu, Muhterem Tanık, Murat Aksoy, Mustafa Erkan Acar, Mutlu Çölgeçen, Oğuz Usluer, Said Sefa, Seyid Kılıç, Ufuk Şanlı, Ünal Tanık, Yakup Çetin, Yetkin Yıldız.

Ömer Çelik released in RedHack trial

In another trial heard also on October 24, editor of the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA) was released in a trial where six journalists -- three of them in prison -- are charged for reporting on email correspondence of Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, after his messages were leaked by a group named RedHack.

The Istanbul 29th High Criminal court ruled for the release of DİHA news manager Ömer Çelik, while ruled to keep the arrest warrants for Tunca Öğreten, a former editor with the news website Diken, and Mahir Kanaat, an employee of the Birgün newspaper.

The court also granted a leave to intervene to Berat Albayrak himself.

A total of six journalists are on trial in the case, accused of “membership in a terrorist organization,” “spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization and “preventing an IT system, distorting it, changing or destroying data.”

A lawyer representing Kanaat said the sole reason for his arrest was that the police had found a document -- relating to an 2013 corruption investigation which implicated four ministers and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family --  in his client’s house that could easily be downloaded from the Internet.

Derya Okatan, the responsible managing editor for the socialist Etkin News Agency (ETHA) who was released earlier in the investigation pending trial, said two of her lawyers had been taken into police custody; a violation of her right to legal counsel.

She also said her agency and the others published reports on the emails on the grounds of public interest, adding that the emails had been uploaded on the website WikiLeaks.

“There is no evidence against us accept for our news reports.” She also said the prosecution had claimed that some of the emails might contain state secrets, to which she said no state secrets should be shared through the minister’s personal email account.

Yolculuk newspaper’s Managing Editor Eray Sargın and DİHA reporter Metin Yoksa also testified in the trial.

“I don’t think conversing about these emails on a Whatsapp group is a crime. Everyone was talking about this in those days,” he said.

Yoksu said although he had been detained over the Albayrak emails, he said the indictment included news reports that he had made on other issues as evidence against him.

DİHA news manager Ömer Çelik, who testified in Kurdish, said he had been subject to physical abuse while in detention. “Perhaps this news report could have won a journalism award if we lived in a country where the law worked,” he said.

Kanaat, said, “I never downloaded the emails, never reported on them. I am being tried for news reports that don’t exist.”

He said the prosecutor had listed his following RedHack on Twitter and online correspondence with Deniz Yücel, a Die Welt reporter who has been imprisoned since January, as if these were crimes.

Öğreten, who testified last, said he reported on the minister’s messages at a time when they were already out in the open.

The next hearing in the trial will be heard on Dec. 6, 2017 at 11 a.m.

Two ETHA reporters arrested

Havva Cuştan and Isminaz Temel, two reporters of the ETHA news agency, were arrested on terror charges on October 26.

The two journalists were initially taken into custody on October 19 as part of an operation into the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) in dawn raids in which 14 people were detained. Twelve of those taken have now been formally arrested.

Anatolia reporter arrested over ByLock use

Ismail Ersan, the Yalova Bureau Chief for the Anatolia news agency, was arrested by a peace court in Yalova on October 20 for using the ByLock chat application.

The Sözcü newspaper reported on Ersan’s situation on October 25, five days after  his arrest. Sözcü said an official statement from the Yalova Chief Prosecutor’s Office had announced Ersan’s arrest. The journalist is facing charges of “membership in a terrorist organization,” according to Sözcü.

Number of journalists in prison at 155

Following the releases of Taş, Aksoy and Çelik and the arrests of Temel and Cuştan of ETHA, the number of journalists in prison in Turkey has reached 155. The full list can be viewed here.

Birgün reporter Zeynep Kuray in police custody

BirGün daily reporter Zeynep Kuray was detained on October 25 by police over her Facebook posts, which allegedly constitute “terror propaganda.” She was released ater testifying to prosecutor.

Taraf national security council trial adjourned until January

The trial of former Taraf reporter Mehmet Baransu and responsible managing editor Murat Şevki Çoban, who are accused of divulging state secrets, was held on October 25.

It was adjourned until January 9, 2018.

The  Istanbul 10th High Criminal Court is hearing  the case which is related to a news report published in Taraf on November 28, 2013 titled “Decision to finish off Gülen was taken by MGK in 2004.” The story said the Islamist Fethullah Gülen network was listed as a threat in a National Security Council (MGK) meeting in that year.

The two journalists face between 26 to 52 years for a variety of charges, including divulging state secrets and exposing documents of the National Intelligence Agency (MIT).

Özgür Gündem solidarity trial held 

On October 26, 13 journalists and writers appeared before the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court for having participated in a campaign to show solidarity with the Özgür Gündem daily, which has since been shuttered.

None of the defendants attended the trial. The presiding judge requested testimony from Dilşah Kocakaya, who is arrested in Diyarbakır Prison as part of another trial, via the Diyarbakır High Criminal Court. The trial was adjourned until March 15, 2018.

TMSF puts assets seized from 12 media companies

Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) put on sale assets and property previously owned by 12 different media organizations, including the Taraf and Özgür Gündem newspapers.

The TMSF was founded after the 2000 economic crisis in Turkey to ensure that the state can recoup debts from corrupt businesses or bankrupt investors. It has recently been criticized for having become an instrument of transferring the wealth of dissenters to government allies.

The minimum price for the sale was set as TL 146, 417. The body will accept bids until November 17.

Permits, machinery, equipment and fixed assets which previously belonged to Medya Gazetesi, Art Tv ve Art Radyo, Haber Radyo Ege, Herkül Fm, Htv Hayat Tv, Kanal 24 Tv, Nazar Gazetesi, Özgür Gündem gazetesi, Özgür Radyo, Taraf gazetesi, Uşak Rd Klas and the Yeni Emek newspaper will be sold off through bidding.

There will be auctions among bidders who have  made proposals for the same items.

Turkish government given more time by ECtHR 

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has given more time to Turkish government to respond in the cases of imprisoned journalists, which the Court earlier announced will treat as a priority. This is the second time the Turkish Government has been granted an extension to the time to respond to the court.

The Turkish government was given extra time until Nov. 7 in the case of Cumhuriyet journalist and until November 8 in the cases of Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay. The Court, in written correspondence addressed to legal counsel for the applicants, said it will not grant any additional time to the Turkish government.

The Turkish government has also asked for more time to respond in the case of applicant Deniz Yücel, a Die Welt reporter who has been imprisoned in Turkey since January. Turkey initially had until October 24 to respond in the case of Yücel.

Meanwhile, a group of international organizations defending freedom of expression have submitted interventions to the European Court of Human Rights in 10 cases of imprisoned Turkish journalists. The interventions came from: Media Legal Defence Initiative, PEN International, ARTICLE 19, the Association of European Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, the European Federation of Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Index on Censorship, the International Federation of Journalists, the International Press Institute, the International Senior Lawyers Project and Reporters without Borders.

Click here to view the list in a spreadsheet file; where figures on shuttered media and civil society associations are also available on separate tabs.