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31 January

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 279

Turkey ranks first in violations of freedom of expression; comedian sentenced over onstage remarks; 1 employee sentenced, 4 acquitted in Van TV trial


Turkey ranks first in violations of freedom of expression among CoE member states

Turkey ranked first among Council of Europe member states in terms of violations of the right to freedom of expression in 2020 with 31 judgments finding a violation of Article 10, according to latest statistics announced on 28 January 2021 by the European Court of Human Rights.

The number of cases currently pending before the ECtHR is 61,500, and 11,150 of those applications are from Turkey, according to the Court’s annual report.

One former employee sentenced, 4 acquitted in Van TV trial

The final hearing of the Van TV trial was held on 29 January 2021. The former employees and managers of the shuttered Van TV were accused of "propaganda for a terrorist organization" based on content broadcasted in 2016.

Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, Van 4th High Criminal Court sentenced presenter Nahide Aslan to one year and six months in prison on the charge of "propaganda.” Presenters Serdar Altan, Gülsün Altan, Kadir Cesur, and Sibel Eres were acquitted while the charges against channel manager Koçali Özipek and channel owners Gürcan Bayrakçı and Nedim Dalga were dropped.

Temel Demirer acquitted of “propaganda”

The second hearing of a trial against writer and activist Temel Demirer on the charge of "making propaganda for a terrorist organization" due to his speech at an election event held in Tunceli on 20 March 2019, was held at Tunceli 2nd High Criminal Court on 28 January 2021. Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court acquitted Demirer.

Comedian Emre Günsal sentenced to 3 years in prison

Comedian Emre Günsal, who was prosecuted for his statements about Atatürk and Rumi in a stand-up show shared on social media, was sentenced to 3 years and 5 months in prison. Günsal announced the sentence he received on his social media account. He was arrested in April 2020 as part of an investigation initiated by the Konya Chief Public Prosecutor's Office with the allegations of "violating the Law on Crimes Committed Against Atatürk" and "inciting the public to hatred and enmity or humiliation" and was released pending trial after 11 days.

Non-prosecution decision for MA reporters Durgut and Kanbal

An investigation launched against Zeynep Durgut, reporter of the Mezopotamya news agency (MA), on the charge of “illegally seizing or disseminating personal data,” has concluded with a decision of non-prosecution. Durgut was detained and released by the gendarmerie in Şırnak, where she went to cover a news story, on 8 October 2020, and the investigation was initiated afterward. The Cizre Chief Public Prosecutor decided that the images on the journalist's camera did not constitute a crime.

Separately, a second decision of non-prosecution was given for the second time in an investigation against MA reporter Ahmet Kanbal for sharing on social media the news about a house raid in Halfeti district of Urfa in May 2019.

In the investigation initiated by the Urfa Chief Public Prosecutor on the charge of "making propaganda for a terrorist organization" and sent to the Mardin Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, it has been decided that there was no need to prosecute in 2020. The Mardin Chief Public Prosecutor's Office requested permission from the Ministry of Justice to continue the investigation under Article 301 of the TCK. The Ministry did not give permission for an investigation. Therefore a decision of non-prosecution was issued on the second charge.

Writer Faik Bulut acquitted

Journalist and writer Faik Bulut was acquitted of "being a member of a terrorist organization" in a trial where he was accused over his participation in the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) activities between 2010 and 2011 upon invitation. Bulut's final hearing was held on 28 January 2021 at the Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court.

Osman Akın and Veysi Sarısözen’s trial adjourned 

The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court continued the trial against Yeni Yaşam newspaper's former managing editor Osman Akın and columnist Veysi Sarısözen on the charge of "terrorism propaganda" on 27 January 2021. In the hearing, the temporary court panel accepted the lawyers’ excuses and postponed the trial until 2 June 2021.

Sayılğan and Kaya’s trial adjourned until April

The second hearing of the trial against the Mezopotamya news agency reporters İdris Sayılğan and Naci Kaya, who were briefly detained while covering last year’s refugee crisis on the Turkish-Greek border, was held on 27 January 2021. Sayılğan and Kaya are accused of “trespassing a restricted military zone” (Article 332/1 of the Turkish Penal Code).

Sayılğan and Kaya did not attend the hearing. They were represented by their lawyers. The Edirne 8th Criminal Court of First Instance heard a witness during the hearing. The court decided to send the file to the prosecutor's office for their opinion on the merits and adjourned the trial until 14 April 2021.

Özgür Boğatekin's trial adjourned until February

A trial launched against Adıyaman-based local journalist Özgür Boğatekin in 2011 on the charge of "slander" for a May 2011 report, continued on 27 January 2021 at the Gerger Criminal Court of First Instance. The court adjourned the trial until 17 February. 

The case was initially launched upon a complaint by a sergeant mentioned in Boğatekin's news report. In 2012, the court postponed the prosecution. However, the trial resumed on 30 September 2020 after a sentence Boğatekin received on the same charge in another trial was upheld by an appeals court.

Non-prosecution decision for journalist İdris Yayla

A decision of non-prosecution was issued in an investigation against journalist İdris Yayla, the concessionaire of the news portal Jiyan Haber, based in Batman province. The investigation had been launched on the allegation of “inciting the people to hatred and enmity” due to three news reports on İpek Er, a local woman who committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by Sergeant Musa Orhan.

Lawsuit against Cumhuriyet reporter Ocak rejected

A compensation case against Cumhuriyet reporter Hazal Ocak and Cumhuriyet Foundation President Alev Coşkun filed by pro-government businessman Mehmet Cengiz seeking TL 1 million in compensation over an October 2019 story by Ocak was rejected by the court. This was the seventh hearing of the lawsuit, overseen by the Anadolu 14th Civil Court.

Reyhan Çapan’s trial postponed

A trial where journalist Reyhan Çapan, the former responsible editor of the shuttered Özgür Gündemnewspaper, is charged with "terrorism propaganda" and "publishing statements by terrorist organizations" in 18 separate indictments merged into one case, resumed on 26 Janaury 2021 in Istanbul. Accepting letters of excuse submitted by Çapan’s lawyers, the Istanbul 2nd High Criminal Court postponed the trial until a later date.

Trial against TV10 employees adjourned until April

The seventh hearing of a trial where Kemal Demir and Kemal Karagöz, two former employees of the shuttered TV station TV10, are charged with "being a member of a terrorist organization" was held on 26 January 2021 at the Istanbul 28th High Criminal Court.

Demir and Karagöz did not attend the hearing, which was monitored by P24. Demir's lawyer Bertan Öztunç demanded that the travel ban on his client be lifted. Deciding on the continuation of the travel ban, the court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for another defendant, Şükrü Yıldız, and postponed the trial until 20 April 2021.

"Insult" case against journalist Derya Okatan postponed until July

A trial where journalist Derya Okatan is charged with “insult” over a report published in May 2016, when she was responsible editor of the Etkin news agency (ETHA), was set to resume on 26 January 2021 at Istanbul 39th Criminal Court of First Instance. The trial was postponed until 6 July 2021 due to the judge overseeing the trial being on leave.

Initially a decision of non-prosecution was issued in the investigation against Okatan. When the complainant, a lawyer mentioned in ETHA’s report, objected to the non-prosecution decision, the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecution should go ahead and an indictment was filed against Okatan in September 2019.

Actress Nilüfer Aydan appears in court for secıond hearing

The second hearing of a trial where actress Nilüfer Aydan is charged with "insulting the president" due to her social media posts was held at the Anadolu 37th Criminal Court of First Instance on 26 January 2021.

In her defense, Aydan stated that her posts were not insulting and that she used her right to criticism as a citizen. In his final opinion, the prosecutor demanded that Aydan be sentenced to 4 years and 8 months in prison for one of the four social media posts she is accused for. Granting Aydan and her lawyers additional time to prepare a defense statement in response to the prosecutor's opinion, the court adjourned the trial until a later date.

Former Samanyolu radio editor Çalık sentenced to 7.5 years

Osman Çalık, a former editor with the shuttered Samanyolu Haber Radio, was sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison for “membership in a terrorist organization” at the final hearing of his trial on 26 January 2021. Çalık has been in pre-trial detention since 2019. His trial was overseen by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. Çalık was accused of being an “undercover imam” in the alleged “FETÖ structuring within the Turkish Naval Forces Command.”

Journalist Durket Süren's trial adjourned until April

The fifth hearing of the trial against journalist Durket Süren on charges of "aiding a terrorist organization" and "making propaganda for a terrorist organization" for selling the banned issues of Azadiya Welat and Özgür Gündem newspapers and her Twitter posts was held on 25 January 2021.

At the hearing, which Süren did not attend, her lawyers Resul Tamur and Yusuf Erdoğan were present. Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court, which decided to wait for the completion of the digital forensic examination on Süren's seized digital equipment, adjourned the trial until 26 April 2021.

Top court rejects application of four academics

The Constitutional Court’s First Section rejected the applications filed by Academics for Peace petitioners Kıvanç Ersoy, Esra Mungan, Meral Camcı and Muzaffer Kaya. All four were arrested in March 2016 on the charge of "terrorism propaganda" for signing the Academics for Peace statement and were released after remaining in prison for more than one month. All four were subsequently acquitted.

In its 12 January 2021 judgment, published earlier this week on its official website, the Constitutional Court held unanimously that the complaints claiming violations of the right to liberty and security and freedom of expression were “inadmissible” due to the “non-exhaustion of remedies” and the claims that presumption of innocence was violated was “manifestly ill-founded.”

Reasoned judgment in Mazlum Dolan’s trial issued

The Diyarbakır 5th High Criminal Court has issued its reasoned judgment in writing in the case against Mazlum Dolan, a former reporter for the shuttered Dicle News Agency (DİHA), who was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on the charge of "being a member of a terrorist organization."

The court held that the dispatches Dolan sent to the news agency could not be deemed within the scope of freedom of expression but should be considered an organizational act serving the organization’s purpose. The court wrote that Dolan visited trenches built by militants, interviewed members of the organization and the images and reports he sent to DİHA were utilized in “broadcasts against the state.”

One citizen jailed in Istanbul for "insulting the president"

An individual in Istanbul was jailed on 22 January 2021 on the allegation that he insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media. The individual who only goes by his initials, E.E., was initially arrested on the allegation that he “insulted” the mother of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Twitter and later released under judicial control measures. The state-run Anadolu Agency reported on 25 January 2021 that an indictment had been issued against E.E., demanding a prison sentence of up to 2 years and 4 months for "insulting a public official due to their duty.” The indictment was sent to the Bakırköy 36th Criminal Court of First Instance.

At least 83 journalists and media workers in prison 

P24 has updated its List of journalists and media workers in prison, compiled using information available in open sources, upon discovering that former Cihan news agency staff members Enis Öznük and Mutlu Özay have been released from prison. Accordingly, as of 29 January 2021, at least 83 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.


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