Home / Articles / Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 284

07 March

Freedom of Expression and the Press in Turkey - 284

Turkey among not free countries in Freedom House report; journalist Mustafa Gökkılıç sentenced, released; case file sent to prosecutor in Taraf trial


Journalist Alican Uludağ faces new investigation

An investigation was launched against journalist Alican Uludağ for a social media post in which he commented on the review of the detention of journalists including Hülya Kılınç, Barış Terkoğlu and Barış Pehlivan, who were arrested in March 2020 over their coverage of the funeral of a Turkish intelligence official killed in Libya.

Uludağ gave his statement on 4 March 2021 within the scope of the investigation initiated by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on the allegation of “insulting a public official.”

HDP MP Gergerlioğlu files application with Constitutional Court

Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Kocaeli Deputy and Member of the Parliamentary Human Rights Inquiry Commission Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu has filed an application with the Constitutional Court after a prison sentence he had been given in 2018 was recently upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

The application claimed that the penalty imposed on Gergerlioğlu for a tweet he had shared on his social media account violated Gergerlioğlu's freedom of expression and the right to engage in political activities through political intervention.

Gergerlioğlu, who stood trial over a news article he had shared in August 2016 on social media, was sentenced in February 2018 to 2 years and 6 months in prison for “terrorism propaganda” by the Kocaeli 2nd High Criminal Court. The sentence was upheld by the 16th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals last month.

Freedom House report: Turkey still among not free countries

The US-based non-governmental organization Freedom House published its 2021 World Freedom Report this week. Turkey is once again among countries that are not free in this year’s report. Scoring 32 points out of 100, Turkey ranked 151st among the 210 countries and territories cited in the report.

The report’s Turkey section read: Prosecutions and campaigns of harassment against opposition politicians, prominent members of civil society, independent journalists and critics of Turkey’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy continued throughout the year. Authorities launched criminal investigations against medical professionals who released independent information about the Covid-19 outbreak or criticized the official response. Hundreds of ordinary people were arrested for their social media posts related to the coronavirus.

The prosecutor’s opinion is expected in Taraf trial

The trial where the former administrators of the shuttered Taraf newspaper Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar and Yıldıray Oğur and reporter Mehmet Baransu are prosecuted on the allegation that a secret military document called “Egemen Harekat Planı” (sovereign operation plan) was published in the newspaper, continued at the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court on 4 March 2021.

Announcing its interim decision at the end of the hearing, the court decided to continue the detention of Baransu. The court rejected the requests to expand the investigation because it would not contribute to the file and decided to send the file to the prosecutor's office to prepare the opinion on the merits and adjourned the trial until 2 June.

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

Trial against journalists Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir put on hold

The trial where journalists Sibel Hürtaş and Hayri Demir are prosecuted on the charges of  "inciting hatred and hostility" (Article 216) and "making terrorist propaganda" (TMK 7) due to their news reports and social media posts on Turkey’s operations against northern Syrian city, Afrin, continued on 4 March 2021.

The Ankara 15th High Criminal Court decided to ask the Ministry of Justice for permission to prosecute and to suspend the trial against them since the actions of 11 defendants who were tried in the case were likely to be charged with the crime in TCK 301/1.

Trial against Dündar and Kızılkaya was postponed until July

The 16th hearing of the trial in which journalist Can Dündar, who participated in the on-duty Editor-in-Chief campaign launched in solidarity with the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which was closed by a decree, and the former managing editor of the newspaper İnan Kızılkata were tried for "insulting a public official" was held on 4 March 2021.

Lawyers of Dündar and Kızılkaya were present at the hearing, monitored by P24. It was recorded in the report that the rogatory documents sent about Dündar to the German judicial authorities were returned without any action. Deciding to wait for the arrest warrant’s execution against Dündar, the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance adjourned the trial until 13 July.

The case was filed upon the complaint of Istanbul 1st Criminal Judge of Peace, Bekir Altun.

Özgür Gündem trial adjourned

The 18th hearing of a trial where the former Chief Editors of the Özgür Gündem newspaper Hüseyin Aykol and Zana Kaya, former Managing Editor İnan Kızılkaya, and Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle are charged with “publicly denigrating the government, judicial bodies of the state and security forces,” and “publicly denigrating the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey and the Grand NAtional Assembly” was held at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on the same date.

P24 monitored the hearing, where Özcan Kılıç and Sercan Korkmaz, the lawyers of Aykol, Kaya and Kızılkaya, were present. The court decided to wait for the execution of the arrest warrant for Dicle and adjourned the trial until 13 July.

“KCK Press trial” adjourned until June

The 21st hearing of the “KCK Press trial,” in which 46 journalists and media workers are charged with "being a member of a terrorist organization" and "making propaganda for a terrorist organization," was held on 4 March 2021.

P24 monitored the hearing, where lawyers representing the defendants were present. Issuing an interim ruling, the Istanbul 3rd High Criminal Court adjourned the trial until 22 June awaiting the submission of requested documents.

Oktay Candemir acquitted of "insulting the president"

Journalist Oktay Candemir was acquitted in the trial where he was charged with "insulting the President" due to his column article on 5 September 2019.

The third hearing of the case was held on 4 March 2021. Candemir's lawyer Erhan Çiftçiler stated that his client's article is within the scope of freedom of expression and demanded his acquittal. The presiding prosecutor, who presented his opinion, demanded that Candemir be punished.

Announcing its verdict, the Van 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance decided to acquit Candemir because the crime elements did not occur.

Final hearing of journalist Arif Aslan’s trial set for 18 March

The trial of journalist Arif Aslan, who was detained and jailed when he and journalist Selman Keleş were video recording in front of Van Metropolitan Municipality, where a trustee was appointed in 2017, and released at the first hearing of the trial opened against them on charges of "membership in a terrorist organization," continued on 4 March 2021.

The Van 5th High Criminal Court, which accepted Aslan and his lawyer’s request for additional time to prepare a defense against the opinion presented at the previous hearing, adjourned the case to the 18th of March.

Journalist Rojhat Doğru's trial adjourned until May

The trial of journalist Rojhat Doğru on charges of "violating the unity of the state and indivisible unity of the country,” "being a member of a terrorist organization" and "making terrorist propaganda" due to some witnesses’ statements about him as evidence continued on 4 March 2021 at the Diyarbakır 8th High Criminal Court.

The court adjourned the trial to the 4th of May due to the failure to hear the witness testimony about Doğru.

Trial against Abdullah Kaya postponed to July

The 14th hearing of the trial against Abdullah Kaya, a former reporter of the Dicle News Agency (DİHA), which was shot down with a statutory decree, on charges of "being a member of a terrorist organization" and "making terrorist propaganda" on the grounds of following the news he reported at the Peace and Nature Festival was held in Ağrı Mountain in September 2014 continued on 4 March 2021.

At the Ağrı 2nd High Criminal Court hearing, Kaya stated that he would not make a defense in his lawyer’s absence. The court adjourned the trial until 1 July.

Mustafa Gökkılıç sentenced to 8 years 4 months, released

The final hearing of the "MIT plot" case which was opened on the grounds that MIT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan was called to testify on 7 February 2012 against 18 defendants, in which 10 of whom were detained, including Habertürk TV former reporter Mustafa Gökkılıç, was held on 3 March 2021.

The Istanbul 23rd High Criminal Court, which announced its verdict at the end of the hearing, sentenced Gökkılıç to a total of 8 years and four months -6 years and three months in prison for "being a member of an armed terrorist organization" and to 2 years and one month in jail for "violating the confidentiality of the investigation." The court ordered Gökkılıç's release on the condition of judicial control, taking into account the time he spent in prison.

At the first hearing of the case on 22 June 2020, the court had decided to hold the hearings closed due to the possibility of disclosure of documents and information that could endanger public security and impose a broadcast ban on the content of the hearing.

Trial against journalist Nurcan Yalçın adjourned until June

The third hearing of the lawsuit filed against journalist Nurcan Yalçın on charges of "being a member of an organization" and "making propaganda for a terrorist organization" within the Rosa Women's Association investigation scope was held on 3 March 2021.

Yalçın's lawyer, Resul Tamur, was present at the Diyarbakır 9th High Criminal Court hearing. Att. Tamur stated that they had requests for an extended investigation and did not accept the anonymous witness statement’s adverse issues.

Rejecting Tamur's requests, the court board accepted the prosecutor’s office’s request for an additional time to prepare the final opinion and adjourned the case to the 9th of June.

Trial against Ferhat Tunç postponed until September

The ninth hearing of the trial where musician Ferhat Tunç is triad on the charge of "inciting the public to hatred and enmity" was held on 3 March 2021.

Tunç's lawyer Fırat Mehmetoğlu was present at the hearing held at the Büyükçekmece 4th Criminal Court of First Instance. During the hearing, it was reported that the Darmstadt Prosecutor’s Office rejected the request for the statement of Tunç, who was in Germany, to be taken by rogatory, and the file was returned.

Announcing its interim decision, the court decided to wait to execute the arrest warrant issued against Tunç and adjourned the trial until 22 September 2021.

Fatih Portakal acquitted in trial of both charges against him

The third hearing of former Fox TV news anchor Fatih Portakal’s trial on charges of "violating the Banking Law" and "insulting the president" due to a social media post dated 6 April 2020 was held on 2 March 2021 at the Istanbul 46th Criminal Court of First Instance. Portakal was acquitted of both charges against him.

Two separate indictments issued for the same social media post were merged at the first hearing on 24 September 2020.

Compensation case filed by Mehmet Altan over his unlawful detention postponed until April

The fifth hearing of the compensation case filed by journalist, writer and academic Mehmet Altan for his wrongful detention lasting nearly two years as part of the "Altans trial,” where he was eventually acquitted, was held on 2 March 2021.

The Anadolu 11th High Criminal Court decided to send the file to an expert again and request a report once the requested documents are submitted and adjourned the trial until 22 April.

Access to Mezopotamya news agency, ETHA websites banned

An access ban was imposed on the Mezopotamya news agency (MA) website by the 1st Criminal Judgeship of Peace in Osmaniye on 2 March 2021. With this decision, access to MA's website was blocked a second time in a week.

An access ban was imposed on Etkin news agency’s (ETHA) website by the Diyarbakır 5th Criminal Judgeship of Peace on 1 March 2021.

Akpınar and Gezen acquitted of "insulting the president"

The final hearing of actors Müjdat Gezen and Metin Akpınar’s trial on the charge of "insulting the president" due to their speech on 21 December 2018 in the program “Halk Arenası” hosted by Uğur Dündar, was held on 1 March 2021. The Anadolu 8th Criminal Court of First Instance, which announced its verdict at the end of the hearing in which Akpınar and Gezen did not attend, ruledboth actors’ acquittal.

Erk Acarer to pay compensation for 2017 article 

The final hearing of the compensation case filed upon the complaint of Adnan Tanrıverdi, the founder of SADAT International Defense Consultancy company and the company itself, for the news report entitled "SADAT in the Army and the Judiciary" (“Orduda ve Yargıda SADAT”) dated June 2017, published by Erk Acerer, a program host the Artı TV program and columnist of the BirGün newspaper was held on 26 February 2021.

The Istanbul 18th Civil Court of First Instance, which announced its decision at the hearing at which Acarer and his lawyer did not attend by stating an excuse, ruled that Acarer would pay TL 5,000 to the company TL 5,000 to Tanrıverdi -- a total of TL 10,000.

The BTK had previously blocked access to Acarer’s article.

Top court: advertisement ban violates freedom of expression

The Constitutional Court ruled that a ban on public advertisement imposed by the Public Advertisement Authority (BİK) on Korkusuz newspaper violated freedom of expression and the press, safeguarded under articles 26 and 28 of the Constitution. Reviewing the application dated July 2017 on 13 January 2021, the Second Section of the Constitutional Court decided to send a copy of the decision to the Küçükçekmece 2nd Civil Court of First Instance for a retrial to eliminate the consequences of the violation.

At least 80 journalists and media workers in prison 

Following the release of Mustafa Gökkılıç this week, as of 5 March 2021, at least 80 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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