The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) has been running a trial monitoring program since 2018 in cooperation with numerous international civil society organizations. In the program, freedom of expression trials are monitored to ensure that the right to a fair trial, which has been determined as a fundamental human right by numerous treaties and conventions to which Turkey is also a party, is upheld and any violations are recorded.
The program continued in May 2022 with the assistance of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Turkey Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
174 people before courts: Peace Mothers, journalists, students, politicians…
In May, MLSA monitored 43 hearings of 41 trials held in 11 different cities with 13 court monitors. In 4 out of 10 cases of which the first hearings were held in May, journalists were the only defendants.
In 30 hearings out of 43 monitored in May, MLSA court monitors were the only ones monitoring the hearings following a clear methodology focusing on the right to a fair trial.
In May, 174 people appeared before courts, including 79 activists, 37 journalists and 20 students.
At the hearings of 29 separate trials held in May, 37 journalists appeared before the court. The ratio of terrorism-related charges among the charges was recorded at 45%. It was mostly journalists against whom terrorism-related charges were leveled.
26% of the evidence cited for terrorism-related charges was the news articles, photos and publications of the journalists. Social media posts were also among the most cited evidence for terrorism-related charges.
“Offenses against the public peace” which are stipulated under the Fifth Section of the Turkish Penal Code was the second biggest category of charges in May. People who are tried in 5 separate cases faced the charges included in this category and the ratio of this category was recorded at 14% in May.
29 month prison sentence in total for 2 journalists and judicial fine for Berkin Elvan articles
Courts handed down prison sentences in two cases in which journalists stood trial. Journalist Reyhan Çapan was sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in prison for “printing or publishing the leaflets of terrorist organizations” because of a news article published on the since-shuttered Özgür Gündem daily on July 12, 2015.
Another journalist who was sentenced to prison in May was Zelal Tunç who had reported on the squandering of public resources by the trustee appointed to the Muradiye Municipality in Van. The court sentenced Tunç to 11 months and 20 days in prison for “insulting a public official.”
The İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance imposed judicial fines of 12500 Turkish Liras on Özgür Gündem daily’s editor-in-chief Eren Keskin and managing editor Reyhan Çapan. The court reasoned that Keskin and Çapan “published news in a way which disclosed the identities of victims or perpetrators of crimes under the age of 18” citing the news articles about Berkin Elvan who was killed by the police during the Gezi Park protests.
You can read the full report here.