Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of Barış İnce

On Appeal Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    March 8, 2016
  • Outcome
  • Region & Country
    Turkey, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation, Political Expression
  • Tags
    Insult, Public Officials, Criminal Defamation

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The Istanbul Court of First Instance sentenced Barış İnce, a journalist and editor of the Turkish leftist newspaper Birgün, to 21 months in prison for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.


Barış İnce is a journalist and the editor of the leftist daily newspaper Birgün. He was first taken to court  in 2014, to answer to charges of defamation and “violation of secrecy” for his newspaper’s coverage of allegations of corruption that had been made against President Erdoğan when he was prime minister, as well as against his son, Bilal. [1] Erdogan and the ruling party had stated that the coverage amounted to a plot to overthrow the government. [3] At trial, İnce presented his written defense. The first letter of each paragraph spelled out the phrase “Hırsız Tayyip”,  which means Tayyip the Thief. [1] Ince argued that it was a complete coincidence, but added that maybe it was “an act of God.” [2]

On December 10, 2015 he was sentenced to a suspended term of 11 months in prison. However, when Birgün published the relevant parts of the defense on its front page, prosecutors brought him to trial on additional charges of insulting the president under article 299 of Turkey’s Penal Code. [1]

[1] Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkish journalist sentenced to 21 months in prison for insulting Erdoğan, (Mar. 9, 2016),

[2] RT, Turkish journalist sentenced for insulting Erdogan while on trial for previous offense, (Mar. 9, 2016),

[3] The Turkish Sun, Turkish Journalist Ince Sentenced To 21 Months In Jail For ‘Insulting President Erdogan’, (Mar. 9, 2016),


Decision Overview

The Istanbul Court of First Instance on 8 March 2016 found that İnce had violated article 299 of Turkey’s Penal Code. This provisions allows for penalties of up to four years and eight months for insulting the president.[1]

İnce is free pending appeal [1].

[1] Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkish journalist sentenced to 21 months in prison for insulting Erdoğan (Mar. 9, 2016),

[4] Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish journalist sentenced to 21 months in jail for ‘insulting Erdoğan’, (Mar. 8, 2016),  erdogan.aspx?PageID=238&NID=96195&NewsCatID=339

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The ruling limits criticism of the President in contravention of established jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. Following the ruling Birgün stated he will appeal his sentence to the Constitutional Court.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Turk., Penal Code, art. 299

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

Official Case Documents

Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:

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