Global Freedom of Expression

The Case of Merve Buyuksarac

On Appeal Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    May 31, 2016
  • Outcome
    Imprisonment, Suspension of conviction issued against individual exercising FoE
  • Region & Country
    Turkey, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    Defamation / Reputation, Political Expression
  • Tags
    Insult, Internet, Social Media, Public Officials

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

A court in Istanbul handed down a 14 month suspended prison sentence to model and former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac for insulting the 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.


In 2014 Merve Buyuksarac, who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2006, shared a poem on the social media platform Instagram. The poem titled “the Master’s Poem” and referred to a high-level Turkish corruption scandal.[1] The poem was a satirical adaptation of the Turkish national anthem  which did not refer to Erdoğan by name but alluded to the corruption scandal involving his family. [4] Buyuksarac was briefly detained in 2015 for sharing the poem. [2]

Erdoğan’s lawyer argued that Buyuksarac’s posts on social media could not be considered criticism but instead were an attack on Erdoğan’s personal rights. [3]

Buyuksarac denied insulting Erdoğan [1] and spoke out against the verdict stating that she had been prosecuted and convicted for words that did not actually belong to her. [2]

[1] DW, Ex-Miss Turkey sentenced for insulting President Erdogan (May 31, 2016),

[2] AlJazeera, Former Miss Turkey found guilty of insulting Erdogan (Jun. 1, 2016),

[3] The Telegraph UK, Former Miss Turkey gets suspended sentence for insulting Erdogan (May 31, 2016),

[4] The New York Times, A Former Miss Turkey Is Convicted of Insulting President Erdogan (May 31, 2016), 

Decision Overview

Prosecutors argued that the post violated the acceptable scope of freedom of expression, exceeded the boundaries of criticism, and overtly humiliated the president.

Buyuksarac accepted that she may have quoted a poem called the “Master’s Poem” from weekly Turkish satirical magazine Uykusuz. However, she argued that she shared the poem because it was funny to to her. Thus, she denied any intent to insult the president.

The Istanbul court found Buyuksarac guilty of insulting the president and sentenced her to 14 months in prison. The sentence was suspended on condition that Buyuksarac did not re-offend for the next five years.[3]

[1] DW, Ex-Miss Turkey sentenced for insulting President Erdogan (May 31, 2016),  

[3] The Telegraph UK, Former Miss Turkey gets suspended sentence for insulting Erdogan (May 31, 2016), 

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 Buyuksarac’s lawyer stated that he intends to appeal her case.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

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. 125

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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