SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: December 10, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Karadeniz Technical University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Turkey

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 10, 2018, Turkish authorities reportedly arrested Berivan Bila, a journalism student at Karadeniz Technical University, on a charge of “insulting the president,” apparently in retaliation for an article she wrote about press freedom.

In July 2017, Ms. Bila published an article over social media titled “Journalism is Not a Crime.” The article, which was in response to the detention of Cumhuriyet reporters, reportedly expressed concern over press freedom in Turkey and criticism of state authorities’ actions.

In early December 2018, state authorities reportedly issued a warrant for Ms. Bila’s arrest on a charge of “insulting the president,” in connection with the July 2017 article. On December 10, she was taken into custody and, as of this report, remains in pre-trial detention. A date for her first hearing has not been publicly announced.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest of a student in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against such conduct, so long as it is carried out peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arbitrary arrests undermine freedom of expression, academic freedom, and democratic society generally.

UPDATE: On December 17, 2018, Bila was released on probation.