On July 1, 2020, it was reported that Kayıhan Pala, a professor in the Department of Public Health at the School of Medicine in Uludağ University, had become the subject of a university disciplinary investigation after he publicly shared his research findings on COVID-19 cases in the city of Bursa.
Professor Pala is a member of the Turkish Medical Association’s COVID-19 Monitoring Group. In that role, he prepares regular medical reports on the state of the pandemic. On April 20, 2020, he gave an interview to the website enbursa.com in which he alleged, based on his research, that the city was suppressing data on COVID-19 cases and fatalities. In response, the Provincial Administration Board in the Office of the Governor of Bursa brought a criminal complaint against Professor Pala with the Bursa Public Prosecutor’s Office, alleging that he had misinformed the public and incited public panic. The prosecutor’s office declined to take the case on the grounds that it lacked jurisdiction to do so. Shortly thereafter, however, the prosecutor’s office reportedly submitted the file to Uludağ University, which brought a disciplinary action against Professor Pala.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the threat of criminal action and an administrative investigation against a scholar in retaliation for his public communication concerning subject matter within his field of expertise. Criminal or administrative actions against scholars, in retaliation for communications relating to their expertise, erode academic freedom and freedom of expression, and harm democratic society generally.