Another wave of arrests of Kurdish journalists in Türkiye
At least ten journalists with pro-Kurdish media outlets were arrested on 25 April for alleged membership of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Turkish authorities to release them and stop these repeated press freedom violations.
The journalists were among the more than 100 people, including lawyers and local politicians, who were arrested in a major police operation on 25 April – 19 days ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections – targeting pro-Kurdish opposition circles in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir and 20 other cities in Türkiye, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
“It seems clear that this was a political manoeuvre designed to dismantle pro-Kurdish media and destabilise opposition parties before the elections. These arrests, which have become so frequent that they no longer cause astonishment, constitute appalling violations of press freedom that must end at once. We call on the authorities to stop using the justice system to suppress media pluralism.
The victims included Abdurrahman Gök, an editor with the Mesopotamia Agency (MA), Ahmet Kanbal, an MA reporter, Osman Akın, the editor of the daily Yeni Yaşam, Kadri Esen, the owner of the weekly Xwebûn, and freelancer Mehmet Yalçın, who were arrested on the morning of 25 April in Diyarbakir.
The MA reported that Beritan Canözer (JinNews), Mehmet Şah Oruç (MA), Mikail Barut, Salih Keleş and Remzi Akkaya were among the journalists arrested later in the day for “PKK membership.”
The details of the investigation are not yet known as the Diyarbakir prosecutor’s office has ruled that it must remain confidential. Sources told RSF that the journalists would be transferred to the security directorate in Diyarbakir for questioning. Under Türkiye’s code of criminal procedure, they can be held for an initial period of four days that a judge can extend for another four days.
25 Kurdish journalists jailed in 2022
Since mid-2022, the number of journalists being imprisoned has increased dramatically in Türkiye, which is again one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists, as it was immediately after the abortive coup in July 2016.
These arrests follow earlier waves of arrests in June and October 2022, in which 25 pro-Kurdish journalists and media representative were jailed. Their trials on charges of “PKK membership” opened in Ankara and Diyarbakir on 16 May and 11 July respectively.