Journalist held over reporting on Turkey’s intervention in Libya
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Müyesser Yildiz, the Ankara-based OdaTV website’s news director, who is being held for “divulging confidential information” about Turkey’s intervention in Libya. The Turkish authorities must stop obstructing the freedom to inform, RSF said.
Yildiz was initially accused of “espionage with a political or military aim” when taken into police custody on the morning of 8 June after being arrested at her home in the Turkish capital, Ankara. But, when jailed on the orders of a local judge on 12 June, she was charged with “divulging confidential information about the country’s security and its interests at the national or international level.”
Ismail Dükel, the Ankara representative of Tele 1, a TV channel critical of the government, was arrested at the same time as Yildiz but has been released under judicial control. Both journalists are facing a possible sentence of 5 to15 years in prison.
Yildiz and Dükel are being prosecuted in connection with their telephone contacts with an army NCO who allegedly provided them with information about Turkey’s intervention in Libya.
The judge refused to release Yildiz on the grounds of a “risk of flight and harm to prosecution evidence.” He also referred to two articles she wrote for the OdTV site, one in December 2019 and the other January 2020, questioning the legitimacy of the officers placed in command of the Turkish forces deployed in Libya and the nature of their relations with Libya’s Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
“We call on Ankara to put a stop to these abusive practices that jeopardize not only the confidentiality of journalists’ sources but also their physical safety,” RSF Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu said. “The repressive arsenal protecting state secrets must not be used for such purposes or to flout the democratic debate.”
Yildiz’s lawyer, Erhan Tokatli, said the police were aiming to seize her equipment and files in order to identify her sources. He also accused them of failing to provide a copy of the digital data already seized or a copy of the warrant for the search of Yildiz’s home, which is the usual procedure.
Yildiz already spent 18 months in prison in 2011-12 with OdaTV journalists Baris Terkoglu and Baris Pehlivan (who have been jailed again since 6 March). Back then, they were alleged to have been supporting Ergenekon, a Turkish nationalist political network accused by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of wanting to destabilize his government. All three ended up being acquitted.
Turkey is ranked154th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.