February 20, 2012 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Coordinated attacks on Turkish newspaper’s offices in Europe

Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns last week’s almost simultaneous attacks on the offices of the conservative Turkish weekly Zaman in Germany and France by suspected supporters of Turkey’s Kurdish armed separatists.

“We are very worried by the growing violence of the attacks on Zaman,” Reporters Without Borders said. “There is no justification for these grave acts of intimidation that could have had tragic consequences. We hope that the German and French police will quickly identify and arrest all those who organized and carried out these attacks.

“The Turkish media should stop being regarded as extensions of the political forces in Turkey. Attacks on Zaman must not be used to target the government just as pro-Kurdish newspapers should not have to suffer because of the government’s fight against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). It is disturbing that journalists are increasingly paying a physical price for the persistent polarization of the Turkish media.”

The attack on the premises of Zaman France in the Paris suburb of Pantin was carried out at 2:40 p.m. on 15 February by about 15 hooded individuals, who threatened the journalists and ransacked the offices. No one was hurt but employees were traumatized and the damage was considerable. Computers, furniture, doors and windows were all smashed.

The newspaper has requested police protection and plans to move to a new location. It was the third attack on its premises in six months.

On the evening of the same day, individuals threw Molotov cocktails that damaged the entrance to the Zaman office in the German city of Cologne and attacked a nearby Turkish café soon afterwards. Two suspects, aged 17 and 22, were arrested.

The staff of Zaman France said the attack on their premises was claimed by the “Euphrates Revolutionary Revenge Brigade,” a small group that identifies itself as a PKK ally. The German police are also working on the assumption that the Cologne attack was the work of supporters of Kurdish separatists. The attacks took place on the anniversary of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s arrest in 1999.

The 28-year-old conflict between the Turkish government and PKK recently hotted up again with a series of deadly PKK attacks on Turkish soldiers and Turkish military bombardments of PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Turkey’s press is increasingly becoming a hostage to this conflict. Several dozen journalists working for leftist or pro-Kurdish media have been arbitrarily detained in recent months in an investigation into the KCK, a network accused of supporting the PKK. Around 30 who were arrested in simultaneous raids in several cities in December have still not been told what they are charged with. Arrests are continuing.

(Pictures: Zaman France)