A freelancer for various media outlets including Orient XXI, Middle East Eye and The Guardian, Sylvain Mercadier was stopped by police on landing at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the evening of 19 March with the aim of travelling to Diyarbakir province in the southeast of the country to cover the Kurdish New Year celebrations (Newroz).
After a two-hour interrogation, he was held overnight with refugees from various countries and was put on the first flight back to Paris-Orly the next morning. According to a document provided by the police, he was regarded as a threat to Turkey’s “public security.”
“The Turkish authorities have been taking a tougher approach to journalists working for international media, especially since the Gezi Park protests in the spring of 2013, the resumption of fighting with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in July 2015 and the abortive coup attempt in July 2016,” RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoglu said. “Bans on entering the country and arbitrary prosecutions have become routine. We urge the Turkish government to respect the democratic rights of media personnel.”
Mercadier wrote in a tweet on his return: “In this country, as in many authoritarian regimes, ‘security’ is often an excuse for imposing repressive measures.” Referring to Turkey’s second largest opposition party, the pro-Kurdish HDP, he added: “Ankara doesn’t want foreign journalists documenting the witchhunt being waged against the HDP. Ankara continues to dodge the Kurdish issue by carrying out repressive and populist policies.”
Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.