February 1, 2013 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Journalist badly wounded in embassy bombing, unacceptable comments by premier

Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn that Didem Tuncay, a Turkish journalist who until recently worked for the 24-hour news channel NTV, was critically injured by today’s suicide bombing at the US embassy in Ankara.

The bomb was set off by a man at the visitors’ entrance at around 1:30 p.m., killing at least one security guard as well as wounding Tuncay. Reporters Without Borders hopes she recovers quickly.

US ambassador Francis Ricciardone said Tuncay had been coming to have tea with him. NTV said she remained in a critical condition despite improving after being rushed to Ankara’s Numune Hospital.

She is in an intensive care unit where doctors are still examining the extent of her injuries. She reportedly sustained injuries to the neck, an eye and an ear but not to any vital organs.

“Our thought are with Didem Tuncay and her family, and the family of the other victim of this bombing,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We know that she is fighting a tough battle and we hope with all our heart that she will win.

“We hail the rapid police response and we await the investigation’s definitive conclusions with impatience. But we are extremely shocked by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to use this appalling crime to justify the jailing of dozens of journalists on terrorism charges.

“Combatting terrorism is necessary and legitimate, but it is intolerably cynical to use this occasion to justify the abusive treatment of journalists, especially when a journalist is one of the victims.”

The Turkish media quoted police sources as saying the suicide bomber had been identified as Ecevit Sanli, a member of an outlawed far-left group called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). Prime Minister Erdogan said he was identified by a facial mole. DNA testing is to be used to confirm the identification.

In his comments on the bombing, Erdogan went on to attack those who defend Turkey’s imprisoned journalists, many of whom are accused of colluding with terrorist groups.

“As the justice ministry has said many times, a considerable portion of the imprisoned journalists belong to the DHKP-C,” the prime minister said. “Some are in (preventive) custody and some have been convicted. If the activist who blew himself up today had possessed a press card, they would have called him a journalist. They would have taken up his case, saying ‘look where the journalist got to’.”

“Turkey is nowadays sadly known as the world’s biggest prison for journalists because the authorities who combat terrorism do not respect civil liberties,” Reporters Without Borders added. “Dozens of journalists, and other citizens, languish in prison for months or years without trial, on the basis of charges that are unsupported.

“Turkey does not need scapegoats to combat terrorism. It needs police who are effective and respect the rule of law. And it needs authorities ready to press on with the overhaul of anti-terrorism legislation, in order to better define its applicability and limit arbitrary interpretation.”

A total of eighty journalists and media assistants are currently jailed in Turkey. Nine of them are accused of colluding with the DHKP-C.

Despite having diverse and lively news media, Turkey was ranked 154th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, which was published this week.

(Photo: Adem Altan / AFP)