Türkiye to try 11 Kurdish journalists for “PKK membership”
Eleven journalists with pro-Kurdish media, accused of belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), are due to go on trial in Ankara on 16 May. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which will attend the opening of the trial, calls on the Turkish authorities to stop using the courts to muzzle opposition media outlets.
Although the 11 journalists – nine with the Mesopotamia Agency (MA) and two with the Jin News (“Women’s News”) website – are officially charged with being members of the PKK, which both Türkiye and the European Union regard as a terrorist organisation, the 210-page indictment accuses them more specifically of being part of the “media committee” of the KCK, a community organisation that supports the PKK.
In fact, the 11 journalists were not questioned about the PKK during their interrogation, but about their membership of Dicle Firat (“Tigris and Euphrates”), a pro-Kurdish association of journalists based in Diyarbakir also known as DFG, as well as about their reporting, their relationships with the media for which they work, their social media posts and their movements. Their interrogators also wanted to know who sent them out to do their reporting.
“The Turkish authorities must stop manipulating the justice system for political purposes. We call for the immediate release of all Kurdish journalists detained in Türkiye, who make it one of the biggest jailers of journalists in the world.”
RSF representative in Türkiye
Nine of the 11 journalists have been held since their arrest more than six months ago, on 29 October 2022. They are MA editor-in-chief Diren Yurtsever, six of her reporters (Berivan Altan, Deniz Nazlim, Selman Gozelyüz, Hakan Yalcın, Ceylan Şahinli and Emrullah Acar) and the two Jin News journalists, Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer. The two other MA journalists, Zemo Aggoz Yigitsoy and intern Mehmet Günhan, were released under judicial control shortly after their arrest by the police.
Another seven Kurdish journalist jailed in April
On 25 April, just three weeks before yesterday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, more than 120 people were arrested in a major police operation in pro-Kurdish circles in Diyarbakir and 20 other Turkish cities, including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Those arrested included 11 journalists. Four of them – MA subeditor Abdurrahman Gök, MA reporter Mehmet Sah Oruc, Jin News reporter Beritan Canozer and freelancer Remzi Akkaya – were jailed after two days in police custody.
Six others – Kadri Esen, the owner of the weekly Xwebûn; Osman Akın, the editor of the daily Yeni Yaşam; MAreporter Ahmet Kanbal; Pia production company cameraman Kadir Bayram; and freelancers Salih Keles and Mehmet Yalcin – were released under judicial control.
Another two journalists – MA subeditor Sedat Yilmaz and Dicle Firat journalists’ association co-director Dicle Muftuoglu – were arrested on 28 April, while freelancer Mikail Barut was arrested the following day.
In all, 32 pro-Kurdish journalists have been jailed by the Turkish authorities since June 2022 and are still being held in Diyarbakir or Ankara. Türkiye is ranked 165th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.