Turkey: 25 journalists imprisoned in half a year
In just half a year, 25 Kurdish journalists were imprisoned in Turkey. On the day of the sixth month of the first arrests, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Turkish authorities to make the indictments public immediately and to take urgent measures to safeguard the rights of journalists and press freedom.
Six months have passed since the arrest of sixteen Kurdish journalists, suspected of “belonging to a terrorist group” in the Turkish Southeast province of Diyarbakir on 16 June. While the indictment of the case is still not prepared, nine more Kurdish journalists were arrested on 29 October with the same accusations and put in prison. In just half a year, thirty journalists working in the pro-Kurdish media were detained and 25 of them have been put in prison in Turkey. RSF urges the Turkish authorities to make the indictments public as soon as possible, and to let free journalists if the charges remain purely based on their professional activities. They should also take urgent measures to avoid abusive arrest of journalists.
“Six years after the Coup attempt, after which Turkey became the biggest prison for journalists in the world, the country dramatically returns to its bad habits of massively imprisoning media representatives, as a result of increased political interference to judiciary under authoritarian polity toward Kurdish question and Kurdish media environment. Imprisoning journalists to serve days and months sentences without even being charged or convicted is unacceptable.
NO TRIAL FOR SIX MONTHS
Since the failure of peace negotiations with the PKK in Spring 2015, Turkey is been carrying out an offensive against this organization (defined as “terrorist” by the EU and Ankara) in Turkey, but also conducting a wide scale repression against critical media, academics and human rights movement. Because of these last massive incarcerations, Turkey comes closer, as in 2016, 2017 and 2018 under state of emergency, to the countries that imprison the most journalists in the world.
Working for media and production companies focused on Kurdish society, twenty journalists were taken under custody on 8 June, and after eight days in jail, sixteen of them were imprisoned with the accusations of "being a member of a terrorist organization – the PKK" (Kurdistan Workers' Party).
The imprisoned are Serdar Altan, co-president of the association Dicle and Firat Journalists Association (DFG); Safiye Alagas, director of the women's news agency JinNews; Mehmet Ali Ertas, editor-in-chief of the Xwebûn site; Aziz Oruc, the editor of the Mezopotamya Agency (MA); as well as Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Omer Celik, Mazlum Dogan Güler, İbrahim Koyuncu, Nese Toprak, Elif Üngür, Abdurrahman Oncü, Suat Doguhan, Remziye Temel, Ramazan Geciken, Ayse Kara, Lezgin Akdeniz and Mehmet Sahin.
According to their lawyers, joined by RSF, they were questioned during their interrogation about their alleged “link” with pro-PKK media based in Europe. Their social media activities, their relations with their colleagues, their approach to the “Kurdish issue”, their definition of “war” for the clashes in Northern Iraq and Syria border were also questioned.
In the sixth month of their arrest, they haven't yet had a trial and no indictment has been prepared against them.
JOURNALISTIC ACTIVITIES ARE QUESTIONED
End of October, ten more Kurdish journalists were taken under custody in Turkish Capital Ankara with the same accusations. Journalists from the Mezopotamya Agency (MA) and JinNews, MA Editor-in-Chief Diren Yurtsever, MA reporters Berivan Altan, Deniz Nazlim, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalcın, Ceylan Sahinli, Emrullah Acar, and JinNews reporters Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer were arrested on 29 October. Mehmet Günhan, who was a trainee at MA for a while, was released on condition of judicial control.
During the court interrogation, the journalists were questioned about their membership in the Dicle and Firat Journalists Association (DFG), their news, media connections, social media posts and travels. They were asked from whom they received instructions to make their news.
Turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index.