The International Press Institute (IPI) condemned today the police violence against Agence France-Presse (AFP) photojournalist Bülent Kılıç while he was covering the Pride March in Istanbul on June 26. Kılıç, who is an award-winner photojournalist in Turkey, posted on social media that police officers had pressed their knees into his back and throat, leaving him unable to breathe.

Kılıç was taken into custody and released three hours later after his initial statement was taken at the police station. However, Kılıç said he planned to file a criminal complaint against the police officers for disproportionate use of force.

“Police violence against citizens, protestors and journalists covering public demonstrations has been intensified in recent years in Turkey, and has been given further cover by a police directive in April 2021 granting the power to stop anyone reporting on protests. Bülent Kılıç’s brutal detention while covering the Pride March was merely the clearest example of disproportionate use of force by the police,” IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavas said. “No journalist’s safety can be risked due to police brutality. We stand in solidarity with Kılıç in his search for justice against police violence.”

In videos reported from the march, Kılıç was heard saying “I can’t breathe” while the police officers pressed their knees on his back. The incident recalled images of the murder of George Floyd by police officer in the U.S. who had pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. Many other civilians, protestors and journalists who were covering the march were reportedly targeted by police violence on Saturday. Videos taken by journalists and citizens showed several incidents of police targeting journalists in an attempt to prevent them from taking any footage and asking to see their press cards.

In April 2021, Turkey’s Security General Directorate (EGM) sent a directive to all police departments in the country requesting officers to prevent audio and visual recordings of protests and public demonstrations. The note circulated was seen as a clear move to prevent citizens and journalists from reporting on human rights violations.