The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists for press freedom, today called on the government of Turkey to immediately release nine journalists who were arrested in a country-wide crackdown this week.
On Tuesday, August 20, police arrested six journalists who were covering protests against the dismissal of municipal mayors of the three Kurdish-majority cities of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van. On the same day, Ayşegül Tözeren a writer and columnist for the newspaper Evrensel, was detained by police in Istanbul.
Tözeren was initially denied access to her lawyers, a restriction that was only lifted by the prosecutor the next morning. She was brought to court today for a first questioning by the prosecutor despite not knowing the official charges against her. Tözeren was released after the questioning with an international travel ban.
During a second wave of police operations in Istanbul on the night of August 22, Taylan Öztaş, a reporter for the newspaper Özgür Gelecek, was reportedly detained in a during a raid on his house.
Earlier that day, ETHA reporter Tunahan Turhan, who was covering a demonstration in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district in solidarity with the protests in pro-Kurdish cities, was detained during an ID check by police and summoned to give a statement.
The protests had been sparked by the decision of Turkey’s Interior Ministry to dismiss pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors in three cities and replace them with appointed trustees. Numerous protesters and journalists covering the event were injured or detained amid clashes between the police and demonstrators. On Thursday, the chief public prosecutor of Van was reported to have filed an ex officio investigation against the police for excessive use of force.
The six journalists were arrested as police dispersed protests in Mardin with tear gas and water cannons, according to local media reports. Those detained are Mezopotamya News Agency reporters Ahmet Kanbal and Mehmet Şah Oruç; Jin News Agency reporter Rojda Aydın; and freelance journalists Nurcan Yalçın, Halime Parlak and Yelda Çiçek.
Additionally, on August 19, Ziyan Karahan, the Kurdish-language editor of the Mezopotamya News Agency, was detained in Diyarbakır while covering the “trustee” protests. She and the other nine are among hundreds of journalists jailed across Turkey as part of a country-wide crackdown against journalists on terror-related charges.
IPI Director of Advocacy Ravi R. Prasad said the arrests were another example of the Turkish government’s sustained campaign against press freedom. “These most recent detentions of journalists for simply doing their job is the latest in a slew of violations of press freedom rights and attempts to silence independent media in Turkey”, Prasad said. “IPI firmly condemns the arrests and demands the immediate release of all ten journalists.”
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world, with more than 130 currently behind bars.