The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned the physical assault on Levent Gültekin, a columnist and programme host at Turkey’s Halk TV, on March 8, 2021 and called on Turkish authorities to open a prompt and thorough investigation to find the assailants and hold them to account.

Gültekin posted on social media that he had been attacked by around 25 assailants in front of Halk TV’s Istanbul office in Bakırköy as he was entering the station for his TV programme. Halk TV later released a CCTV footage that shows the assault. It shows Gültekin being attacked by a group of assailants and being kicked on the floor several times. Gültekin said later that he was seriously injured, though his fingers were broken while he was trying to protect his face. The journalist indicated that assault might be the result of his recent criticism toward the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a far-right political party that is allied with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Local news highlighted Gültekin’s criticism of deceased ultra-nationalist leader, MHP founder Alparslan Türkeş. The journalist had said Türkeş and his ideology had affected many young people and called nationalism an “illness”. Following those comments, MHP Vice Chair Semih Yalçın targeted Gültekin on March 4 social media, calling the journalist “miserable, minority nationalist, so-called journalist and enemy of Turks”.

“We strongly condemn physical assault on Levent Gültekin and request an immediate and thorough investigation into the assailants and perpetrators”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavas said. “The increasing attacks on journalists in Turkey, especially in apparent relation to criticism of ultranationalist politicians, are an extremely worrisome trend. Moreover, the lack of investigation and the resulting impunity show clearly that Turkey’s journalists are not protected by the authorities and that their safety is at risk. Turkish authorities cannot turn a blind eye toward such attacks.”

Recently, another journalist, Orhan Uğuroğlu, was attacked on January 15, 2021 by unknown assailants, apparently in response to Uğuroğlu criticism of the MHP.