The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, called on Turkey to refrain from attacks that compromise journalist safety following the death and injuries sustained by journalists during the military operation in northern Syria over the week.
Saad Al-Ahmad, a reporter for Hawar News Agency (ANHA), was killed and Turkish journalists Ersin Çaksu, Mehmet Ekinci, Bircan Yıldız and Rojbin Ekin, as well as several local journalists and two French journalists reported by France24, were injured when their civilian convoy was struck during Turkish air raids on October 13. Mohamed Hussain, a correspondent for Çira TV, died the following day as a result of his injuries.
Two days earlier, journalists had also come under fire from the mostly Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units), a key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the border town of Nusaybin in the southeastern province of Mardin, Turkey.
Meanwhile, within Turkey, the authorities have been conducting their own parallel operations against critical journalists and dissenting voices.
Within 24 hours of the start of operations on October 9, the police had launched a wave of arrests and opened 78 investigations against individuals who had posted criticisms of the military action, including two journalists later released under judicial control.
The chief prosecutor’s office in Istanbul issued a statement warning that a comprehensive investigation was ongoing against people who “target the social and domestic peace, the unity and the security of the Republic of Turkey”, with “any kind of suggestive news, written or visual publication/broadcast” including content on social media accounts, to be examined under Turkish penal code and anti-terrorism legislation.
In what appeared as a co-ordinated statement, the Radio and Television High Council (RTÜK), which monitors both on-air and online broadcasters, threatened censorship in a statement that warned it will not tolerate anti-operation reporting “sourced by terrorist organizations”.
🔴IPI concerned as #Turkey‘s Broadcast Council @rtukkurumsal threatens censorship over #Syria operation, warns it will not tolerate anti-operation reporting “sourced by terrorist organisations”https://t.co/3148evRfHw via @evrenselgzt #FreeTurkeyJournalists pic.twitter.com/XTfpVsvQR1
— IPI (@globalfreemedia) October 11, 2019
Further incidents reported to date include:
• On October 11, police raided the house of Beritan Canözer, a reporter for the pro-Kurdish news agency Jinnews as part of a second investigation against 22 more people launched in Diyarbakır.
• On October 12, Turkish forces arrested Zidan Zanklo, a correspondent for Saudi Al-Arabiya Television, on the Syrian border confiscating his work permit and canceling his visa. The deportation of Zanklo and another correspondent Ehab Kamal Shohahdh Al-Momani was revoked on October 14.
• On October 12, Burcu Özkaya Günaydın, a columnist for Ahval news in the city of Hatay, was briefly detained after sharing social media posts critical of the military offensive.
• On October 14, the accreditation of Altan Sancar, a reporter for the UK Independent, the German Taz newspaper and Ozguruz.org was withdrawn by the Communications Directorate of the Presidential Office after four days of reporting on northern Syria.
“While journalists are losing lives and risking limbs reporting the conflict unfolding in Northern Syria, Turkish authorities at home are unrolling an operation to purge dissent from the country’s public space”, IPI Turkey Programme Manager Oliver Money-Kyrle said. “No distinction is made between social media comments or serious journalistic analysis. Public criticism is being met with terrorism charges.”