The International Press Institute (IPI) condemned the Turkish police violence against journalists covering the protests yesterday, July 20, in Istanbul and İzmir, and called for an immediate end to the use of excessive force. According to local reports, at least 20 reporters and photojournalists were beaten by the police and injured by rubber bullets.

Local media reports how freelance (photo)journalists Emre Orman, Yasin Akgül, Zeynep Kuray, Ozan Acıdere, Fatoş Erdoğan of Dokuz8 News and photojournalists Bülent Kılıç of AFP and Erdem Şahin of EPA were attacked by the police while covering the commemoration and protests in Istanbul for the 33 people killed in a suicide bomb attack by the Islamic State (ISIL) in the southeastern province of Suruç, Gaziantep in 2015.

IPI spoke to freelance journalist Emre Orman, who was beaten by the police and injured with an officer’s fist in his eye. Orman stressed that this felt like the first all-out attack by the police targeting journalists since the Gezi Park protests in 2013. “We are used to be pushed around with police shields, and even hit by not-directly-aimed rubber bullets. But, for the first time since Gezi protests, it felt like we were directly targeted and aimed at with rubber bullets. I was pressed against the TOMA [anti-riot police vehicle] and hit in the face by a police officer but eventually managed to escape from them while they were trying to detain me”, Orman said.

Dokuz8 reporter Fatoş Erdoğan was reported to be injured in her hand in the clashes with a suspected broken finger. Several other journalists were seriously injured on their legs with rubber bullets. Many social media posts reported the police violence on protesters and journalists, including AFP photojournalist Bülent Kılıç, who had been previously assaulted and briefly detained while reporting on the Pride March in Istanbul last month, which was followed by large demonstrations against police violence against journalists by local groups in several cities. IPI showed its support and solidarity with Turkish journalists by joining the campaign via social media.

Orman said that since the protests in June against police violence, authorities had toned down their aggression towards journalists especially in terms of arbitrary detentions of journalists covering social events. However, Orman was seriously concerned about his safety if he would be detained: “I was afraid that if they detain me, they would simply take me somewhere to beat.”

Local journalists from Izmir similarly reported the incidents of police violence against journalists covering the protests.

IPI previously reported on the disproportionate use of force by the police against journalists and activists during protests and demonstrations. In April 2021, a police directive by the Security General Directorate (EGM) was sent to all police departments requesting officers to prevent audio and visual recordings of protests and public demonstrations.

“The number of cases where Turkish police use excessive force and violence against journalists has significantly increased over the last months. Journalists are responsible to provide the public with objective news and any attempt to prevent them from covering public events is a clear violation of public’s right to access information,” IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavas said.

“Turkish authorities must take all necessary measures to protect and ensure journalists’ safety on duty. The use of excessive force by the police against those who are exercising their fundamental rights such as right to protest and press freedom cannot be met with impunity.”