The International Press Institute (IPI) condemned today physical assaults against two local journalists in Turkey and called on authorities to hold those responsible to account. Both journalists were reporting on construction works carried out by the public authorities. IPI renews its call to end impunity in cases of attacks against journalists in Turkey where attackers often go unpunished.
On June 21, 2021, İbrahim Akkuş, a correspondent for the nationalist Yeniçağ newspaper in the northern coastal province of Samsun, was assaulted by a group of contracting company employees while covering the opening ceremony of a recently built public hospital. Akkuş had previously reported on building deficiencies, including the contracting company’s wrongdoingslacking and low quality construction in the hospital. After attending the hospital’s opening ceremony, he reported that the public hospital was opened despite the fact that the identified deficiences detected had not been fully rectified. The same day, when he went to the local municipality for further information on hospital’s public works and settlement, Akkuş was attacked by employees of the contracting company, suffering light injuries to his head and back. He filed a complaint against three assailants who were released after their initial statements were taken at the police station.
On June 22, 2021, Mustafa Uslu, a correspondent for İhlas News Agency (İHA) was assaulted by four people who were allegedly farm workers while covering the removal of a farm owned by Lütfü Türkkan, a national MP for the Good Party, in the western province of Kocaeli. The municipality had ordered the removal following the detection of 11 illegal construction works. According to İHA video reports, Uslu was attacked while preparing his drone equipment to shoot footage of the project. The video shows that he was heavily injured, with his face was covered in blood and his equipment smashed.
⚡️ İYİ Parti Kocaeli Milletvekili @LutfuTurkkan’ın çiftliğindeki yıkımı görüntüleyen İHA muhabiri @MustafaUsludur dört kişi tarafından darp edildi. Gözaltına alınan bu şahıslar hakkında gereğinin yapılmasını bekliyoruz.pic.twitter.com/mHW0BgA24R
— Gazeteciler Sendikası (@TGS_org_tr) June 22, 2021
Following the assault, MP Türkkan posted on his social media accounts a message denouncing the attack and stating that he was deeply sorry for the attack. He also underlined his long support for press freedom and journalists’ rights, offered his support to Uslu.
“With these two attacks, at least eleven journalists have been physically attacked and one radio journalist shot dead in the first six months of 2021 in Turkey”, IPI Turkey Program Coordinator Renan Akyavas said. Those who are responsible of the attacks are often remain free without any consequences. This shows a clear pattern of a lack of political will to pursue answers and justice in response to these attacks. Turkish authorities have the obligation to ensure journalists’ safety, hold those responsible for such attacks to account and end the impunity in crimes against journalists.”
In many cases, journalists have been threatened or faced physical attacks after being targeted in verbal attacks by state or political officials. Meanwhile, local journalists – those working outside of Turkey’s largest cities – often face threats and pressure from private companies and local businesses for their reporting on deficencies or irregularities in their work. IPI’s monitoring has also shown that these attacks are very often left uninvestigated, with the assailants and perpetrators going unpunished. One of the latest examples of the attacks was the attack on another Yeniçağ columnist Orhan Uğuroğlu by an ultra-nationalist group in January 2021.