The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, journalists, and media executives for press freedom, today condemned the arrest of documentary filmmaker and journalist Sibel Tekin in Ankara, Turkey on the charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” following a complaint by prison guards that she filmed the official vehicle while recording early morning commuters. We call on the Turkish authorities to release Tekin, who was taken into custody and later arrested on groundless charges.
On December 16, journalist and documentary filmmaker Sibel Tekin was taken at 2 am from her home in Ankara into police custody, Tekin’s lawyers confirm that it was following a complaint by a group of prison guards working at Sincan Closed Prison in Ankara who alleged that she filmed the guards’ shuttle bus and a police checkpoint while shooting commuters early morning on December 15. At the time Tekin was filming for a documentary called “Life that Begins in the Dark” about the regulation of “daylight saving time” in Turkey, a topic high on the public agenda.
The official vehicle she is accused of filming could easily be mistaken for a civilian or a school bus.
Reportedly when detained she was not allowed to change her clothes. Tekin’s two computers, several hard disks with documentary works, cameras and some books were also reported to be confiscated by the police and her detention was extended to 24 hours for her technological devices to be further examined. Tekin’s two computers, several hard disks with documentary works, cameras and some books were also reported to be confiscated by the police.
On December 17, she was arrested on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization”. Tekin’s lawyers stated that even prison authorities were confused about which section she should be held in as there was no name of a “terrorist organization” related to her case.
Sibel Tekin is known as a video journalist and has produced documentaries about the mass demonstrations in Ankara, Turkey.
“Reports of violations of legal due process in Sibel Tekin’s arrest are highly concerning”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavaş said. “Journalists must be free to film in public spaces without fear of arrest or reprisal. If there is a legitimate reason for not filming, journalists need to be informed and not arbitrarily arrested. The IPI calls for immediate release of Sibel Tekin”.
Previously several video journalists were detained and targeted by the authorities for conducting street interviews. There is a pattern of Turkish authorities cracking down on and censoring the work of video journalists, who publish criticism of current economic and social policies. Tekin’s arrest indicates that this crackdown on journalists continues.