The International Press Institute (IPI) strongly condemns the armed attack against reporter Ebru Uzun Oruç and her partner and cameraman Barış Oruç after receiving threats from ultra-nationalist groups in response to her street interviews series on Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli. We call on Turkish authorities to fully investigate this attack and hold those responsible to account.
On August 15, Oruç and her husband, who conduct street interviews on politics, the economy, and other developments in the country on the YouTube news channel “Sokak Kedisi TV” were attacked by two armed assailants on the street in Istanbul while conducting street interviews. Oruç posted on social media the same day condemning the attack and reporting that they were uninjured.
Oruç told IPI she initially believed two assailants were involved in the attack. However, a police investigation using street cameras showed that there were four people involved, including an observer and a getaway car driver. The two direct assailants identified by the police were briefly detained and released after the initial interrogation.
Speaking to IPI, Oruç said they had been receiving thousands of threats through social media after publishing the sixth episode of their interview series titled “Seni Sorduk (We asked about you)” which focused on MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. Oruç added that they were openly targeted by a number of MHP officials and MPs on social media and that a majority of the threats they received appeared to be connected to accounts linked to the ultra-nationalist “Grey Wolves” group.
“This is an organized and deliberate attack”, Oruç said. “We barely escaped the assault after running into a shop nearby. The police said that the assailants claimed that they attacked because we glared at them, however, we received a message saying ‘I hope you’ve learned your lesson now’ after the attack. There is no way that this attack can be explained independently from [ultra-nationalists’] involvement”.
She added: “This is an attempt to silence and intimidate media members, but I will keep doing my job with a stronger determination.”
“We strongly condemn this attack, the likes of which have increasingly become the norm to silence journalistic content and news that are disturbing to certain ideological groups including the government’s ally MHP and their officials”, IPI Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavaş said.
“The safety of journalists must be protected by the authorities. There must be no space for any kind of violence against the press. Any attack against a journalist is an attack on press freedom and the public’s right to access to independent news and information.”
Sokak Kedisi TV’s street interviews consist of a number of interviews with citizens asking their opinions about a certain political figure or an official. Oruç said she believes the attack stems from the fact that these interviews are highly impactful as they bring such voices to the masses.
In previous months, three YouTube journalists who had been conducting street interviews were detained over critical coverage of government policies. IPI has been reporting on these violations and has repeatedly called for an end to impunity against crimes against journalists in Turkey.
IPI submitted an alert on the Council of Europe Safety of Journalists Platform on this incident.