The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, journalists and media executives for press freedom, condemned today the arrest of journalist Sinan Aygül in connection with his reporting on a sexual abuse case in the eastern Turkish city of Bitlis. We call on Turkish authorities to release Aygül without delay.
On December 13, Aygül, who is the president of the Bitlis Journalists Association published a report on a sexual abuse case involving a 14-year-old girl in Tatvan district of Bitlis. The report stated that three police officers and a sergeant are suspects in the case. Later, the governor of Bitlis, Oktay Çağatay, contacted Aygül and asked him to correct information regarding the suspects in his report. On the same day, Aygül published a follow-up statement on his Twitter account saying that the governor had called him and that, although he had made his best effort to double-check the facts before publishing, he was now correcting some of the information, and apologized for any misunderstanding.
The next day, Aygül was detained by police on charges of “publishing misleading information” due to the news report.
“We are greatly concerned by the arrest of Sinan Aygül over a report that contained alleged errors for which he already apologized and issued a correction. The arrest and charges in this case are arbitrary and disproportionate”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavaş. “We call on authorities to immediately release Aygül and stop the misuse of law enforcement power to harass journalists.”
This arrest comes after the passage by Turkey’s parliament in October of a disinformation law that aims to control the flow of information online and offline information flow and amid public discussion following news regarding to sexual abuse of children. In this context, the arrest of journalists in Turkey only furthers concerns around the government’s efforts to tighten the public space for news and critical reporting.