The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, journalists, and media executives for press freedom, condemns the arrest of freelance journalist Sezgin Kartal in Turkey on January 13 and demands his immediate release.
Kartal was detained on January 10, which is marked in Turkey as “Working Journalists Day”, during a raid on his home. A confidentiality order was imposed on the case. His lawyers told IPI that Kartal has been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization”.
“This is yet another arbitrary arrest of a journalist in an attempt to silence all critical voices in the run up to Turkey’s 2023 elections. Turkey must ensure the right of journalists to work without fear of harassment or intimidation. We call on authorities to release Sezgin Kartal without delay”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavaş said.
While authorities have refuse to disclose case details behind Kartal’s arrest, lawyers at the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) who are representing Kartal told IPI that his detention was in relation to an investigation filed in 2020 on allegations of “being a member of a terrorist organization”. MLSA said that there was no clear evidence in the case file for such serious allegations and that he should not have been arrested in the first place.
Kartal, who has been in custody since Tuesday, was taken to the court today, January 13, to give a statement. During the hearing, the public prosecutor’s office referred his case to the criminal court of peace with an arrest request.
Kartal’s arrest comes less than a month after his acquittal on charges of “insult via audio, visual or written content” following a complaint by Fuat Uğur, a columnist for the pro-government outlet Türkiye Newspaper. IPI representatives had monitored and shared observations from the trial, which took place on December 20, 2022.
Confidentiality orders surrounding the arrests of journalists are increasingly being applied in Turkey, despite being a major violation of due process and the public’s right to information.