The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, journalists and media executives for press freedom, condemns the latest wave of assaults and detentions of journalists across Turkey. As national elections approach, journalists must be allowed to do their job of informing the public on critical issues and authorities must ensure their safety.

IPI reiterates the need for a free and pluralistic media atmosphere in the lead up to Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, 2023.

On April 29, Sedat Yılmaz, an editor for the Mezopotamya News Agency, and Dicle Müftüoğlu, the co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association, were detained by the police in Diyarbakır in connection with an investigation by Ankara prosecutors over terrorism allegations. On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, the court issued an arrest order for the detained journalists.

The detention of Yilmaz and Müftüoğlu was preceded by the detention of 10 Kurdish journalists just several days earlier. According to the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), 80% of imprisoned journalists in Turkey are accused of “membership of an armed organization”.

Following these detentions, six female journalists protesting the government’s most recent crackdown on Kurdish journalists were beaten by police and briefly detained in Istanbul. Evrensel’s Eylem Nazlıer, Etkin News Agency’s Pınar Gayıp, Mücadele Birliği’s Serpil Ünal, Direnişteyiz’s Esra Soybir, Gazete Karınca’s Yadigar Aygün, and freelance reporter Zeynep Kuray filed legal complaints against the police after being released.

According to local media rights groups, another five journalists were beaten while covering the May Day rallies in Istanbul. KRT TV reporters Sultan Eylem Keleş and Gencer Keten, AFP Turkey bureau photojournalist Bülent Kılıç, 10Haber reporter Hazar Dost and journalist Zeynep Kuray were physically attacked by police. Kuray was detained by police and released later in the evening, after giving her statement to the police.

“Turkey’s journalists have a pivotal role to play in this election year, ensuring that the public has access to independent information as they head to the polls. Authorities must ensure that journalists are able to do their jobs freely and safely”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. He added: “Regardless of which parties form the next government, unwinding a decade of restrictions on media freedom must be a central priority for the country.”