The IPI global network of journalists, editors, and publishers is alarmed by reports of excessive police violence toward reporters who were covering an anti-government protest in Istanbul on May 31. We call on authorities to meet their obligations to ensure that journalists can safely cover protests and other events of public interest.

According to reports, police clashed with protestors at a demonstration to mark the 9th anniversary of the anti-government demonstrations that began in 2013 in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Those demonstrations challenged the rule of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has accused these protestors of orchestrating the attempted coup against his administration in 2016.

At this year’s demonstration, police deployed tear gas and arrested 170 attendees, according to reports. Amongst those detained were freelance photojournalist Hayri Tun; reporters Ozan Demiriz of Halk TV; Dilan Polat of Flash TV; Meryem Akyol of Evrensel; photojournalist Bülent Kılıç; and Gökay Başcan of BirGün among others. 

“Journalists must be able to cover matters of public interest, such as demonstrations and protests, safely and without fear of being arrested or physically assaulted”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavaş said. “We call on Turkish authorities to ensure that the police respect the work of the press.” 

According to reports, journalists were blocked from doing their reporting despite informing police that they were journalists. Freelance photojournalist Hayri Tunç told IPI that he was hit directly by teargas before being arrested and detained by the police. He believes that the arrests of journalists are a direct attack on “people’s right to news”, and “demonstrate that life is about to get even more difficult for journalists” in Turkey. 

Journalists in Turkey face increasing violence by police. Ongoing protests at Turkey’s top public university, Bosphorus University, in response to the undemocratic appointment of a loyalist director have also been met with similar violence towards both students and journalists

In 2021, at least 49 journalists were targeted with physical assaults, including police violence, in at least 30 separate incidents including shootings and armed attacks by the end of the year, according to IPI monitoring.