On March 9, 2021, Hazım Özsu, a local radio host for Rahmet FM (Mercy FM) in Turkey’s Bursa province was shot dead in his home by a man who later said that he disliked some of Özsu’s comments in his radio programme during the pandemic regarding religious values. The man said he wanted to “shut his voice down” during a first statement given to the police. According to local reports, the suspect is currently in detention awaiting trial and has confessed to the killing.
The International Press Institute (IPI) calls on Turkish authorities to complete a rapid and thorough investigation into this case and swiftly ensure justice. Any delays have the potential to create a perception of impunity for crimes against journalists.
“The fact that a journalist was killed by a man who “disliked” his comments on a radio programme is horriyfing and unacceptable”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavaş said. “It underscores that journalists’ safety is at high risk in Turkey, a situation made worse by the government’s regrettable discourse attacking the press and independent journalists. Turkish authorities cannot let impunity prevail in crimes against journalists and must hold those responsible for the murder Hazım Özsu to account in order to send a strong message to discourage future attacks.”
This is the first targeted killing of a Turkish journalist outside of a conflict situation in several years, according to IPI’s Death Watch. Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was killed in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul’s consulate in 2018; Hrant Dink, the founder and editor-in-chief of Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was shot dead in 2007.
However, physical attacks on journalists have been growing. The Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) reported that nine journalists and media workers have been physically attacked since the beginning of 2021. On March 8, a columnist and Halk TV programme host was attacked in Istanbul by a group of people in front of Halk TV’s studios for his criticism of a deceased nationalist movement leader. Earlier this year, in January, Yeniçağ newspaper columnist Orhan Uğuroğlu was attacked in Ankara by three assailants outside his home who warned him to stop criticizing the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The assailants were released after brief interrogation.
During a joint press freedom mission to Turkey in 2020, IPI raised concerns to representatives of the Justice Ministry’s Human Rights Department about the increasing physical attacks and targeting of journalists and requested the Turkish government to take a visible stand to discourage any criminal act against journalists. The ministry representatives responded by stating that investigations and prosecutions are the responsibility of the police forces and judiciary.