The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, condemned the arrest on October 9 of four journalists from Turkey’s Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) and Jinnews after they reported that two Kurdish men were allegedly dropped from a Turkish military helicopter.
On September 11, the two men, Servet Turgut and Osman Şiban, were allegedly taken into custody and tortured by soldiers who had launched an operation in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority eastern province of Van. Turgut and Şiban were later found in the intensive care unit of the hospital in Van, two days after the incident. Osman Şiban said that he and Turgut were dropped from a helicopter.
Journalist Cemil Uğur from MA reportedly got access to the medical report prepared by the hospital, which confirms that Turgut and Şiban fell from a high place. Turgut died on September 30, while Şiban suffers from memory loss. The journalists followed the cases of two men closely and reported the alleged torture and helicopter drop with evidence they collected from the hospital and eyewitnesses.
The Van Governorship published a statement on September 21, claiming that Turgut fell from a rocky place while running away from soldiers who were conducting an anti-terror operation in the town. The statement said Turgut had been acting suspiciously and resisted arrest. The press release also stated that Şiban had been lawfully detained and accused the two men of aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Following these incidents, the homes of four journalists, including the reporters of the MA Van Bureau and Jinnews, were raided by the police on October 5. MA reporters Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur, Jinnews reporter Şehriban Abi and journalist Nazan Sala were detained. Local reports and journalist unions state that the journalists’ detention is highly likely to be related to the news coverage, although there is no official explanation regarding the detentions. In the raids, cameras and technical equipment of journalists were confiscated.
The four journalists were arrested on October 9 on non further defined allegations of “reporting on events against the state” and “being a member of an organization”.
IPI called for the immediate release of all four journalists.
“Turkey should free without delay the Mezopotamya Agency and Jinnews journalists detained this week, who were doing their job in investigating allegations of military abuse”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said.
The memorial prepared for Turgut on October 1 was also raided by the police. Police blocked the coverage of Mezopotamya Agency of the statement to be announced by the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and Democratic Regions Party (DBP). Police reportedly said that anyone can cover the memorial except Mezopotamya Agency.