The International Press Institute (IPI) today condemned Turkey’s arrest of Hakan Demir, online editor for the independent newspaper BirGün, and Fatih Gökhan Diler, managing editor of the news site Diken. The two detentions were part of a wave of arrests targeting critics of Turkey’s military operation across the Syrian border, which started yesterday.

Turkish police swiftly launched investigations against 78 people for their critical views and news articles shared on social media, including Demir. After a 4 am police raid on his home, Demir was reportedly detained and brought to a police station where he was held for hours without access to his lawyers. His colleagues reported that Demir’s detention had followed BirGün’s reporting on military operations yesterday. BirGün was targeted by the pro-government Sabah newspaper yesterday over its reporting on the military operation. Sabah accused BirGün of conducting “anti-Turkey propaganda at every opportunity”.

An official police statement declared that “an investigation against 78 people who have been detected to spread terrorist propaganda over the ‘Peace Operation’ [to Syria]; to attempt to degrade the country via inciting public to hatred and enmity and sharing wrongful and fake news with the purpose of damaging our police forces’ reputation has been officially started.”

Demir was released in the late afternoon after a first interrogation by the prosecution but placed under a travel ban. Also this afternoon, Diken reported that Gökhan Diler had also been detained after the police came to its office in İstanbul. Diler is currently being questioned at the chief prosecutor’s office.

IPI Turkey Programme Manager Oliver Money-Kyrle condemned the targeting of journalists who criticize Turkey’s military policy. “The speed of the operation against the media suggests it was planned and launched in parallel with the military incursions. Once again the police are conflating legitimate journalism for terrorist propaganda in order to keep the public in the dark. We demand Fatih Gökhan Diler’s immediate release and end to criminalizing dissident voices.”

Turkey had opened similar investigations against numerous journalists over the past two years for criticizing Turkey’s military operations in Syria including journalists from Cumhuriyet, Gazete Karınca, Artı TV, Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) and Özgürlükçü Demokrasi.

The trial of Necla Demir, publisher of Gazete Karınca, is ongoing for “spreading consecutive terrorist propaganda” over the news site’s articles on Turkey’s operations in Afrin, Syria. Hayri Demir of MA and Sibel Hürtaş of Artı TV face charges of “inciting the public to hatred and animosity” and “terrorist propaganda via media”. Former Cumhuriyet news editor Atakan Sönmez is on trial on similar charges over an article published on January 20, 2018.

Last year, 27 Özgürlükçü Demokrasi staff were arrested as part of an investigation against the pro-Kurdish daily over articles critical of the Afrin operations. Prominent Cypriot journalist Şener Levent was also targeted by Turkish prosecutors for columns on Turkey’s military policy on Syria.