The Committee to Protect Journalists has asked the Turkish government to release the 15 journalists and one media worker placed under arrest by the authorities. The committee claims that Turkish authorities had arrested a total of 19 journalists and two media workers last week, under false allegations of having connections with a terrorist organisation.
While an Istanbul court ordered the arrest of these 16 people on Wednesday, the charges against them remain unclear as it also ordered a thorough investigation of the situation. Resul Tamur, the lawyer representing the journalists, has claimed that authorities are questioning the journalists regarding the angle they followed to cover a news story which seemed pro-PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
The PKK was officially labelled as a terrorist organisation in 1997, by the US. Tamur said that the journalists are being inquired about spreading terrorist propaganda, and have been under arrest for the last eight days in the city of Diyarbakir. The prosecutors claim that the detainees are not officially accused of their crimes, but the authorities are investigating them.
Freedom Of Press In Turkey
The Turkish government is accused of detaining more journalists than most other countries during the last 10 years. The country has been breaking its own record of convicting journalists year by year. In the last five years, Turkey has convicted 70 journalists for writing against President Recep Rayyip Erdoğan.
The state government controls, monitors and regulates all independent journalists and media houses. 90 percent of the national media outlets in Turkey are entirely owned by the government. Consequently, if any other journalists write against the government, they are arrested and sentenced to grave punishments such as 92 years of imprisonment.
In 2021, a total of 975 online news articles were censored by the government. Further, in the last five years, a total of 5,976 articles have been censored. Turkey ranks at the 153rd place on the Press Freedom Index, out of 180 countries.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and other media groups have described the arrest of these 19 journalists as “ruthless”. Among the highly designated journalists arrested in Turkey is Serdar Altan, co-head of the Dicle Firat Journalists’ Association. Further, Safiye Alagas, head of Jin News, and Aziz Oruc, editor of the Mezopotamya Agency, were also arrested. The police also stated that they are “investigating the press committee” for alleged links to the militant group PKK.
Following these events, 837 journalists and 62 media organisations have issued a statement against the dictatorial government and condemned the arrest of their fellow journalists. In an article published by the Morning Star, Kurdish journalists have appealed to journalists around the globe to “be their voices”. An anonymous journalist said that the International Community is busy with the Russia-Ukraine issue, and is ignoring the voices of Kurds in Turkey. They also talked about the dictatorship led by the Turkish president, and how Turkish forces are killing children in drone attacks. Reportedly, a 12-year-old Yazidi boy was recently killed in Shengal.
Additionally, the journalist said that Turkey is misusing its NATO membership by delaying the process of Finland and Sweden’s enrolment and demanding that both nations accept the PKK’s links to terrorism. He also mentioned that Turkey may be planning an attack on the northern front of Syria.
Turkish Journalists Appeal To Journalists Worldwide
Turkish journalists have urged journalists from around the world to stand in solidarity with the arrested journalists and those at risk. They have also appealed that journalists object to the dictatorship of a state that is willing to surrender Kurds for their own selfish motives.
Recently, the German Journalists Association condemned the illegal arrest of journalists in Turkey. The association further demanded their immediate release from police custody.