The Turkish authorities should immediately release 15 journalists and one media worker held in pre-trial detention in Diyarbakır, south-eastern Turkey, PEN International said today. Turkey must stop using anti-terrorism and other laws to target independent journalists and uphold the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to give and receive information.
On 8 June 2022, 20 journalists and one media worker were detained following home raids in Diyarbakır, as part of two separate criminal investigations conducted by the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office. The offices of Jin News, Pel Production, Piya Production and Ari Production were also raided, with police officers confiscating cameras, computers, news equipment, and other documents. Although a gag order was imposed on the investigations, pro-government outlets reported that the raids were carried out as part of an anti-terror operation into the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) ‘Press Committee.’ Most of the journalists detained work for pro-Kurdish media outlets.
The journalists and media worker were held in police custody for eight days. Neither them nor their lawyers were given information about the operations or investigations. On 16 June, the detainees were questioned about their journalistic activities and social media posts, and were notably asked what they thought of the PKK. Later that day, the court ordered the arrest of 16 of them on ‘strong suspicion of membership of a terrorist organisation’; the others were released on probation and placed under a travel ban. They must also report to the police station twice a month.
‘PEN International strongly condemns the arrests of 15 journalists and one media worker in Diyarbakır, which appear to be part of a systematic effort to silence independent media in Turkey and have a chilling effect on free speech. We fear the journalists are being punished for doing their job. They must be released from pre-trial detention immediately’, said Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
The journalists and media worker currently held in pre-trial detention are:
Lezgin Akdeniz: camera operator
Safiye Alagaş: manager of the pro-Kurdish, all-women news website Jin News
Serdar Altan: freelance journalist, TV show host, and co-chair of the local media advocacy group Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG)
Zeynel Abidin Bulut: TV show host, editor for the Kurdish language weekly newspaper Xwebûn
Ömer Çelik: TV show host and a former editor of the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency
Suat Doğuhan: camera operator and owner of Pel Production
Mehmet Ali Ertaş: TV show host and news editor for Xwebûn
Ramazan Geciken: camera operator for Pel Production
Mazlum Doğan Güler: camera operator for Piya Production
İbrahim Koyuncu: camera operator
Abdurrahman Öncü: camera operator for Piya Production
Aziz Oruç: editor for Mezopotamya News Agency
Mehmet Şahin: TV show host for Piya Production and columnist for Xwebûn
Remziye Temel: accountant for Piya Production
Neşe Toprak: TV show host for Pel Production
Elif Üngür: TV show host for Piya Production
PEN International has repeatedly condemned the Turkish authorities’ use of anti-terror and other laws to target dissenting voices. The raids on 8 June were amongst the biggest operations conducted against journalists in the predominantly Kurdish South-east of Turkey in recent years. Kurdish culture and language remain harshly repressed in Turkey, with most pro-Kurdish and Kurdish language media outlets closed down, and several journalists of Kurdish or pro-Kurdish outlets languishing in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges.
For more information about this case, including how the rights of the detainees were restricted while in police custody, please see detailed reporting by the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA): https://www.mlsaturkey.com/en/home/ . An MLSA lawyer is part of the legal team representing the journalists.
For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.firstname.lastname@example.org