Turkey: Arbitrary arrest of 16 Kurdish journalists in Diyarbakır

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Gazeteci Dayanışma Ağı

Paris-Geneva, June 22, 2022 – Following the arbitrary detention of 22 people, including 20 journalists, in Diyarbakir in june 2022, 16 of them were arbitrarily arrested on June 16, 2022. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) condemn this new step in the violation of their right to freedom of press and expression and call for the immediate and unconditional release of the detained journalists, and for the end of any act of harassment against journalists in the country.

Of the 22 people arbitrarily detained following police raids on the houses of journalists, the office of media outlet JinNews, and two production companies in Diyarbakır on June 8, 2022, 16 journalists were arbitrarily arrested on June 16, 2022, including:
 Serdar Altan, co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG);
 Safiye Alagaş, director of the JinNews agency;
 Aziz Oruç, Mesopotamia Agency (MA) editor;
 Mehmet Ali Ertaş, Xwebûn editor-in-chief;
 Journalists Ömer Çelik, Suat Doğuhan, Ramazan Geciken, Neşe Toprak, Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Mazlum Doğan Güler, Mehmet Şahin, Elif Üngür, İbrahim Koyuncu, Remziye Temel, Abdurrahman Öncü, and Lezgin Akdeniz.

The 16 journalists were sent to Diyarbakır Prison where they were still detained at the time of publication of this Joint Statement.

Gülşen Koçuk, JinNews editor; journalists Esmer Tunç, Mehmet Yalçın and Kadir Bayram; and citizens Feynaz Koçuk and İhsan Ergülen, who were also arbitrarily detained following the operation, were released under judicial control.

The journalists were charged with “membership to an armed organisation,” after being brought to the Diyarbakır Courthouse on June 15, 2022, where they were questioned on the content of their reporting.

In addition, at 6 am on June 16, 2022, journalist İnci Hekimoğlu was detained following a police raid on her home in Izmir and released later the same day. She is charged with “terrorist propaganda” due to her social media posts.

Around the same time as the arrests in Diyarbakır took place on June 16, 2022, a problematic bill on disinformation that was under discussion at the parliamentary level passed the Parliament’s Justice Commission and will now be reviewed by the General Assembly of the Parliament. If enacted, this bill will introduce the crime of “publicly disseminating misleading information” to the Turkish Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence of up to three years. Given the alarming examples of arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of journalists mentioned above, this bill represents a serious threat to freedom of expression and particularly press freedom in Turkey. Precisely for this reason, journalists in the country strongly oppose it.

FIDH and OMCT recall that judicial harassment, including arbitrary detention, arrest and conviction of Kurdish dissidents, human rights defenders and journalists, particularly under the much-criticised anti-terrorism framework, is common practice in Turkey, as mentioned in the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a FIDH-OMCT partnership) and the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği – İHD)’s reports:
 A Perpetual Emergency: Attacks on Freedom of Assembly in Turkey and Repercussions for Civil Society
 Turkey’s Civil Society on the Line: A Shrinking Space for Freedom of Association
 Drowned in Procedure, Sentenced to Fail: Administrative Harassment Against Civil Society in Turkey

FIDH and OMCT condemn the arbitrary arrest of the above-mentioned 16 journalists as well as the judicial harassment against them and other journalists in the country, as they seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression, including press freedom.

Our organisations urge the authorities in Turkey to immediately and unconditionally release all the journalists currently arbitrarily detained in the country. FIDH and OMCT further call on the authorities to ensure that all journalists in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate work without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

Finally, our organisations express their utmost concern about the dangerous bill on disinformation and urge the authorities in Turkey to refrain from enacting it as well as to ensure, in all circumstances, the respect and protection of the right to freedom of expression, including press freedom, in the country.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is an international human rights NGO federating 192 organisations from 117 countries. Since 1922, FIDH has defended all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the largest global NGO group actively standing up to torture and protecting human rights defenders worldwide. It has more than 200 members in 90 countries. Its international Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

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