Turkey: Release the 20 Kurdish journalists arbitrarily detained in Diyarbakır

Credit: Gazeteci Dayanışma Ağı

Paris-Geneva, June 15, 2022 – The 20 journalists arbitrarily detained in the city of Diyarbakir must be immediately and unconditionally released, said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). Both organisations called for the end of any act of harassment against journalists in the country and for the respect of freedom of press and expression.

In the early morning of June 8, 2022, police officers raided the houses of journalists, the office of media outlet JinNews, and two production companies in Diyarbakır and confiscated cameras, computers and digital material.

Following this operation, a total of 22 people, among them 20 journalists, were taken into custody, including:
 Serdar Altan, co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG);
 Safiye Alagaş, director of the JinNews agency;
 Gülşen Koçuk, JinNews editor;
 Aziz Oruç, Mesopotamia Agency (MA) editor;
 Mehmet Ali Ertaş, Xwebûn editor-in-chief;
 journalists Ömer Çelik, Suat Doğuhan, Ramazan Geciken, Esmer Tunç, Neşe Toprak, Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Mazlum Doğan Güler, Mehmet Şahin, Elif Üngür, İbrahim Koyuncu, Remziye Temel, Mehmet Yalçın, Abdurrahman Öncü, Lezgin Akdeniz and Kadir Bayram; and Feynaz Koçuk and İhsan Ergülen.

Because of the confidentiality order imposed on the file, no clear information is available about the investigation at the time of publication of this Joint Statement. The journalists were brought to the Diyarbakır Courthouse on June 15, 2022 for questioning by the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor requested the arrest of Safiye Alagaş and Aziz Oruç from the Peace Criminal Judgeship, with the questioning of the remaining journalists ongoing at the time of publication of this Joint Statement. Their detention period has been extended until June 16, 2022.

On the morning of June 3, 2022, Dicle Müftüoğlu, the other co-chair of the DFG and an MA editor, was called in for questioning by the Diyarbakır Provincial Security Directorate. She was subsequently detained after the police raided her home in Diyarbakır. Accused of “financing a [terrorist] organisation” by sending money to the imprisoned journalists Nedim Türfent and Ziya Ataman, Müftüoğlu was brought to Diyarbakır Court House in the morning of June 6, 2022, then questioned by Van Public Prosecutor’s Office, and finally released by the Van Peace Criminal Judgeship under judicial control on the same day. Müftüoğlu had worked with journalists Türfent and Ataman during her time as the editor-in-chief of Dicle News Agency, which was shut down by an emergency decree in October 2016. She had sent money in solidarity with her colleagues who are jailed since 2016 and convicted of terrorism charges as a result of unfair trials.

On June 12, 2022, MA reporter Ergin Çağlar and JinNews reporter Rozerin Gültekin were arbitrarily detained and released on the same day while covering the march held by six institutions and political parties in Gemlik, Bursa, to draw attention to the isolation conditions of the jailed PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] leader Abdullah Öcalan.

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, Turkey’s Civil Society on the Line: a Shrinking Space for Freedom of Association and A Perpetual Emergency: Attacks on Freedom of Assembly in Turkey and Repercussions for Civil Society.

These incidents of judicial harassment take place against the backdrop of a problematic bill on disinformation that is currently reviewed before the Parliament’s Justice Commission. 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. Journalists oppose the bill on the grounds that it will be used to target press freedom, worsening judicial harassment against journalists.

FIDH and OMCT condemn the police raid and the arbitrary detention of these 20 journalists, as they seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate exercise of their freedom of press and expression.

Our organisations urge the authorities in Turkey to immediately and unconditionally release all the journalists currently arbitrarily detained in the country. FIDH and OMCT more generally 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.

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