Journalists from Kurdish media outlets who were arrested by Turkish police in dawn raids on Tuesday are being denied their right to proper legal support while in detention, a lawyer representing the journalists said.
Images of the 11 journalists also show worrying signs of torture, lawyer Sevin Kaya told Mesopotamia news agency on Wednesday.
The 11 journalists from the Kurdish-focused Mesopotamia and the all-women Jin news agencies were filmed being manhandled by police while rear-handcuffed during simultaneous early morning raids on Tuesday.
The arrests came a week after Turkey’s parliament adopted new anti-disinformation legislation that critics say amounts to a “censorship law”, giving the government free rein to arrest critical journalists.
But Kaya said the journalists’ lawyers were prevented from reaching any information about the charges their clients faced until the media reported they had been arrested in an “anti-terror operation”.
“We went to the courthouse to learn the grounds of arrests,” she said. “When we demanded to see the prosecutor, the prosecutor refused this.”
While a confidentiality order had been placed on the journalists’ case files, lawyers had been prevented from accessing even the basic information not covered by the order, Kaya said.
“Then after we have filed our objections, we went to the anti-terror department. We told the police we wanted to see our clients. We were told there was a ban on lawyer visits there,” said Kaya.
And, as the lawyers were left unable to reach their clients and in the dark about the charges they faced, they could only piece together information from media and police statements.
The police statements on the matter made it evident “our journalist friends were arrested based on their news reports as a result of the disinformation law and censorship on media,” Kaya said.
Meanwhile, media reports on the highly publicised arrests displayed rough, aggressive treatment of the journalists that amounted to torture, Kaya said.
“After we visit our clients and reach further findings of torture, we will file a criminal complaint against torture, including the procedure of arrest,” she said.
For Kaya, this treatment of journalists is a concerted effort to cower the press and remove critical voices.
“Actually, the free press has always been a target in this country, The fact that our friends were arrested like this based on their journalistic work, shows that the mind of the state remains unchanged,” Kaya said.
“They try to leave people uninformed,” she said. “As a result, those who are seeking to silence the opposition are also trying to silence the media, and completely suppress society. The grounds of these arrests can be summarised like this.”