A group of journalists from Istanbul travelled to Turkey’s Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakır (Amed) on Saturday to express their support for the Kurdish journalists who have been held in custody since 8 June on charges of ‘terrorism’.
The Turkish state media voiced claims on Thursday that some of the detained Kurdish journalists had ‘alerted’ the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) by reporting on Turkish war planes taking off from Diyarbakır for Turkey’s ongoing military campaign in Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI).
On Thursday, 16 of the detainess were remanded in custody, including co-chair of the Dicle-Fırat Journalists’ Association Serdar Altan, director of Jin News Agency Safiye Alagaş, executive editor of Xwebûn Mehmet Ali Ertaş, and editor of Mezopotamya News Agency Aziz Oruç.
Journalist Sibel Yükler, who travelled to Diyarbakır to express her support for the Kurdish journalists, said:
“Ömer Çelik, one of the journalists remanded in custody, delivered a message before he was sent to prison, saying, ‘They have to carry the burden now,’ referring to his journalist colleagues. We’re here to shoulder that burden.”
Another journalist, Derya Okatan, said:
“They may only be targeting the Kurdish press today, but the Disinformation Bill is before us too now. We need to be aware that a much broader section of society, that is, not only journalists but anyone who expresses an opinion, will be under threat as this bill is signed into a law.”
“One of the reasons for these arrests is obviously the fact that we are in the middle of a cross-border operation. Because this is how it has always been in Turkey (…) It is clear that we are going to go through an antidemocratic election process. It is obvious that during this process the attacks on the press, the attacks on the people’s right to information will continue.
Journalist Elif Akgül said:
“Journalism and journalists have always been targets in Turkey, since the very beginning. We have been witnessing cases since the days of Sabiha Sertel*. This is not the first time, either for the Kurdish press, or for the socialist press. But we can say that it has only come onto the agenda of the broader population in the last few years. This is because more popular figures in the media, who have found themselves in opposition to the AKP administration, have recently become targets of repression.”
“Where Kurdish journalists are concerned, there is always a reservation, a reluctance, a tendency to keep a distance, and the government exploits this situation.”
* Sabiha Sertel, the first professional female journalist and publisher in the Turkish Republic, was banned three times from writing. The Sertel family’s Tan newspaper and publishing house was destroyed by a mob on 4 December 1945. She and her husband were arrested in 1946 and stood trial. Although ultimately acquitted, they had to flee Turkey in fear of their lives in 1950 to live in exile.