(Story updates throughout with developments.)
Turkish police have arrested 21 Kurdish journalists, dragging 16 from their homes in Diyarbakır (Amed) in late night raids and five others during the day, local media reported on Wednesday.
Those arrested include Dicle Fırat Journalists Association Co-chair Serdar Altan, editors of the Mezopotamya and Jin News agencies Aziz Oruç and Gülşen Koçuk, Jin News Director Safiye Alagaş and several reporters from the two Kurdish-focused agencies, including Ömer Çelik, Suat Doğuhan, Ramazan Geciken, Berivan Karatorak, Esmer Tunç, Neşe Toprak, Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Mazlum Doğan Güler, Mehmet Şahin, Elif Üngür, İbrahim Koyuncu, Remziye Temel, Mehmet Yalçın, and Abdurrahman Öncü, Mezopotamya reported.
Feynaz Koçuk and Mehmet Ali Ertaş were also arrested later on. The police kept Ertaş handcuffed for 10 hours, MA said.
During the raids the police also confiscated phones and digital documents.
Offices of the all-female agency Jin News were also raided at 4.30am local time, and computers and external drives as well as journals and books were confiscated. Locals suspect more arrests to come.
Journalists Lezgin Akdeniz and Kadir Bayram were told they had outstanding arrest warrants at a police checkpoint during the day. The pair were both taken into custody, but were not told which investigation led to their arrest.
Jin News reported the police confiscating print editions of the Yeni Yaşam newspaper and Jineoloji magazine, both legal publications sold throughout Turkey.
Nobody from the agency was notified of the raid beforehand or as it was taking place, the journalists reported.
A video released by the agency shows computer cases taken apart and left open, hard drives removed.
Press organisations and journalists called for solidarity in various statements against the detention of the 21.
Meanwhile, the state-run TRT Haber said the raids were connected to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), accusing the agencies and several media production companies of having links with the organisation.
Production companies Pel Yapım, Piya Yapım and Ari Yapım were also raided, TRT reported, for producing programming for Europe-based Kurdish television networks Sterk TV and Medya Haber TV, which TRT labelled as “pro-PKK”. Three more were detained in raids targeting the companies.
The journalists will be charged with terrorist propaganda and broadcasting in support of a convicted organisation leader, according to TRT.
The journalists also stand accused of presenting Turkish military operations as being against the Kurdish people, using news broadcasts to inform the PKK of the start of air raids, and broadcasting orders from PKK executives to the general public, TRT said.
“Not even lawyers of our colleagues have seen the police minutes, but certain media organs can still target our network and produce baseless ‘news’ stories that violate journalistic ethics,” Medya Haber TV said in a statement in response.