During the initial hearing in a trial of 18 journalists from pro-Kurdish media outlets in Turkey, Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Co-chair Serdar Altan expressed confusion about their prolonged detention and argued that the indictment of the case was politically motivated.
“I have combed through hundreds of pages looking for evidence of a crime, but it is nowhere to be found,” said DFG’s co-chair after reading the evidenced journalistic elements.
Eighteen journalists, 15 of whom have been remanded in custody for 13 months in the case, are charged with “membership of an illegal organisation”. The arrests date back to a series of dawn raids conducted in Diyarbakır (Amed) on 8 June 2022.
Months elapsed before prosecutors unveiled an indictment in March of this year, relying on the journalists’ content production, media affiliations, and editorial inclinations as evidence against them.
“They want the Kurdish issue to remain unresolved and unheard,” Altan said, delivering his defence in Kurdish through an interpreter.
“These pressures cannot silence the Kurdish press. The reason behind this pressure and the crackdown on the media is our opposition to injustice and unlawful practices. We are not the ones who should be held accountable; instead, we demand accountability. Who will answer for the suppression of our freedom? Instead of being celebrated for our work, we find ourselves on trial. We are not the accused; we are the plaintiffs,” Altan said, reiterating the importance of protecting the journalistic profession which is currently under scrutiny in Turkey for suppressing Kurdish media.
Altan emphasised that Turkey does not, and never had, a free press. “A free press is the cornerstone of peace and freedom,” he added.