Thursday marks one year since the police raids targeting Kurdish press and media organisations in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır (Amed). Among the targeted organisations were Xwebûn, the sole Kurdish-language newspaper in Turkey, and JinNews, the only women’s news agency in the country.
During the operation, 22 media employees were arrested, with 16 journalists among them subsequently being sent to prison for pre-trial detention. The journalists still remain jailed after a year.
Imprisoned co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG), Serdar Altan, has evaluated the past year, expressing unwavering determination to defend truth and condemn injustices, in a letter published by Mezopotamya Agency on Wednesday.
Altan’s letter explains the background of their arrest, as well as exposing the absurdity of both the police’s and pro-government media’s portrayal of journalism activities as evidence of terrorism.
“A total of 22 people endured a lengthy eight-day detention period. For eight days, we waited without knowing the charges against us, as there was a confidentiality order on the file, and our lawyers were unable to access it,” says Altan.
Altan further exposes the complicity of pro-government media outlets in perpetuating a false narrative. He underscores that the police leaked their case files to these outlets, which subsequently propagated the journalists as members of an illegal organisation.
The indictment against the journalists was only prepared by the prosecuting authority after 10 months, while the court scheduled the hearing for three months later. By the time the journalists appear before the judge on 11 July, their detention period will have exceeded 13 months.
Altan contends that the operation’s purpose extended beyond silencing journalists; it aimed to obstruct the public’s right to receive accurate news. “We, as journalists, shine a light on those who plague society like a nightmare, by amplifying the voices of the unheard, bringing the invisible to light, and boldly proclaiming, ‘The King is naked’,” he asserts.
Undeterred by their circumstances, Altan emphasises the resilience of the imprisoned journalists, stating, “Despite the heavy price we have paid throughout the years, our determination to defend the truth remains unwavering.” He assures that they will persist in upholding the integrity of journalism, whether incarcerated or free, and calls upon colleagues and democratic circles to lend their voices to the cause of press freedom.
Altan’s concluding statement resonates powerfully: “Let it be known that journalism is not a crime!” As his impassioned plea for unity against the suppression of journalists reverberates not only within Turkey but also across the international community, the government has carried on its crackdown on pro-Kurdish circles with further operations and arrests.
As of 20 May 2023, there are at least 58 imprisoned journalists and media employees in Turkey, according to the Turkish Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).