Fifteen Kurdish journalists released from a Turkish jail under judicial supervision on Wednesday after over a year in pre-trial detention, highlighted in their first statements the ongoing incarceration of fellow journalists in the country.
The court’s decision for conditional release came on the second day of the trial, though the prosecutor had requested for the journalists to remain in detention. The group led an applause-filled departure from prison in the evening hours.
Among the released was Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Co-chair Serdar Altan, who emphasised that they were charged for legitimate journalistic activities and assured they would continue work from where they left off. “Kurdish journalists will never be silenced,” he said.
A total of 18 journalists arrested on 8 June 2022 in Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) were charged in the trail. It took almost a year for an indictment to be filed against them, finally prepared by March 2023. The prosecution demanded sentences of up to 15 years, alleging that the journalists’ interviews and news sources constituted a criminal offence.
Journalists Without Borders (RSF), along with several other media associations and human rights advocacy groups, repeatedly called for the journalist’s release.
Over the past year, approximately 30 Kurdish journalists have faced similar charges, with professional activities being equated to support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Allegations included collaboration with local Kurdish production agencies, the sharing of social media posts related to the Kurdish question, and the defining of conflicts along the Iraq and Syrian borders as “war”.
Six other journalists arrested in April 2023 just before Turkey’s general elections face trial in coming months under similar charges that also hold prison sentences of up to 15 years.