A statement signed by over a hundred journalists, authors, human rights activists, MPs, NGO representatives, and academics from various countries calls for an ‘end to the persecution of journalists in Turkey’ and the ‘immediate release of the recently detained journalists’.
The joint statement by over 20 Swiss-based organisations* was published online on Sunday following dawn raids on Kurdish media outlets and the arrest of 20 journalists on 8 June in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority province of Diyarbakır (Amed).
The statement read:
“Freedom of expression is under constant and increasing attack in Turkey. Academics, journalists and writers who criticise the government are at risk of criminal investigation, prosecution, intimidation, harassment and censorship. This strategy, combined with the recent arrest of 21 journalists in Diyarbakir, sends a clear and disturbing message and has serious consequences for press freedom. The scale of the arrests and the repression of the media by the Turkish government is described by many international institutions and organisations as that of ‘a country that is a prison for journalists’.”
‘Turkish authorities equate critical journalism with criminal terrorist activity’
The statement continued:
“Turkey remains an extremely repressive country for the press. Turkish authorities and courts equate critical journalism with criminal terrorist activity. This situation has also been widely criticised by international organisations including the UN, the Council of Europe and the EU, RSF and Amnesty International. Turkey ranks 149th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index and currently 60 journalists are in prison in Turkey.
“Moreover, the government is trying to create a new legal tool for pressure on the media and for censorship. The new draft law on ‘disinformation and false information’ provides for a prison sentence of up to three years for ‘anyone who intends to endanger the country’s security or public order’. Such a bill, which leaves the definition of ‘disinformation’ and ‘intention’ so vague, exposes journalists and millions of internet users in Turkey to the risk of criminal prosecution for sharing information that the government does not approve. The bill can become another tool to harass journalists and opposition groups and generalize self-censorship.”
The statement called for:
“The end of the persecution of journalists in Turkey, the immediate release of journalists currently detained, the repeal of the country’s anti-terrorism legislation, the establishment of effective safeguards for freedom of expression and the independence of the judiciary, the end of the systematic violation of democratic norms and the establishment of press freedom and the rule of law.”
Detainees remain in custody six days after the arrests
The 21 people who were arrested on 8 June remain in custody as of Monday.
The names of the detained Kurdish journalists are:
Serdar Altan (co-chair of Dicle-Fırat Journalists’ Associaton), Safiye Alagaş (Direcor of Jin News), Mehmet Ali Ertaş (Executive Editor of Xwebûn), Gülşen Koçuk (editor at Jin News), Aziz Oruç (editor at Mezopotamya News Agency), reporters Ömer Çelik, Suat Doğuhan, Esmer Tunç, Neşe Toprak, Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Mazlum Doğan Güler, Mehmet Şahin, Elif Üngür, Remziye Temel, Mehmet Yalçın, Lezgin Akdeniz, Kadir Bayram, Ramazan Geciken, İbrahim Koyuncu, Abdurrahman Öncü
A man by the name of Feynaz Koçuk, who is not a journalist, is also among the detainees.
* The organisations include the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, the Green Party of Switzerland, SOLIFONDS (Solidarity Fund for the Social Struggles for Liberation in the Third World), Mojust International Fondation (Mesopotamia Observatory of Justice), medico international Schweiz, Plattform für Frieden und Solidaritaet, Collectif Question Kurde de l’Université de Genève, Basta, Demokratische Juristinnen und Juristen der Schweiz, Solidarité sans frontières.