New York-based National Writers Union in a statement released on Wednesday condemned Turkey’s 21 June arrest of 16 Kurdish journalists and said they were “closely watching the situation” as, the Turkish government attacks journalists, academics, political organisers and the opposition to remain in power.
Conditions in Turkey “make press freedom a life and death question, especially for Kurdish journalists”, the National Writers Union (NWU), said.
Criminalisation of journalism as a symptom of rising authoritarianism “has become a global trend”, it added. “As writers, freelancers and journalists in the US, we fight for transparency and press freedom and declare our full solidarity with Kurdish journalists.”
On 8 June, 21 journalists and media workers were arrested in the southeastern Diyarbakır (Amed). After eight days in custody, where they reported mistreatment by police officers, 16 of them were remanded in prison.
There are currently more than 150 journalists in Turkey’s prisons, NWU said. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not recognise any of them as such, and says there is nobody under arrest for journalism in the country.
Since a peace process between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) collapsed in 2015, and a state of emergency was declared in the wake of a failed coup attempt in 2016, thousands of people have been exiled, arrested and subjected to police violence. Torture and mistreatment in prisons have also increased, and parliament has since passed new laws further restricting Turkey’s already suffering press freedom and freedom of expression.
The 16 journalists are facing terrorism charges, based entirely on the news stories they have produced and incidents they have followed, according to their lawyers. Exact details on the case are not known, as a confidentiality order placed on the casefiles means that nobody including the lawyers and journalists have seen the full indictment.