18 journalists from pro-Kurdish media in Turkey are appearing before the court on Tuesday, after 15 of them remained in pre-trial detention for more than a year. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for the Kurdish journalists’ immediate release and an end to “the manipulation of anti-terrorist legislation by the Turkish judicial authorities”.
The journalists are facing charges of “membership of an illegal organisation” and risk up to 15 years in prison.
Over the past year, approximately 30 Kurdish journalists have been accused of similar charges, with their professional activities being wrongly equated to support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The authorities have included allegations such as collaboration with local Kurdish production agencies, sharing posts on social networks related to the Kurdish question, and their definition of the term “war” in conflicts along the Iraq and Syrian borders.
Erol Önderoglu, the RSF representative in Turkey, pointed out that Turkey has become one of the world’s largest prisons for journalists due to the recurrent use of abusive detentions between 2016 and 2018.
Despite some recent releases, the situation for media professionals remains alarming. According to the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), at least 53 journalists and media workers are imprisoned or convicted in Turkey.
Önderoglu called for an end to “politically motivated detentions” and the immediate release of the Kurdish journalists, stating that they were imprisoned under questionable circumstances.
The journalists were arrested on 8 June 2022, as part of an operation and were subsequently imprisoned eight days later. They are currently held in a high-security prison. Among them are prominent figures such as Serdar Altan, Co-chair of the Association of Journalists Dicle-Fırat (DFG); Mehmet Ali Ertaş, editor-in-chief of the Xwebûn site; Aziz Oruç, chief editor of the Mezopotamya Agency (MA) and several other reporters from pro-Kurdish media outlets.
The RSF highlighted that this trial was expected to have significant implications for future cases. Six other journalists, arrested in April 2023 just before the general elections, will face trial in the coming months under similar charges. They also face up to 15 years in prison.