The international campaign group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Turkish government to prosecute the police officers who beat journalists they had detained on the weekend.
“A 15-hour road trip in handcuffs in detention is torture, as is violence,” said RSF Turkey representative Erol Önderoğlu, condemning the ill-treatment of Evrensel newspaper reporter Eylem Nazlıer and Mezopotamya Agency editor Sedat Yılmaz by security officials.
Yılmaz was detained as part of an investigation by an Ankara chief prosecutor’s office on Saturday in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir (Amed) and taken the 1000 km to Ankara in handcuffs. Yılmaz has been suffering hearing loss as a result of being kicked in the head by a policeman.
Evrensel newspaper reporter Eylem Nazlıer was among a group of journalists who were beaten and detained in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul for protesting against the arrests of their colleagues in pre-election operations against pro-Kurdish opposition circles. The journalists were later released.
Including the recently arrested journalists Abdurrahman Gök, Beritan Canözer, Mehmet Şah Oruç, Mikail Barut and Remzi Akkaya on 27 April, there are currently at least 65 journalists in prison in Turkey, and 31 journalists have been arrested in the past 10 months according to the Turkish Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA).
Nine of these, who were working for Kurdish media networks and sent to prison in October 2022, sent a message from prison on Sunday calling for people to become volunteer reporters.
“Neither we journalists, nor the lawyers defending us, nor our news sources can be criminalised by means of the government’s election campaign. Today’s government and the trial system of the ruling regime, which are the ones that should be judged rather than sitting in judgement against us, cannot silence or intimidate us journalists, lawyers or society with this kind of crackdown! With the responsibility that falls to us as free Kurdish press workers pursuing the reporting of the truth, we are working to make everyone a volunteer reporter and a news source against these political operations conducted for the past week! We believe that solidarity will strengthen us and that what needs to be done will be done today. The truth cannot be silenced, the truth cannot be taken captive! The free press cannot be silenced,” the message reads.
Dicle Müftüoğlu, co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association, who was detained along with Yılmaz as part of the same investigation, also called for solidarity in a message through her lawyer. “Our stubborn search for truth continues in spite of those who have been trying to criminalise us with operations like this for years. No hindrance can obscure this fact. We call on all our colleagues to defend journalism against these censorship operations,” Müftüoğlu said.
While the crackdown on the Kurdish press has intensified with pre-election raids, the Turkish government has long practised a policy of criminalisation of opposition journalists.
In October 2022, the votes of the ruling party and its far-right ally ensured that the Turkish parliament approved the new disinformation law, which facilitates censorship and punishment.