Journalists in Turkey are calling for support from their professional organisations after a number of their colleagues were threatened with firearms in mainly-Kurdish populated Van province in east Turkey on Thursday.
Violence and threats against journalists are again on the rise in Turkey, prompting some journalists to warn of the dangers of suppression of journalism as a profession, and the removal of the people’s right to be informed and the freedom of expression.
Journalists were among the main targets of the police at a Justice Vigil held in Istanbul on September 1 for sick prisoners and those being down for conditional release. The police tried to prevent the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) MP for Istanbul from speaking, subjecting journalists trying to report this to violence, preventing them from filming and forcibly removing them from the scene.
Etkin News Agency journalist Elif Bayburt, who was trying to film the events, was arrested, while Mezopotamya Agency (MA)’s Doğan Kaynak had his arm twisted behind his back and was forcibly removed from the area by several police officers, beating him as they went. A number of prisoners’ relatives were also detained, reports MA.
Meanwhile, journalists following a rally called by the HDP in Van for World Peace Day were subjected to death threats. A plain clothed policeman threatened MA’s reporter Berivan Kutlu and JinNews reporter Zelal Tunç, saying, “I’ll kill you, no-one will find your bodies”. The same officer pulled a gun on JinNews reporter Elfazi Toral. The police also tried to prevent people filming and attempted to break their cameras.
Eren Güven, from Pir News Agency, recalling the 16 journalists still in prison in Diyarbakır, made the observation that, “It is no longer only Kurdish journalists, but now people working for predominantly Turkish agencies Haber Türk, Halk TV and KRT can also experience this violence,” continuing, “We [Kurdish journalists] are not the only ones in the sights of this fascism, it is the profession, it is journalism itself.”
Birkan Bulut, of the Evrensel Newspaper, recalled the Evrensel journalist Metin Göktepe murdered by police in 1996, saying, “People must speak up about a gun being pulled on Elfazi Toral in Van. The Göktepe case showed how important it is to fight back against attacks against journalists.”
Melek Avcı , from the Communication Workers Solidarity Network agreed, saying, “They pull a gun today. If that gun goes off tomorrow, then what? If we don’t respond to this gun being pulled, to the death threat expressed by that, will we remain silent when we are, or someone else is shot with that same gun tomorrow, when that gun goes off?”
Can Güleryüzlü, General Director of the Contemporary Journalists Association said, “Since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power they have followed two policies relating to the press, with the same outcome. The first of these is to wear down press institutions with harassment to make them into propaganda tools, and when this doesn’t work, to actually prevent them publishing the news.”
“Recently this second method has become dominant. Journalists are hindered and detained directly by security forces in just about any mass event.” he added.