A UK freelance journalist and Medya News contributor has been detained and interrogated for five hours by British anti-terror police on the basis of his reporting on the Kurdish issue, the Guardian reported. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have written to the UK Police demanding an end to the harassment of Matt Broomfield, a regular contributor to Medya News who has also covered the Kurds for VICE, the Independent, the New Statesman, and a range of other publications.
Broomfield said, “Journalism is never a crime. Nor should travel to Kurdistan, reporting on the Kurdish issue, or sympathy for the Kurdish cause lead to police persecution and harassment. But as my case shows, Turkey is able to exert extraordinary and unwarranted influence on UK security policy, leading to the repression of legitimate journalism and harassment of the Kurdish community.”
Broomfield, who has also been banned from entering the Schengen Zone due to his reporting in Kurdistan, spent three years working in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) from 2018 to 2020. As well as filing his own freelance reports, he co-founded the Rojava Information Centre, the region’s top independent English-language news source. In that capacity, he worked with and provided reporting services to many of the world’s leading newspapers and TV stations, as well as the UN’s Independent Inquiry on Syria, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The August detention, which took place under the controversial Schedule 7 of the UK’s Terror Act (2000), is the second time Broomfield has been interrogated by UK police. The Schedule 7 power enables police to stop and interrogate individuals at a port of entry to the UK without any criminal charge and without the right to silence, and with the obligation to hand over their phone and laptop passwords. On this occasion, Broomfield’s phone, laptop and professional notes were also confiscated.
The first stop occurred in 2021. At that time, Broomfield was detained while travelling from Greece to Italy and informed he had been issued with a travel ban in the Schengen Information System (SIS) preventing him from entering Europe’s Schengen Zone, issued by Germany. As a result, Broomfield spent two months in migration detention centres in Greece, before being deported to the UK.
“I have spent the past two years trying to get a clear explanation of my treatment by the Schengen Zone authorities, but without success,” Broomfield said. “This opaque, unilateral travel ban can only have been issued at Turkey’s behest, and again points to the extent of Turkish influence on EU security policy.”
The UK’s National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the international watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have both raised Broomfield’s case with the UK’s Met Police Anti-Terrorism Commissioner, calling for an end to his harassment and the return of his possessions.
In their letter, the NUJ wrote, “Schedule 7 is an exceptional counter-terrorism power, and the UK must also be a safe space for journalists undertaking their lawful activity. This is the second time in three years that Mr Broomfield has been detained while coming back to the UK. As discussed in relation to other cases, when journalists travel between other countries and the UK, they should not expect to be detained and their phones and computer equipment seized and searched by anti-terrorist police.”
Broomfield’s detention forms part of a wider pattern of UK repression of both journalists critical of EU government policy, and individuals linked to the Kurdish cause. Earlier this year, the British police faced outcry after using the Schedule 7 power to detain and interrogate a left-wing French publisher supportive of anti-government protests in France.
Meanwhile, many members of the UK’s Kurdish community face harassment via Schedule 7 stops every time they travel. Volunteers who have travelled to Rojava in civilian and military capacities to support the Kurdish movement there in its fight against ISIS have also faced regular harassment via Schedule 7, alongside a wave of failed prosecutions. This year has seen heightened use of Schedule 7 to target individuals linked to the Kurdish cause following the re-election of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, following which the UK has signed an enhanced security cooperation deal and expressed its desire to work ever more closely with Turkey.
“My treatment is only one example of widespread security cooperation between Turkey, the UK, and EU states, resulting in the persecution and harassment of the Kurdish diaspora, in particular Kurdish activists, journalists and human rights defenders,” Broomfield added. “I’m grateful to the NUJ and RSF for their support in raising the profile of my case, which I hope will also shed light on the extent to which the Kurdish community are criminalised throughout Europe at the behest of Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime.”