Press Freedom

20 Kurdish journalists taken to custody remain in detention

BARIŞ ALTINTAŞ

Last Wednesday, on June 8th, 20 journalists and one former media employee were detained in home raids in Diyarbakır, as part of a terrorism investigation being conducted by the Diyarbakır Prosecutor’s Office.

The reason for their detention was not immediately clear as the prosecutor’s office has placed a gag order on the case. Lawyers have said they were denied access to the documentation and thus in the dark on the reasons for the detentions.

Among those who were taken into custody is Serdar Altan, the Co-president of Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association (DFG). In a related development, on June 3rd, Dicle Müftüoğlu, the other Co-president of the Association was also taken into custody. Reportedly taken into custody as part of a separate criminal investigation, Müftüoğlu was released on June 6th.

The journalists still haven’t testified to prosecutors and the detention period for the journalists was extended to four days, which means they will not appear before an arraignment judge before four days.

The media outlets where the detained journalists are employed have said that Turkey’s ongoing military operations in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region (KRI) and a potential planned military operation in Syria might be the reason behind the detentions.

Sedat Yılmaz, a senior editor at the Mezopotamya News Agency, whose journalists are among the detained: “According to information leaked by pro-government media, the people detained include people who reported, or provided commentary for or worked as anchors for Kurdish media stations as Roj TV and Medya Haber.”

On 8 June, the state-owned and govenrment controlled Anatolia Agency (AA) reported that the operation was being carried out as part of an anti-terror operation into the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) “Press Committee.” The agency said that Diyarbakır based media outlets Pel Yapım, Piya Yapım, Ari Yapım, Sterk TV which broadcasts from Belgium and Medya Haber TV which broadcasts from the UK were targeted in the operation. The agency said Jin News news website was also “serving the same purpose” as others.

Yılmaz said sources close to Turkey’s ruling party AKP said the operations sought to silence the opposing voices during planned operations in the Rojava region of northern Syria.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union.

The journalists in custody

Those in detention are Co-President of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) Serdar Altan, JinNews Manager Safiye Alagaş, JINNEWS editor Gülşen Koçuk, Mezopotamya Agency (MA) editor Aziz Oruç and journalists Ömer Çelik, Suat Doğuhan, Ramazan Geciken, Esmer Tunç, Neşe Toprak, Zeynel Bulut, Mazlum Güler, Mehmet Şahin, Elif Üngür, İbrahim Koyuncu, Remziye Temel, Mehmet Yalçın, Abdurrahman Öncü, Mehmet Ali Ertaş, Lezgin Akdeniz and Kadir Bayram.