Press Freedom

Journalists arrested in Ankara welcomed the new year in prison where their rights are violated

On 30 December 2022, lawyer Merve Kurhan of the Media and Law Studies Association’s (MLSA) Legal Team visited the journalists who were arrested in Ankara. Journalists who have been deprived of their freedom for the past two months and against whom the indictment is yet to be prepared, shared the rights violations they have been subjected to in prison.

Mesopotamia News Agency’s (MA) Editor-in-Chief Diren Yurtsever, MA Ankara News Chief Deniz Nazlım, MA reporters Berivan Altan, Selman Güzelyüz, Hakan Yalçın, Emrullah Acar, Ceylan Şahinli and JinNews reporters Habibe Eren and Öznur Değer were arrested in Ankara on 29 October 2022 over the suspicion of “membership in a terrorist organization.”

Journalists Öznur Değer and Deniz Nazlım talked to MLSA about the prison conditions and the human rights violations they have been subjected to and they have observed.

Even basic demands are not met, solidarity for the electricity bill is not allowed

Stating that they were subjected to strip-search upon their arrival in the Sincan Women’s Prison, JinNews reporter Öznur Değer shared that the prison administration demands petitions even for the simplest demands. Değer said that their demands are not met by the prison administration even if they follow the petition method imposed by the administration and gave the example of how they had to wait for a long time to obtain a fruit knife despite the fact that it is sold at the prison commissary.

Değer noted that the electronic appliances which they use for many purposes, are not replaced for a long time if they are broken. Değer said that they could not have tea for five days because of such lateness.

Stating that the prison administration insists each room is billed separately, Değer shared that the administration does not allow any solidarity with those who cannot pay for the electricity bill of their rooms.

Family visits are prevented

Değer, who could not see her family before the new year, shared that the prisoners are notified about the visiting days very late and their requests for visits are rejected by the prison administration on the grounds that “the request was made too late.” Değer thinks that the late notification about the visiting days is deliberate so that the visits can be prevented.

Değer also shared that many visits are prevented after the Security General Directorate deems the visitors “objectionable” after a security check.

Değer stated that family visits which could actually take place are also restricted as the prisoners are forbidden from interacting with the families of other prisoners and having their photos taken with them.

Değer said that the restrictions about having their photos taken are also extended to their wards. Değer shared that only three people are allowed to have their photos taken in a ward in one go and that their requests for a collective photo are yet to be replied to by the prison administration.

Kurdish is not allowed, ward searches are a form of punishment

Değer shared that they were prevented from speaking Kurdish at a communal event and said that their speech was interrupted by the guards who said “We can’t understand you, you can’t speak Kurdish.” Değer also relayed that disciplinary investigations were initiated against two women who shouted “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” [Women, Life, Freedom] on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Değer said that one of these women who was soon to be released, was given a disciplinary penalty.

Underlining that ward searches which are sometimes conducted a couple of times a week amount to a form of punishment, Değer shared that the searches are filmed and prisoners are often provoked by the guards during these searches.

A postcard was considered ‘obscene’

Değer complained that their letters are posted very late and that some of them are even returned because of simple clerical mistakes. Değer also stated that they are also forbidden from sending out letters collectively.

Emphasizing that their communication with the outside world is arbitrarily blocked, Değer gave the example of how a postcard was not delivered to its receiver because it was considered to be “obscene.”

Four journalists are still in solitary confinement cells

MA Ankara News Chief Deniz Nazlım shared that similar to himself journalists Selman Güzelyüz, Emrullah Acar and Hakan Yalçın are still being kept in solitary confinement cells. Saying that he is in good health and in high spirits, Nazlım stated that he might be transferred to a different prison.

‘I wish for a world in which the freedom of information and the freedom of the press can be exercised’

Değer shared with MLSA her wishes for the new year

“After 16 of our colleagues were arrested in Diyarbakır, 9 more Kurdish journalists were arrested as part of an Ankara-based criminal investigation. We, 25 journalists whose only activity was ‘journalism’ are unlawfully being kept in pre-trial detention for months with no indictment against us and in connection with an investigation file upon which there is still a confidentiality order. Of course, our detention is not independent of the evolving political atmosphere outside and the pressures on and attacks against Kurdish people in Turkey, Europe and Middle East. We, Kurdish journalists who insisted on a democratic solution to the Kurdish Question, who communicated with the world the legitimate rights of the people, have always been the first targets of the oppressive AKP-MHP regime.The system and the mentality which arrested us, which keep us in prisons on allegations which they cannot yet fabricate, have carried out yet another massacre in Paris. These are only but the consequences of the deep blockage those in power suffer. We who are the successors of Apê Musa as the members of the free press will never remain silent. In prisons and cells, we continue to report the facts and continue to make the voice of the truth heard. Of course, those in power themselves see that free thought and free will break the chains and make them obsolete.

Getting together and standing together are the requirements for getting out of this chaos. The society itself must loudly speak out the truth so that the freedom of information can be firmly established. I have confidence that the public will be our voice and our pen as we were of them. I call upon everyone to be more sensitive against this chaos, this unlawfulness and this injustice. I give my regards to all those who strive for this end and I wish for a world in which the freedom of information and the freedom of the press can be exercised.”