Press Freedom

Update 11/02: Journalists covering quake aftermath continue to face obstacles

At least 15 journalists have faced obstructions, investigations and physical attacks over quake-related news reports since 6 February

Many journalists covering post-quake relief efforts continued to face obstructions on the 5th day of the disaster. At least 15 journalists have faced obstructions, investigations and physical attacks over quake-related news reports.

Journalist Rabia Çetin on 11 February reported that she had been attacked physically by a group of 15 village guards — locals armed by the state as security guards mostly in southeastern regions — while she was near a collapsed building in the Yeni Mahalle area of Adıyaman. Çetin said the guards attempted to lynch her after noticing her press card she wore around her neck, adding that she was saved by earthquake survivors from the group.

In the early evening, journalist Ahmet Kanbal also said  a village guard attempted to attack him while working in Adıyaman’s Cumhuriyet neighborhood. The guard was driven away when earthquake survivors stood by him, the journalist said.

Reporter Zübeyde Sarı tweeted also on 11 February that she and her crew were prevented from filming ongoing work to clear up the rubble in Hatay, where search and rescue efforts have been concluded.

The Presidency’s Communication Directorate responded in the 10 Februrary “Disinformation Bulletin” – a weekly newsletter which responds to criticism of the government — to accusations by Halk TV correspondent Ferit Demir who had said that a police officer had kicked him to stop him from filming in Malatya. The Directorate denied the allegations,saying they were false, and stated that Demir had not filed a complaint about his claims.

In remarks about the bulletin, Demir told MLSA “I’m not going to deal with somebody kicking me at a time when thousands are under the rubble. We want to help contribute to save lives, even if it’s only one person. I can’t deal with a kick in such an environment. I have nothing to say to them.”

Earlier, Halk TV correspondent Şirin Payzın had also stated that she and her team were attacked in Antakya as they filmed work on a collapsed building on 10 February by individuals that appeared to be civilians.

It also became evident that Turkish border officials had not allowed LePoint correspondent Guillaume Perrier into Turkey when he arrived on 8 February to report on the earthquakeon the grounds that he was a “national security” threat. Perrier worked for a decade in Turkey previously as a correspondent for Le Monde.

Meanwhile, MLSA Legal Unit lawyers reminded once again to all journalists that the current STate of Emergency in the disaster area comprising 10 affected provinces does not provide legal grounds for obstruction of freedom of the press. Legal Unit experts also note that any written proof or footage showing attempts to obstruct journalistic work can later be used in court against the offending officials.

So far between 6 February – the day two earthquakes hit Kahramanmaraş and 11 February, four journalists covering disaster -relief efforts have been detained by police officers, and released pending trial for accusations of “spreading false information” or “inciting public to hostility.” At least five journalists were physically stopped by police from filming and at least three have reported being targets of physical attacks. Two journalists found themselves as defendants in an investigation on charges of “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” over their social media posts criticizing the government’s disaster-relief efforts.

On 8 February, Turkey declared a State of Emergency in the affected regions. Also on 8 February, social media platforms were unreachable for as long as nine hours, which digital rights groups have said was the result of narrowing of bandwidth of these programs by the TUrkish government.