Press Freedom

Update 12/02: Journalists covering quake aftermath face obstacles

Depremde yıkılmış binalar ve bir iş makinası

Journalist safety increasing source of concern as reporters face attacks of misplaced rage from survivors as anger builds up in disaster regions

On the sixth and seventh day after the two devastating earthquakes in Kahramanmaraş which affected ten provinces and hundreds of thousands of lives, journalists working in the area continue to report obstructions by police officers, but also attacks and threats from survivors.

Growing rage and despair in the earthquake-stricken provinces now sometimes turn into misplaced anger towards journalists.

In most recent developments, Fox TV reporters Sevgi Şahin and camera operator Ömür Dikme were attacked by the locals surrounding them during a live broadcast on 10 February. They weren’t harmed but note that it was a highly dangerous situation.

In Malatya, a group of people attempted to physically attack ArtıGerçek reporter Yağmur Kaya.  The group accused Kaya of being “a provocateur” and “smearing the Justice and Development Party and the state.” Kaya also said she had been asked several times in the city to show identification documentation by ordinary citizens throughout the day.

In Hatay, 1+1 Express reporter Anıl Olcan reported in a tweet from 11 February  that he had been attacked by a police officer and a group of angry locals. Olcan reported that the police officer who attacked him threw his equipment and his press card into a nearby fire. The journalist was taken to safety by a group of soldiers in the area.

Meanwhile, journalists, Sema Çağlak, Vecdi Erbay, Sertaç Kayar and Arif Bulut, who have been facing arbitrary “press card” or “accreditation” checks by police or security officers shared the obstructions they had to endure while working in the earthquake with MLSA’s Deniz Tekin although this article is only available in Turkish for the time being.

Online harassment by pro-government journalists

On 12 February, the Islamist pro-government Yeni Akit daily attacked T24 reporter Hazar Dost in a tweet, casting him as a target of attack for its audience.  Citing an article by Dost where detailing the absence of coordination in the earthquake-stricken Samandağ district of Hatay, Yeni Akit accused Dost of “immorality.”

On 9 February, pro-government Yeni Şafak daily reporter Taha Hüseyin Karagöz targeted online Etkin News Agency (ETHA) reporter Elif Bayburt. Including the user account of the Ministry of Interior in his tweet as a mention, Karagöz accused Bayburt of producing “terror news.” ETHA’s Twitter account was also blocked

Between 6 February and 12 February, four journalists in the region were detained by police, all of them were let go pending trial. At least eight journalists publicly reported being physically prevented by security forces from filming near collapsed buildings, and at least eight journalists reported having been physically or verbally attacked by police officers, village guards or groups of angry survivors. At least one foreign journalist who came to Turkey to cover the earthquake was barred from entering the country.