Don Nissenbaum, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, was detained on Tuesday in Istanbul and was held for two-and-a-half days without access to his family or attorneys before his release on Friday morning, the WSJ reported.
A person familiar with the situation said Nissenbaum was taken into custody for allegedly violating a ban on the publication of images from an Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) video, although authorities declined to tell Nissenbaum precisely what he was being investigated for.
While in custody Nissenbaum was denied permission to contact his family or employer and was refused access to a lawyer despite repeated requests. The WSJ was unable to determine his whereabouts until Thursday, when it was notified that they could pick up their reporter the next morning.
“While we are relieved that Dion was released unharmed after nearly three days, we remain outraged at his peremptory detention, without any contact with his family, legal counsel or colleagues,” said the paper’s editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker.
Nissenbaum’s detention comes at a time when freedom of the press is under siege by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, with 143 journalists currently in prison awaiting trial and 195 news outlets shut down by decree for alleged ties to terrorism or coup plotting.
Currently on his way back to the United States with his family, Nissenbaum tweeted on Saturday “Thanks for well wishes! @SeemaJilani and I are heading to US after very trying ordeal. Thanks to @WSJ for helping us ring in 2017 together!” and also cleared up any confusion about him being deported, saying a deportation threat that had been made was dropped after he was freed on Friday.
Pressure on foreign journalists in Turkey has been mounting in recent years, with the government, pro-government journalists and government trolls on social media directly targeting them.
Journalists Frank Nordhausen and Nick Ashdown were targeted by pro-government trolls and media for their tweets reporting on twin bomb attacks in İstanbul immediately after they occurred on Dec. 10.
A campaign on social media was launched by a troll with more than 134,000 followers, @ustakiloyunlari, who wrote, “These journalists, like agents, were aware of the attacks,” with a photoshopped picture showing the time of journalists’ tweets after the blasts.
“#Turkey – Because I reported the Istanbul blast yesterday on Twitter I am now the aim of a terrible shitstorm by Turkish nationalists,” said Nordhausen in response to the campaign.
Ashdown tried to inform Twitter about the campaign, writing: “Dear @twitter, this account is accusing foreign journalists in Turkey of being agents, resulting in threats from his many followers.”
“Shameless, immoral, treason,” said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of an article by New York Times reporter Ceylan Yeginsu about the recruitment of Turkish citizens by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group.
After CNN’s Ivan Watson was detained during a live broadcast from the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013, Erdoğan accused him of “working like a spy.”
Erdoğan also went after the Economist’s Turkey correspondent, Amberin Zaman, for her remarks on a TV show: “Shameless militant disguised under the name of a journalist.”
Selin Girit, a host on the BBC’s Turkish service, was another journalist targeted by Erdoğan, who said, “Part of a conspiracy against her own country.”
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu attacked French journalist Olivier Bertrand, who was deported by Turkey in November after three days of detention, saying he was sent to Turkey to stir up unrest on the Syrian border.
Two Swedish journalists were also temporarily detained by police in November in the Kurdish southeastern province of Diyarkabır.
Lindsey Snell, an American freelance journalist detained by Turkish security forces on Aug. 7 as she crossed into Turkey from Syria and accused of having illegally entered a restricted military zone, was released in October after two months’ detention in Turkey.
Finnish journalist and writer Taina Niemela was deported from Turkey in April on charges that she had been involved in “spying activities.”