Int’l press organizations call for thorough investigation into journalist’s murder in Turkey

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A number of international media freedom organizations have called on Turkish authorities to investigate the murder of a local journalist who was fatally shot in front of his office in northwestern Turkey on Saturday.

The International Press Institute (IPI) and the partners of Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) including ARTICLE 19, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) strongly condemned the murder of Güngör Arslan, the owner and managing editor of the local Ses Kocaeli news website in a joint statement on Monday.

Arslan was attacked in front of his office and shot in the chest and leg. He was taken to a hospital, where he died of his injuries. In a written statement the Kocaeli Governor’s office announced that a 21-year-old suspect had been taken into custody. According to news reports, the suspect claimed he killed Arslan because he did not like his writing.

The IPI and MFRR welcomed the speedy detention of the suspect by the police and called for a swift and thorough investigation and prosecution of the gunman and those who may have assisted or ordered the murder.

“This must shed light on the reasons for the attack, including any possible links with his journalistic work, and ensure all those responsible are held to account in court,” said the media organizations.

In a broadcast made before the attack, Arslan had stated that he had previously been attacked for “trying to do his job as a journalist.”

The media groups reiterated their longstanding concerns about the endemic impunity for murders of journalists in Turkey, recalling that the murders of several journalists in the country have not been solved and that the perpetrators went unpunished.

“There has been no or incomplete justice for Uğur Mumcu, assassinated outside his home in Ankara in 1993; Metin Göktepe, tortured and murdered in police custody in Istanbul in 1996; Hrant Dink, assassinated in Istanbul in 2007; Naji Jerf, gunned down in Gaziantep in 2015; Rohat Aktaş, found dead in Cizre in 2016; Jamal Khashoggi, murdered in a Saudi consulate in 2018; or Hazim Özsu, killed in Bursa in 2021 by a suspect who reportedly disliked some of his remarks on the radio,” they said in their statement.

In the last article he wrote for his seskocaeli.com news website on Feb. 18, Arslan criticized Kocaeli Mayor Tahir Büyükakın, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), for awarding a public tender to a pro-government company, Haldız Construction. He also wrote about allegations made by a competitor, Zeray Construction, which was eliminated from the tender, saying the mayor should respond to Zeray’s questions about irregularities in the bidding process.

In 2021, Arslan spent 188 days in pre-trial detention on allegations of blackmail. He was released at his first hearing at the Kocaeli 12th Criminal Court of First Instance. After an attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016, he was detained due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the failed coup despite a strong denial from the movement. He was acquitted of the charges, but his newspaper and property were seized.

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