Journalists in several Turkish cities staged demonstrations on Friday to show solidarity with 16 of their colleagues who were arrested in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır in June on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, the sendika.org news website reported on Friday.
Turkish authorities formally arrested the journalists, including Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG) co-chair Serdar Altan, Mezopotamya news agency (MA) Editor-in-Chief Aziz Oruç and JinNews News Director Safiye Alagaş, on June 16, after they had been detained on June 8, in a move that sparked outrage among opposition politicians, press members and rights activists.
Friday’s demonstrations took place in Diyarbakır, Mersin, Van and Ankara on the three-month anniversary of the journalists’ arrest and included members of the DFG and the Mezopotamya Female Journalists’ Platform (MKGP), sendika.org said.
The events held in Diyarbakır also saw the participation of the jailed journalists’ families and friends in addition to spokesperson for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Ebru Günay. The protestors held banners with names and photos of the 16 journalists that read, “Free media cannot be silenced.”
They also sent cards, letters and books to the arrested journalists to show solidarity and made statements in both Kurdish and Turkish, which were read by MKGP spokesperson Roza Metina and DFG co-chair Dicle Müftüoğlu, respectively.
“Although 3 months have passed since the arrest of our journalist friends, the investigation into them hasn’t been completed and has turned into an indictment, and every objection to their arrest received a negative response,” they said in the statement, reiterating their call for the release of all imprisoned journalists, especially those arrested in Diyarbakır on June 16, as soon as possible.
HDP Urfa deputy Ömer Öcalan, the party’s provincial co-chair in Mersin Bedriye Kuş and administrators of Turkey’s oldest human rights group, the Human Rights Association (İHD), also participated in the demonstration held in Mersin, in addition to members of the DGF and MKGP, according to sendika.org.
It is common for journalists in Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, to face threats, physical attacks and legal harassment due to their work.
Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, eliminating media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.
Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index, released in early May.