The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkey to immediately release all imprisoned members of the press and stop prosecuting journalists who cover Kurdish issues, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.
The Diyarbakır 4th High Criminal Court has accepted an indictment of 21 people, the vast majority of whom are Kurdish journalists who have been in pre-trial detention since June 2022.
They face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty under Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws, the CPJ said.
“Turkish authorities must immediately release the journalists and the media worker who have been behind bars since June 2022 and stop charging members of the press reporting on Turkey’s Kurdish issue under the country’s terrorism laws,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna in New York. “Turkey has long been one of the world leading jailers of journalists and this latest crackdown shows authorities’ fear of any semblance of independent reporting.”
The first hearing will be held on July 11, more than a year after they were jailed on terrorism-related charges.
Fifteen of the detainees, including Serdar Altan, co-chair of the Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG); Mezopotamya news agency (MA) Editor-in-Chief Aziz Oruç; JinNews News Director Safiye Alagaş; and the Xwebün weekly News Editor Mehmet Ali Ertaş were arrested by a court on June 16, 2022.
The Kurdish journalists, who had been detained as part of an operation overseen by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, were arrested on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, a charge included in the indictment.
Kurdish journalists in Turkey frequently face legal harassment, stand trial and are given jail sentences for covering issues related to Kurds and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s southeast since 1984.
Rights groups routinely accuse Turkey of undermining media freedom by arresting journalists and shutting down critical media outlets, especially since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.
Turkey, which is one of 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 May.