The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkey to immediately release all journalists and media workers imprisoned for their work and stop interfering with the press ahead of the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.
Five journalists who were detained along with more than 100 activists, lawyers and politicians in a mass operation targeting Kurds across Turkey last week were arrested on terrorism-related charges.
“Turkey’s ongoing crackdown on the Kurdish media over alleged terrorism ties clearly shows how authorities are determined to silence dissenting voices ahead of the country’s elections,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should release all journalists held in custody at once and stop abusing the country’s anti-terror laws to harass the press.”
A total of 128 people, including 10 journalists, were detained as part of a Diyarbakır-based operation that was conducted in 21 provinces on April 25. The detentions, ordered by the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, came three weeks before critical elections slated for May 14 that could extend President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-decade rule.
According to the CPJ, five journalists — Beritan Canözer, Mehmetşah Oruç, Abdurrahman Gök, Mikail Barut and Remzi Akkaya — were arrested after they appeared in court on Thursday. On Friday, Mikail Barut was also arrested.
They are accused of membership in a terrorist organization, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). All the journalists have faced similar charges in the past and spent some time in jail.
“Fascism will be defeated, long live the free press,” Gök said in protest of his arrest.
In its report on Tuesday’s operation, state media TRT said police had detained people suspected of financing the PKK or luring new members to the group. It also involved suspects who allegedly transferred money to the PKK from municipalities held by Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), TRT said.
The HDP — the second-largest opposition party in parliament — is widely seen as a kingmaker in the tight race.
Erdoğan has often accused the HDP of alleged links to the PKK, which the party denies.
The HDP said last month it would not field a presidential candidate in the May 14 elections, giving tacit support to Erdoğan’s main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.