On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, when the freedom of journalists and their contribution to a democratic society are honored, five more journalists in Turkey joined dozens of their colleagues behind bars, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.
An Ankara court on Wednesday ruled for the arrest of journalist Dicle Müftüoğlu, co-chairperson of the Dicle Fırat Journalists’ Association, and Mezopotamya news agency editor Sedat Yılmaz in addition to three other journalists — Erol Balcı, Abdurrahim Tanyeli and Ramazan Debe.
The journalists were among 19 people who were detained over the weekend in operations across 15 provinces as part of an investigation based in Ankara.
Among the 15 people who were referred to court for arrest, five of them, all journalists, were arrested while the others were released on judicial probation and a travel ban. It was not clear on which charges the journalists were arrested, but it is common for Kurdish journalists in Turkey to face terrorism charges due to their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has been waging a decades-long war against the state for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority.
“The corrupt regime will be finished in 10 days, it’s about to collapse,” Yılmaz said in court, protesting the decision to arrest him.
Eşbaşkanımız Dicle Müftüoğlu ve Mezopotamya Ajansı editörü Sedat Yılmaz tutuklama kararı sonrası dimdik durarak mesajlarını veriyor. #GazetecileriSusturamayacaksınız pic.twitter.com/9y0li0Njeg
— Dicle Fırat Gazeteciler Derneği (@DFGDernegi) May 2, 2023
He was referring to presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, when opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government expect to hand them a defeat.
The arrest of the five journalists, who mostly work for pro-Kurdish media outlets, follows the arrest of four of their colleagues last week, who were detained in a mass operation targeting Kurds ahead of the critical elections. More than 120 people including Kurdish activists, lawyers and politicians were detained in the operation.
Among them, four journalists — Beritan Canözer, Mehmetşah Oruç, Abdurrahman Gök and Mikail Barut — were arrested later in the week on charges of membership in a terrorist organization, the PKK.
Turkey, which has a poor record in freedom of the press, ranked 165th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, plunging 16 places from its ranking of 149th in 2022.