CPJ calls on Turkey to release American journalist

New York, August 13, 2010–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Turkish authorities to release American journalist Jake Hess, who is being detained in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, according to the Turkish daily HürriyetHess is accused of collaborating with the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), referred to in news reports as the “urban wing” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)  

Hess, who is a contributor to the Inter Press Service new agency, was detained on Wednesday evening, according to Serkan Akbaş, his lawyer. Akbaş told CPJ that Hess “wrote several articles that angered the authorities.” He added that when Hess was arrested the police said he was being detained on allegations of “aiding the PKK” and that his name was in the government’s file on the KCK.

The lawyer told CPJ that Hess’ name was in the KCK file likely in connection with a translation job he did in 2009 for a nongovernmental organization in Turkey called the Human Rights Association, which has reported extensively on human rights violations related to the Kurdish issue. Akbaş said that the timing of the arrest “clearly shows that they got annoyed with his articles.” Hess wrote about human rights violations against Kurds. His latest piece, about Kurdish refugees who had fled to northern Iraq after the Turkish army attacked their villages, was published on August 4.

The Anatolia News Agency reported today that Hess is still being questioned in Diyarbakir and that police officials told the agency that Hess is not a journalist, and that he may be deported. An inquiry to the Turkish Embassy in Washington was not immediately returned.

Jake Hess is a legitimate journalist and the mere appearance of his name in KCK documents is not grounds for detention, prosecution, or deportation,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We call on Turkish authorities to immediately release Hess and not hinder his reporting.”

Sanjay Suri, the Inter Press Service’s editor-in-chief, confirmed that Hess is a contributor and told CPJ that his “pieces have been on rights for Kurds within areas of Turkey and northern Iraq.” Suri told CPJ that Hess is due to appear before a judge on Saturday. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The work of the Human Rights Association has been clarified in paragraph three.