AFP photographer Mustafa Ozer is detained at his home in Istanbul. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)
AFP photographer Mustafa Ozer is detained at his home in Istanbul. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)

Turkey must justify widespread arrests of journalists

New York, December 20, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by reports of the arrests of journalists in a nationwide sweep today in Turkey, and calls on authorities to immediately disclose the names of those detained along with any charges being filed against them.

“We call on Ankara to release the identities of the detained journalists and all charges being filed against them,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The government must also immediately produce supporting evidence for this alarming, widespread crackdown. Without transparency, this clampdown appears to be an effort to silence dissenting views.”

In coordinated raids that stretched across seven Turkish cities, including Istanbul, Diyarbakir, Van, Izmir, and Ankara, police detained 40 individuals, state-run media reported. International news reports said many of those arrested were journalists, although the precise number was not clear.

Authorities broadly alleged that the sweep was directed against “the press and propaganda” arm of the Union of Kurdistan Communities, or KCK, but no supporting details were disclosed, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. Ankara has maintained that the KCK is the political arm of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Initial news reports identified a handful of the detainees by affiliation or name. State media reported that the detainees included 10 journalists from the pro-Kurdish Dicle news agency. Agence France-Presse photographer Mustafa Ozer was among 25 individuals arrested in Istanbul, according to several international news reports. Zeynep Kuray, a reporter covering human rights issues for the daily Bir Gun, was detained at her Istanbul home today, CNN said, citing an executive for the paper. The privately owned Dogan news agency said police confiscated computers and documents from newsrooms and journalists’ homes across the country.