Kurdish journalists, media workers released in Turkey

Istanbul, February 11, 2013–The release of at least seven journalists and media workers from pretrial detention is a positive step toward restoring the press freedom climate in Turkey, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

A court in Istanbul on Friday ordered the release pending trial of the individuals, who were imprisoned in December 2011 on charges of supporting and collaborating with the banned Union of Communities in Kurdistan, or KCK, and Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, according to news reports. The individuals still face prison terms if convicted of their charges and all have been banned from traveling outside Turkey, news reports said. Their trials, which began in September, are expected to resume in April, the reports said.

The journalists who were released include Zuhal Tekiner, chairwoman of the board of the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency; Çağdaş Kaplan and İsmail Yıldız, both reporters for the agency; and Ziya Çiçekci, news editor for the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, according to the BBC and other news reports. The court also ordered the release of Ömer Çiftçi, owner of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish opinion magazine Özgür Halk ve Demokratik Modernite, and Saffet Orman, another individual affiliated with the magazine, news reports said. Pervin Yerlikaya, an accountant for Özgür Gündem, was also released, the reports said.

News reports did not identify a reason for the release of the journalists and media workers. International human rights and press freedom organizations have urged Turkey to halt prolonged detention prior to a court date.

“We hope that this is the first step on the road to ending the practice of holding journalists in pretrial detention,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney from New York. “Turkey, however, should honor its international commitments and heed calls from its international partners such as the European Union and stop jailing reporters for their work.”

Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, according to CPJ research. At least 49 journalists were behind bars when CPJ conducted its worldwide prison census on December 1, 2012.

  • For more data and analysis on Turkey, visit CPJ’s Turkey page here.