Journalist trapped and injured while reporting in besieged Turkish town dies

New York, February 24, 2016–A news editor for the Kurdish-language daily Azadiya Welat, who had been trapped with a gunshot wound in Cizre since January 22, has died. Authorities used DNA testing to identify the remains of Rohat Aktaş, local reports said today. The exact circumstances of his death are unclear. Pro-opposition and pro-Kurdish media reported that government forces denied medical treatment to those injured in clashes in the southeastern Turkish town.

“We call for an immediate and independent investigation into the death of Rohat Aktaş, including into reports that he and other injured individuals were trapped in a building and denied medical treatment,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “The information blockade the Turkish government imposed on Cizre and other areas in southeastern Turkey makes it impossible to independently verify information from the region. Any obstructions on reporting must be lifted.”

Aktaş was shot in the arm while reporting on efforts to help those wounded during clashes between Kurdish separatists and Turkish forces, his editor, Zeynel Bulut, told CPJ earlier this month. Turkish forces fired on the group, according to Bulut and news reports. Aktaş was trapped in a basement with dozens of others and the newsroom lost communication with him in late January, Bulut said. Turkish pro-government media claimed that the people trapped in Cizre were terrorists and that separatists had prevented ambulances from helping the injured.