New York, August 29, 2016–Turkish authorities should immediately release 23 employees of the Kurdish-language daily newspaper Azadiya Welat detained yesterday in a police raid of the newspaper’s office, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
In addition to the 23 newspaper employees, who included journalists and distributors, police also detained four people, including a minor, who were visiting the daily’s office in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır at the time of the raid, according to news reports.
“The detention of at least 23 employees of the newspaper Azadiya Welat is the latest escalation in Turkey’s staggering campaign to silence critical voices,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all those detained and cease trying to intimidate the press into compliance.”
It was not immediately clear whether those detained were charged with a crime, but according to a report from the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), police told Azadiya Welat staff that the reason for the raid was a tip from a caller who was suspicious of the number of people coming into and out of the newspaper’s office and believed terrorists were meeting there.
Authorities have subjected Azadiya Welat to persistent judicial harassment since its founding in 1992 as the weekly Welat. It began publishing daily under its current name in 2006. In October 2014, two men on a motorcycle fatally shot Kadri Bağdu in Adana as he delivered the newspaper on his bicycle. No one was convicted of that crime. News editor Rohat Aktaş died in early February 2016 after being trapped while reporting on the fighting between Kurdish separatists and Turkish soldiers in Cizre.