Turkish army tanks and armored personnel carriers are seen near the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey on January 23, 2018. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)
Turkish army tanks and armored personnel carriers are seen near the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province, Turkey on January 23, 2018. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

Journalists detained after criticizing Turkey’s Syria incursion

Istanbul, January 23, 2018 –The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the detention of at least four journalists in Turkey after they criticized its incursion into northern Syria, and urged Turkish authorities to release the journalists and allow the media to report without fear of reprisal.

Police detained Hayri Demir, a reporter for the Mezopotamya News Agency and Sibel Hürtaş, the Ankara correspondent for the station Artı TV, in Ankara; Nurcan Baysal, columnist for the online independent newspaper T24; in Diyarbakır, and İhsak Karakaş, chief editor for online leftist newspaper Halkın Nabzı, in Istanbul.

All four journalists made critical comments on social media about Turkey’s recent assault on northern Syria, according to the online news site Bianet. Authorities are investigating the four journalists for “making propaganda for a [terrorist] organization,” according to Deutsche Welle and Hürtaş’s lawyer, who was cited by the journalist’s employer.

“These arrests are the latest installment in the ongoing saga of Turkey’s attempts to censor coverage of its political and military actions by locking up and intimidating journalists, ” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney, from New York. “Turkey should immediately release Hayri Demir, Sibel Hürtaş, Nurcan Baysal, and İshak Karakaş. The government cannot continue to arrest journalists just because it doesn’t like their editorial stances.”

At a press conference today in Ankara meant to address Turkey’s Syria agenda, the presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın told journalists that Turkish authorities planned to closely monitor the dissemination of “fake news” about Turkey’s recent incursion into Syria. “Our judicial and administrative bodies will follow these kinds of disinformation activities closely, carrying out necessary interventions rapidly, pointedly, and within the scope of law,” Kalın said.

In a separate incident in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, a crowd of approximately 200- 300 people yesterday attacked the offices of the regional daily Afrika. The attack occurred a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan publicly criticized a newspaper headline, “Another Invasion Operation from Turkey,” which compared Turkey’s recent incursions into the border town of Afrin in Syria to its invasion of Cyprus in 1974, according to the daily Bianet.

According to Afrika‘s chief editor Şener Levent, the attack began in the morning and was not dispersed by police until 2:30 p.m., Bianet reported. Levent told the news site that employees trapped inside the office feared for their lives. Some of the attackers scaled the office building and tore down the office’s sign, Levent said.