President Donald Trump walks toward the Oval Office after posing for photographers with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on November 13. Turkey detained at least six journalists in the same week as Erdoğan's visit to the U.S. (AP/Evan Vucci)

As Erdoğan visits Trump, Turkey jails more journalists

November 14, 2019 4:58 PM ET

Istanbul, November 14, 2019—Turkey must end its harassment of the press and stop jailing journalists simply for doing their job, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. In the past week, Turkish authorities have jailed at least three journalists, and detained three others overnight, according to reports.

Yesterday evening, police in the northern province of Giresun detained Canan Coşkun, a reporter for the news website Gazete Duvar, Kazım Kızıl, a documentary filmmaker who was working with her, and Tuba Demir, who was reporting for KHK, an outlet that broadcasts on YouTube and social media, according to a report in Bianet and a tweet from KHK TV. The journalists were released the following day, Bianet reported.

Separately, on November 12, police in the western city of Izmir detained Ruken Demir, a reporter for pro-Kurdish news agency Mezopotamya [who is no relation to Tuba Demir], and Melike Aydın, a reporter for pro-Kurdish JIN news agency, along with at least 10 other people, Mezopotamya reported.

The same day, a judge in Istanbul ruled that Ahmet Altan, a well-known novelist and journalist who was released from prison on November 5 after being detained since September 2016, should be taken back into custody, according to reports. Authorities took him into custody the same day, according to reports.

The arrests took place in the same week that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. On November 12, two U.S. Congressman introduced legislation that called for the U.S. to impose sanctions, including a cut to military aid, on Turkey over its human rights record and military incursion into Syria, The Guardian reported.

“The international stage is already taking steps to reprimand Turkey over its human rights record, and Turkish authorities should take immediate steps to address these pressing concerns, including the arbitrary jailing of journalists,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “For the past three years, Turkey has been the world’s worst jailer of journalists. The country should release all jailed journalists and end its harassment of the independent press.”

At the time of their arrest, Coşkun and Kızıl were in the Eynesil district of Giresun to cover the story of the March 2018 death of a child, according to Bianet. The schoolgirl’s killing has been a prominent story in the Turkish press.

In a statement today before the journalists were released, the office of Giresun’s governor accused them of harassing a witness and of claiming to represent a parliamentary investigation commission that was in the area to interview people about the girl’s death. Coşkun denied the allegations, Bianet reported. The journalists were released under a foreign travel ban and on condition they do not go near the home of a witness in the trial of the girl’s killing, according to reports.

Separately, prosecutors today questioned Ruken Demir about allegedly “acting on behalf of a terrorist organization” including questions about her reporting and telephone calls to sources, according to Mezopotamya. Aydın was due to be questioned later today, according to the same report. The journalists were arrested alongside at least 10 other people who were with Ege TUHAYDER, a group that advocates for prisoners’ rights, according to Mezopotamya.

In Altan’s case, the journalist was released from prison on November 5, after an Istanbul court convicted him of “aiding a [terrorist] organization without being a member” and sentenced him to 10 years and six months in prison, according to reports. The judge ordered Altan to be released on probation for time served. The Chief Prosecutor’s Office appealed the ruling and on November 12 Altan was taken back into custody, according to reports. The reports did not cite on what grounds the appeal was made.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The fourth and tenth paragraph of this alert have been updated to correct the date Altan was taken into custody.]

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