A police barricade is seen in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 1, 2020. Turkish police recently arrested two journalists in an espionage investigation. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Turkish police arrest 2 journalists in espionage investigation

Istanbul, June 9, 2020 – Turkish authorities must release journalists Müyesser Yıldız and İsmail Dükel immediately, and ensure that the press can cover political and military news freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday morning, police in Ankara arrested Yıldız, Ankara news director for opposition news website Odatv, and Dükel, the Ankara representative for opposition broadcaster TELE1, at their homes, according to news reports.

Police detained Yıldız as part of an investigation by Ankara prosecutors into alleged “political and military espionage,” according to a report from her employer. That report said that police confiscated all the digital devices in Yıldız’s home, including those that belong to her husband and son.

TELE1 chief editor Merdan Yanardağ tweeted that police took Dükel from his home at 7:30 a.m., and said the prosecution ordered him to be detained for four days.

Authorities arrested the journalists as part of an espionage investigation surrounding communications with E.B., a member of the Turkish military identified only by those initials, who is also in custody, according to the pro-government Sabah daily. The journalists have not been brought before a judge to be charged, according to those reports.

“Journalists must be able to communicate with their sources without fear that they will face persecution, even on sensitive topics like the military,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said, in New York. “If authorities believe journalists Müyesser Yıldız and İsmail Dükel could be helpful in an ongoing investigation, they should invite them to testify; not arrest them. The journalists should be released immediately and anything that was confiscated from their homes should be returned.”

According to Sabah, Yıldız allegedly made “calls with criminal content” to E.B. regarding Turkey’s military activity in Libya, using a phone registered to her name. Sabah reported that Yıldız is accused of “29 separate actions” involving E.B. that could constitute “military crimes.”

That report said that Dükel was detained as part of the same investigation, but did not specify the exact nature of the allegations against him.

In a message passed through her lawyer, Yıldız denied the espionage allegations, according to Odatv.

Three other Odatv journalists are currently in prison pending trial for allegedly violating the country’s intelligence laws by exposing the identity of a Turkish intelligence officer who was killed in Libya, CPJ has documented.

CPJ emailed the Ankara police but did not receive any reply.