Riot police fire rubber pellets during a protest in Istanbul, Turkey, on February 2, 2021. Police injured several journalists covering protests in the city. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

Police attack journalists with tear gas and rubber bullets at Istanbul protest

Istanbul, February 3, 2021 — Turkish authorities should immediately investigate and prosecute law enforcement officers who attacked members of the press covering recent protests in Istanbul, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Yesterday, Istanbul police in the city’s Kadıköy district fired tear gas at journalists covering student protests against a new university rector, and shot at least two members of the press with rubber bullets, according to news reports and social media posts by journalists.

Police have detained more than 250 people for their involvement in the protests, according to Reuters.

“Istanbul police committed unacceptable violence against journalists covering protests in the city yesterday, and must face consequences,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Turkish authorities should investigate and prosecute the law enforcement officers who exceeded their authority and attacked members of the media.”

Police shot freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker Kazım Kızıl in the face with a rubber bullet, according to multiple tweets by the journalist, and also shot Murat Erkmen, a camera operator for the pro-opposition broadcaster Halk TV, in the leg with a rubber bullet, according to photos of his injury shared on social media and a report by his employer. Neither journalist wrote that their injuries were life-threatening.

According to Halk TV’s report, police also attacked Erdinç Yılmaz, a reporter with the station, who told his employer that he received a swollen knee and injured hand, but did not specify how he was attacked.

Videos posted to Twitter by the independent journalism trade union DİSK Basın-İş showed police firing rubber bullets and tear gas directly at a group of journalists and shoving and manhandling freelance journalist Elif Akgül, a member of the union’s board.

Police also punched Murat Bay, a reporter for the leftist news website Sendika, and damaged his camera, according to a report by his employer and a tweet by the journalist.

CPJ emailed the Istanbul police directorate for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.