Istanbul, March 9, 2021 – Turkish authorities must investigate the mob assault on journalist Levent Gültekin and bring the perpetrators to justice, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Gültekin, a columnist for online newspaper Diken and a commentator on Halk TV, both outlets critical of the Turkish government, was attacked by a large group of people last night in the Bakırköy district near the Istanbul studios of Halk TV, according to news reports and the journalist, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
The journalist recounted the incident on Halk TV after the attack, saying that after he exited a taxi a group of 15 to 20 people followed him, surrounded him, and began to hit him. In security camera footage posted in online news reports, Gültekin is seen being kicked while he lies on the street. Gültekin tweeted today that his fingers were broken in the attack.
“Turkish authorities must conduct a thorough investigation on into the attack against journalist Levent Gültekin and hold the perpetrators to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Turkey’s track record of failing to fully investigate violence against journalists leaves members of the media vulnerable to attacks.”
In his Halk TV appearance after the attack, the journalist said prior to the incident he had been receiving threats on social media from members of a political party allied with the government; he did not say the party’s name.
Nazmi Günlü, the district governor of the Bakırköy District of Istanbul, told Halk TV today that prosecutors launched an investigation into the attack and that police are gathering footage from security cameras at nearby shops to identify the attackers. No suspect was immediately apprehended after the attack, according to today’s Halk TV report.
In response to the attack, Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said in a television interview on TV station Habertürk TV that the government plans to take steps to improve security for journalists, without providing details, adding that “journalist security is an important matter,” according to reports.
Physical attacks on journalists in Turkey are rarely prosecuted, as CPJ has documented.
CPJ emailed the Istanbul police for comment but did not receive an immediate reply.