Istanbul, June 28, 2021 – Turkish authorities should thoroughly investigate all the police officers involved in the recent detention of journalist Bülent Kılıç, and ensure that members of the press can cover events without fear of police harassment and assault, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On June 26, police officers in Istanbul detained Kılıç, chief Turkey photographer for the French news agency Agence France-Presse, while he was covering police breaking up a LGBTQ Pride march in the city, according to news reports, videos posted to Twitter, and a report by his employer.
Officers hit Kılıç in the face with his camera and threw the camera to the ground, breaking it, and then pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his neck and back, according to those sources and an interview the journalist gave with the local independent Anka News Agency.
Four officers detained Kılıç, and one pushed his neck into the ground while he struggled to breathe through his mask, he said in that interview, adding that the officers handcuffed him and briefly held him at the scene, and then released him without charge.
“An attempt was made on my life. It was an attempted suffocation,” Kılıç tweeted after he was released.
“Turkish authorities should thoroughly investigate all police personnel involved in the detention of photojournalist Bülent Kılıç and the life-threatening violence he was subjected to,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities in Turkey must accept that reporters have a right to cover the news in the field and take concrete action to prevent police officers from harassing them.”
Kılıç told the Anka News Agency that a police officer asked his identity but then started to detain him before he could pull his press ID from his pocket. In that interview, he said that the Istanbul provincial deputy police chief and the Beyoğlu district police chief had apologized to him after the incident, adding that police attempted to repair his camera but were unable to do so.
The Istanbul police issued a statement yesterday stating that a journalist was “unfortunately” among those who were “caught while resisting the prevention of the illegal demonstration” and said that an investigation had been opened in response to a criminal complaint filed by the journalist. The statement said that 46 people had been arrested at the march.
Tomorrow afternoon, press freedom activists are planning to hold protests in Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir in opposition to Kılıç’s treatment, according to a Twitter thread by the Journalists Union of Turkey, which said that the groups were using the hashtag #nefesalamıyoruz (“we can’t breathe”) to organize.
Separately, police at the Istanbul march blocked Ayşen Sahin, a reporter for the independent daily Evrensel, and other journalists from filming officers making arrests, according to videos posted by Sahin and other reporters at the scene.
CPJ emailed the Turkish Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.