Turkish riot police stand on a road in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey in May 2022. On June 15, 2022, a Turkish court in the southeastern Diyarbakır city ordered the arrests of 16 journalists and media workers. (Reuters/Murad Sezer)

15 journalists, media worker jailed under pre-trial arrest in Turkey

Istanbul, June 16, 2022 – Turkish authorities should immediately release the 15 journalists and one media worker still being held after last week’s mass detention of 19 journalists, two media workers, and one source for allegedly being members of a terrorist organization, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

A Turkish court in the southeastern Diyarbakır city ordered the arrests of the 16 on Wednesday, June 15, according to news reports. The specifics of the charges are unclear after another court issued a gag order on the investigation, but all 21 detained journalists and media workers were questioned about their journalistic activities, according to independent news website Bianet, which cited Resul Tamur, a lawyer representing the 16 arrested.

Tamur told Bianet that his clients were questioned about the angle they took on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant group and political party that Turkey classifies as a terrorist group, and whether the content the journalists created for broadcast by European outlets was considered pro-PKK. Most of the journalists either work for pro-Kurdish media outlets or independent production companies that provide content for other outlets, according to those reports and CPJ’s messaging app interviews with local journalists.

“Turkish authorities should immediately release the journalists who were arrested in Diyarbakır for no apparent reason,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Arresting journalists under a cloud of secrecy and keeping them in detention for an undetermined period until a trial is an unacceptable attack on the freedom of the press. Turkey must end jailing journalists with little evidence or justification and using pre-trial detention as punishment.”

CPJ identified the following jailed journalists and media workers from news reports, social media, and phone and messaging app interviews:

  • Lezgin Akdeniz, camera operator. CPJ was unable to confirm Akdeniz’s outlet.
  • Safiye Alagaş, manager for pro-Kurdish, all-women news website JINNEWS
  • Serdar Altan, freelance journalist, TV show host, and co-chair of local media advocacy group Dicle Fırat Journalists Association (DFG)
  • Zeynel Abidin Bulut, TV show host, editor for the Kurdish language weekly newspaper Xwebûn, and treasurer for DFG
  • Ömer Çelik, TV show host and a former editor for the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency
  • Suat Doğuhan, camera operator and owner of PEL production company
  • Mehmet Ali Ertaş, TV show host and news editor for Xwebûn
  • Ramazan Geciken, camera operator at PEL
  • Mazlum Doğan Güler, camera operator for Pia production company
  • İbrahim Koyuncu, camera operator. CPJ was unable to confirm Koyuncu’s outlet.
  • Abdurrahman Öncü, camera operator for Pia
  • Aziz Oruç, editor for Mezopotamya News Agency
  • Mehmet Şahin, TV show host at Pia, and columnist for Xwebûn
  • Remziye Temel, an accountant for Pia
  • Neşe Toprak, a culture and art show TV host for PEL and artist
  • Elif Üngür, Pia host for a TV show on culture and ecology

The six other detainees were released with travel restrictions after eight days in detention, according to news reports. They are:

  • Kadir Bayram, camera operator. CPJ was unable to confirm Bayram’s outlet.
  • İhsan Ergülen, who was interviewed as a source by an unidentified detained journalist, according to a local journalist familiar with the case who spoke to CPJ by text message and requested anonymity for safety reasons. CPJ was unable to confirm this report.
  • Gülşen Koçuk, editor for JINNEWS
  • Feynaz Koçuk. CPJ was unable to confirm Koçuk’s role or outlet.
  • Esmer Tunç, camera operator. CPJ was unable to confirm Tunç’s outlet.
  • Mehmet Yalçın, camera operator. CPJ was unable to confirm Yalçın’s outlet.

CPJ previously documented nine of these detentions by Turkish police. CPJ emailed the Diyarbakır chief prosecutor’s office for comment but did not receive a reply.

[Editors’ Note: The spelling of Elif Üngür’s name has been corrected.]